Archive for September, 2008

Full Disclosure

My last post got me thinking.  Here’s my passion, and the basis for most of my criticism of a lot of what is going on in evangelicalism:

I think that the church in our consumer-driven culture has focused more on attracting people to “our church” than we have to Jesus.  The Gospel is not attractive to the world (1 and 2 chapters of 1 Cor.) so we skimp on presenting the Gospel and try to attract people with our service projects, coolness, relevance, programs, etc.  Theoretically the idea is that once they come for the coffee they will stay for the Gospel, but that remains to be seen.

What SHOULD we be doing?  We should be sharing the Gospel unashamedly, growing the church through evangelism instead of marketing.

But, here is where the full disclosure comes in: I realize all too well that we Christians stink at evangelism.  We have no problem telling people about our cool rock star preacher, the awesome coffee bar, the wonderful praise band that plays Beck, and the 30 foot climbing wall for the kiddies (or, if you prefer, the wonderful old hymns, kick-butt organ, old-fashioned preacher and padded pews).  But we have a hard time telling people about our sin and need for a savior.

So, in the grand scheme of things, we reason, maybe it is better if they come for the coffee than not come at all.  Better than nothing.  Better than just wasting away in a church building wondering where all the lost people are.

UNLESS…. Unless we could find some way to show our people how to share their faith without being a jerk and actually do it.

I’m not sure how to do that, but I know some folks who do, and they are having a conference next week in Charleston, WV, and it’s free.  Go here for info.  Maybe we would see a real revival if churches got out and shared their faith instead of relying on the staff to market the church programs better.

I hope to make this Transformed conference, if it leads to one person going out and sharing their faith it would be worth it.  If it leads to me sharing my faith more, it will be worth it!


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Taking it to the streets.

A lot of churches are attempting to find ways to show their members that the Christian faith is not about joining a church and then attending services until a. you die or b. Jesus returns.

There are a lot of people who will never step foot into a church to hear the Gospel, so we have to be OUT THERE taking it to them.  Let’s face it, biblically speaking, worship is for believers; for those who already get it, who believe in God, who follow Him, who want to worship Him.  So, if we are going to reach the world we have to get out there and share our faith so that they will WANT to follow Him (and, incidentally, will want to come gather with other believers to worship God).

This, in a nutshell, is what I think is wrong with a lot of what the church is doing today: and this is true from the most die-hard traditional church to the most emergent, relevant church.  Instead of going out and telling the lost about Jesus we are trying to lure them to our building for a service.  Some try to do this with traditional music and BBQ dinners, others do it with kick-butt worship services that rival a Van Halen concert (and often with the same songs) and efforts to appeal to the pop culture of the day.  This isn’t an issue of what is the best methodology to attract the lost but is an issue of what we are attracting them to.  Instead of attracting them to our building and our worship service and our church organization (regardless of what type of church organization you are), we should be attracting them to Jesus by sharing the Gospel of grace.

And that means taking it to the streets.  Getting out of the building, away from the programs, away from the worship services/pop culture concerts, and out where the lost people are.  I don’t care what style your worship is, your type of sermon, the color of your minister’s hair (or lack thereof) or what you wear; just lead them to Jesus, nothing else, for in the end nothing else will matter.  We will not be judged on how many worship services we attended or whether we were members of a church; we will be judged on whether or not we have been saved by grace through faith.

The only caveat I would have is that nowadays it seems that when a church “takes it to the street” they are not talking about evangelism but about service projects.  Instead of telling people about how great Jesus is, we are showing them what nice folks we Christians are.  Well, that’s better than nothing, but I would love to see a church get as fired up about handing out the Gospel as we are about handing out water, about washing away sins as we are at washing cars, about picking people out of the gutter as we are at picking up trash.  Yes, I know, doing a good deed can open a door to sharing the Gospel, so that’s great if the Gospel is shared in this way (but we have to be ready to take that opportunity to share the Gospel while doing these service projects).

How do we do that?  How do we go about getting our folks excited about sharing their faith with actual words, since faith comes by hearing the Word of God, not from getting a bottle of water from a nice guy with a church’s name on his shirt?  I wish I knew, but I think it comes from the church making true disciples, which comes from understanding what the Gospel is, which comes from teaching the Gospel, etc.

