Recontextualizing Church

Many churches do a good job of making converts, but if you were to listen to Gen Xers and Millennials you would hear the voice of those crying out for discipleship and authenticity in community.  People want relationship, and disciples are made through long term relationship.

The problem I see in many attractional-event and program-driven churches in the West is their system does a good job of producing converts, but not necessarily of producing disciples who are equipped to make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Many churches in our country seem to have drifted from the biblical concept of “church” and have redefined it as the place, a building, where ministry happens. Hence, many evangelicals have built large centralized institutions using what seems like marketing as a formula for success: utilize attractional events to draw a crowd, and then develop programs and depend on professional clergy to keep people coming back. While this may have worked to build large communities of worship in the mid-to-late twentieth century, it has also consumed many of the smaller churches like a Wal-Mart monopoly putting out of business the mom-and-pop shops. And often when the pastor of a program-driven church leaves the ministry, that church tends to lose sight of the vision as it struggles to pull together in unity, and the congregation shrinks as people transfer to the new, next, and better program-driven church that meets their family’s needs. I would argue this doesn’t build biblical community; this fractures community among local churches as the competitive mindset takes over and as church leadership begins to use marketing techniques to promote their brand to attract church shoppers, and thus congregants shuffle from church to church.

This book explores the challenges church leaders and congregants face in shepherding a program-driven church to begin to reach out to the community outside of the four walls of a church building. Take this journey with me as I evaluate Jesus’ and the Apostles’ method of outreach and discipleship and seek to find ways to apply their methodology in today’s context. We will explore various small group models throughout history and in today’s contemporary Western context. We will look at the necessity of corporate worship and small groups to stimulate spiritual growth. I have interviewed Jeff Vanderstelt, Steve Timmis, Joel Comiskey, and Dan Braga to glean wisdom from these leaders in how to successfully shepherded churches through this kind of recontexualization of the local church. In the end I have mapped out a strategy for how church leaders can lead their churches through this transition from attractional events and programs to the missional home community and cell-driven model, which resonates with this generation disenfranchised with church.

I believe there are many methods of ministry that can work to make converts, but in order to make disciples that multiply requires an authentic faith community. This is what an unbelieving world is longing to see, a church that has closed the gap between their rhetoric and reality.

For a large print copy, order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521385904/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

For a smaller handheld version, order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/152138293X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_.eZmzb4A2CRW7

This book is a result of a Thesis Project for Gordon-Conwell Seminary Doctorate Program in Outreach and Discipleship.

GODSPEED

Christians are the silent minority

You have perhaps heard in the news about North Carolina, Target, Alabama, the DOJ, etc. What are we to make of all this? Especially if we are Christian? Or if we are considering becoming a Christian? What are we to do as the Church? Or as individual local churches?

Many have assumed for years that this is a Christian nation, and therefore the morals would continue based on Judaeo-Christian values.  As Michael Medved said on the radio last week, “This has always been a Christian nation, but with a secular government.” Jefferson, a writer and signer of the Constitution and non-Christian deistic former President once said, “This is a government that will work only so long as the people are moral.”  This was his motivation for affirming that Congress print and distribute family Bibles.  But no longer is this the view of our nation.  Why?

We live in a country where majority is supposed to rule – 50.01% wins when put to a vote. And so the silent majority, being Christian and assuming this country would never turn from a Judaeo-Christian worldview, laid down and went to sleep.  We are beginning to wake from our slumber and we are discovering, if anything, we are a small minority (or at least that those in power through the courts, government, media, and schools are actively proselytizing everyone, let alone our children).

We live in a culture with the mantra, “Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.”  But now that the silent majority is a minority and is realizing it doesn’t have a voice, people are beginning to speak up and realizing we are being bullied into silence.  So what is the solution? Remain in our slumber? Go with the flow? Act like our adversaries and speak out of turn with a viperous tongue of political incorrectness?

My questions are meant to make you ponder.

The following gives us a glimpse of history, for a wise man once said:

History

So how did our culture get to where it is today? Because Christians laid down and let someone else speak.  The following is an explanation of “how” by Francis Schaeffer.  (Warning, the following is for those desiring to really understand – it requires deep thinking and contemplation, but it is worth it to spend the time it takes to read it carefully and thoroughly, and then determine how this should affect us [Christians] concerning today’s issues):

“The attempt to make nature the basis of morals was also taken into the area of civil law, where it was called the Natural Law School of jurisprudence…It was an attempt in this eighteenth-century period to have principles of law, ‘even if there is not God.’  These jurists thought that a complete and perfect system of law could be constructed upon principles of natural law.  But there was a serious problem in trying to construct a system of law upon nature.  Nature is cruel as well as noncruel.” (P. 159)

“Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), a biologist-sociologist at the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University produced his influential Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953).  These were based on 18,500 interviews.  Kinsey made that which is “right” in sex a matter of statistics.  Many people read his books because at that date they were far more titillating than other books accepted as respectable.  However, their real impact was the underlying conception that sexual right and wrong depend only on what most people are doing sexually at a given moment of history.  This has become the generally accepted sexual standard in the years since.  Modern man has done the same thing in law.”