Let’s take it to the streets.  The Apostles didn’t leave Pentecost and build a building and play the latest Jewish and Roman songs to get people in the door, they went out into the world sharing the Gospel.

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Reform or conform?

Just read a great quote:

“The relation of the church/synagogue to culture is, at least in part, supposed to be reforming rather than conforming.”

True dat.

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Wow, talk about timing.  Paul (the Apostle) has got me thinking about how we present the church to the world (my conclusion: we are ‘selling’ the wrong thing) and then today I read a great article by another Paul: Paul Williams of the Orchard Group, a church planting organization.

He questions the same things that I’ve been wondering about in a two part article in the Christian Standard, dated Sep. 28th and Oct. 4th.  Yes, those are in the future, I get the magazine about 2 weeks in advance.  You can read the first article here.

Now, mind you, Paul is not some frustrated minister in a small, rural, dying church, he’s the head of a very successful church planting organization (so go ahead and put that attack card back in your deck, it won’t work here).  He has seen enough of the modern church to know the circumstances and the trends out there.

I’ll post the next article when it comes online, but for now, read the first one and listen to what he’s saying.  A church is not successful if it attracts a lot of people to a building or a meeting.  It’s successful if it leads people to Christ.  We don’t need more church corporations, we need more churches that lift up Jesus.

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How do we “sell” Jesus?

Here’s another thought that came up from studying 1 Corinthians 1:18 and the second chapter of 1 Cor.

How should we ‘sell’ Jesus in light of Paul’s words? (read the chapters before responding).  Should we try to show the world how cool, hip and relevant we Christians are?  Should we show the world that Jesus is the most logical belief-system to follow?  Should we try to convince people that Jesus will make their earthly life better (more money, better sex, more job promotions, more ‘abundance’ on earth)?  Should we try to take the wisdom of the world to illustrate the Gospel?  Should we use the eloquence of our speech to woo the world?

In light of Paul’s teaching in these chapters, I think all of these approaches are missing the mark.  Instead, we should preach Christ crucified, showing that our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins so that we can be in relationship with God and have the Holy Spirit to understand the great truths of the Gospel.  Everything else is short-selling the Gospel.  Sure, there is a place to show people how to put their lives into the context of the mind of Christ, but that can not happen (according to 1 Cor. 2:6-16) until they have the Holy Spirit, which only comes to those who are in Christ.

There is nothing more relevant than our need to be reconcile to God: everything else pales in comparison.

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I’m teaching on 1 Cor. 1:18 through chapter 2, where Paul speaks about the ‘foolishness of the Gospel’ and how God uses the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Paul was determined to preach not with human wisdom or eloquence but “Christ crucified.”

Oh, come on Paul, couldn’t you preach on the latest plays making the circuit in your area, or relate the Gospel to whatever was the equivalent of Dr. Suess in your time?  Couldn’t you take the songs that were popular in your time and glean some nugget of wisdom?  Couldn’t you tell the folks in Asia Minor how to have better sex?

The world will think you foolish to preach Christ and him crucified.  Oh, yeah, you anticipated that:

1 Corinthians 2: 1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

Really, what could be more relevant to our culture than our need to be saved by God’s grace through faith?  No message in Spiderman 3, Van Halen or Dr. Suess can compare to that.

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Why is it that the most ‘innovative’ churches simply copy what other ‘innovative’ churches are doing?

It’s funny to hear about how cutting-edge a church is when they are simply following the formula of some other church (who is following the formula of another church who is following… you get the point).

I love to hear about a church that is boldly going where no other church has been with their shocking sermon series on *fill in the blank* when it is nothing more than a sermon series package bought lock, stock and barrel from an online source (including the advertising and press release).

Here’s something innovative: why not write a sermon by yourself that is designed to present the Gospel in a way that pertains to your community instead of trying to copy what some other church has done?

(In fairness, I know that there is nothing new under the sun and that there is nothing wrong with using a concept that has been useful somewhere else [otherwise a lot of sermon illustrations and evangelism techniques would dry up… hmm, maybe not a bad idea], but there is a big difference between learning from others and presenting a “sermon series in a can” as a bold, new, original,innovative idea.).

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