[Concerning decision making and democracy] “If there are no absolutes, and if we do not like either the chaos of hedonism or the absoluteness of the 51-percent vote, only one other alternative is left: one man or an elite, giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes.”

“Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.  Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom in northern Europe and in the West.” (p. 224)

“In our era, sociologically, man destroyed the base which gave him the possibility of freedoms without chaos.  Humanists have been determined to beat to death the knowledge of God and the knowledge that God has not been silent, but has spoken in the Bible and through Christ – and they have been determined to do this even though the death of values has come with the death of that knowledge.”

“We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy… “

“But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man’s loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?”

“Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help? The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.”

“With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? The life-styles of the young and the old generations are different… But they support each other sociologically, for both embrace the values of personal peace and affluence.  Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.”

“I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals – increasingly men and women are not stirred by values of liberty and truth – but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least and illusion of them.”

“Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1794) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.  It all sounds so familiar.  We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.” (Pp. 226-227).

So what can Christians do to get back to being able to positively influence society? Two thoughts: first, become a biblical and attractional community.  How? If you are a Christian, intentionally devote your entire life and family to four things found in Acts 2:42.  The following is a contemporary summary of that verse: devote yourself to the authority of Scripture, especially the New Testament teachings; devote yourself to a Christian community called a church, where you find Christian “fellowship” (Christ-centered community); devote yourself to a smaller community like a small group in which you share with each other spiritually and materially.  When Christians live this way, they influence non-Christians (this is a contemporary summary of Acts 2:43-47).  This is the grassroots movement we need to be part of if we are every going to turn everything around.  For a major reason we (Christians in America) are less than the 50.01% majority is because of a lack of being a true, genuine, biblical community.  Christians have primarily been Sunday Christians.  But we are called to be everyday Christians and an everyday community, which requires that you (if you are a Christian) try to band with others to pick up the pieces and follow Jesus and His teachings in community with others.

The above must be the norm for every Christian, or we will become spiritually weak-minded have no influence, which is precisely what happened in the 4th and 5th centuries of the Church:

“When Christianity was made the official religion in Rome in the fourth century, the church became socially and politically acceptable. People with halfhearted faith flocked to churches that could no longer disciple them.  Soon the word ‘Christian’ became meaningless.  And when the empire that sanctioned it collapsed, the church nearly went down too.

“And in our own day, one of the most inglorious examples [of Christians being spiritually weak and without influence] can be found in the church’s failure to stand solidly against Hitler in Germany during the 1930s.

“The church must stand apart from the state.  Independence from culture is what gives the church its reforming capacity and enables it to point society toward the truth.  The church must be free to address issues biblically across the spectrum and to speak prophetically, regardless of who is in power. [i.e., when your pastor is speaking about issues today that seem political, he is not preaching politics but rather showing you how the Bible relates to what is going on in this world – he is trying to help you develop a biblical lens to filter the news.]

“Ironically, political flirtations and alliances have threatened the church’s independence in the West even more than the direct oppression of the Communists in the East.” – Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 239

This is a great quote that gives us insight into history and politics in our modern era, especially during an election year.  Regardless of your political views I want to remind you that we, as Christians, are called to stand for Christ and His gospel, first and foremost.  We are also called to stand for Jesus’ values, which should inform how we engage culture.  This leads to the second quote:

“It’s time for lambs to roar.

“What I am calling for is a radically different way of thinking about our world. Instead of running from it, we need to rush into it. And instead of just hanging around the fringes of our culture, we need to be right smack dab in the middle of it.

“Why not believe that one day the most critically acclaimed director in Hollywood could be an active Christian layman in his church? Why not hope that a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting could go to a Christian journalist on staff at a major daily newspaper? Is it really too much of a stretch to think that a major exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art could feature the works of an artist on staff at one of our fine Christian colleges? Am I out of my mind to suggest that our son or daughter could be the principle [sic] dancer for the Joffrey Ballet Company, leading weekly Bible study for other dancers in what was once considered a profession that was morally bankrupt?

“The best way to testimony is through credible engagement from within our vocational call.” – Bob Briner, Roaring Lambs. P. 31

May we Christians live like this so that we will have influence, and that the world will be made a better place to the glory of God Almighty.

GODSPEED