Archive for February, 2007

Quantity Over Quality?

Posted in Church, Discipleship, Evangelism, Religion on February 28, 2007 by Scott

In a recent article entitled, America’s Most Innovative Churches Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv says, “Without apology, I will do whatever it takes to grab people’s attention.” While just last week a local minister, in his weekly column, bemoaned the “gimmicks” being used by churches to get people in the door – quantity over quality.

Years ago our church had a successful bus ministry that brought about 200 kids every Sunday morning. From a socio-economic standpoint, the members of our church were upper-middle class, while the bus kids (that’s actually what we called them) came from “the wrong side of the tracks.” They were fed donuts, cookies, soda, and other snacks. No doubt that some parents sent their kids to church for the food – and to get them out of their house for a few hours each Sunday.

My mother (think Church Lady from SNL) didn’t like this at all. She said “We shouldn’t have to bribe people with food to come to church. They should want to come here on their own. Jesus didn’t have to do this!” (Maybe she missed the feeding of the 5,000).

Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of New Spring Church recently wrote this on his blog: “If you have a passion to reach people far from God…AND you begin to do that very thing with ANY amount of success then believe me…other pastors (who are not reaching ANYONE) are going to accuse you and your church of using gimmicks and “watering down” the Gospel. I mean…heck…if people’s lives are being changed then you MUST NOT BE PREACHING the Gospel, right?”

You could argue that more often than not these critics know very little about the churches they are criticizing. Instead, they see a number of their own congregation heading out the doors and feel the need to defend themselves.

But is there something behind the quantity over quality argument? What happens after hands are raised every weekend?

Are we creating true Disciples of Christ, or are we guilty as charged?

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Lent or Lint

Posted in Church, Creativity, Religion on February 24, 2007 by Scott

I walked into a weekly meeting I have with my team and noticed an elderly Catholic woman had a smudge on her forehead. I was informed it was Ash Wednesday. She walked around with it all day not phased by my obvious disrespect for the tradition.

Is Ash Wednesday and Lent viable spiritual habits for a Christ-follower or is it more form over substance? I was thinking it was about disrobing for God and relying more on Him than things…than the barriers we hold on to, and thus letting those go. However, she told me it was about being reminded we are here preparing ourselves for another place. She then said the Catholic “religion” has many traditions.

So it begs the question, if it is just tradition, why bother? Does God really want our mindless observance of a tradition more than our heart-felt obedience to a stripping away of self-reliance?

Thoughts…

  • Do you observe Lent…
  • What do you target as wanting to lay down for God…
  • Can this be a healthy habit for a Christ-follower…
  • Is Lent more like lint and just a residue of stuff we put on…
  • Was Christ’s mission to prepare Himself for another place…

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Posted in Church, Religion on February 22, 2007 by Scott

We got something interesting in the mail yesterday from a friend who attends our previous church. It was a photocopied page of a gospel hymn whose chorus says “Earnestly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling, O’ Sinner, come home!” At bottom of the page, the friend wrote I John 2:26, which says “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.”

The final comment was ““If Mark was alive – where would he go to church on Sunday morning? Mark was my youth minister as a teen, but more than that he was my mentor and friend. He was the most Godly man I have ever known. After a long battle with cancer, he passed away on Father’s Day 2005.

Apparently our friend believes we should come back home – to the “real church.” But as much as I love Mark, the real issue is where should I be going to church?

What did we look for in a new church family (those of you who have read Joshua’s Harris’s Stop Dating the Church will recognize some of these)?

  • A church that values biblical truth, knows what it believes, and is guided by these beliefs in the way that it functions.
  • Inspires me to apply the work of Christ practically in my daily life.
  • Reaches out to the unsaved – locally, regionally, and globally.
  • Seeks not only to believe rightly, but also to live rightly.
  • Challenges me to be a disciple of Christ, not just a Christian.
  • “Equips the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).

For our family, our previous church family did not meet these criteria. Even though outwardly I acted differently, my personal experience at our previous church led to an apathetic attitude toward God and the church. I was a poser – a pretender in everything I did. My actions were nothing more than that. I had no relationship with God.

How can people have such varied experiences in the same church? Should we feel threatened when someone says “This isn’t the right church for me,” or should we be happy that they have found a church family that inspires them to become fully devoted followers of Christ? Does it have to be a bad breakup or can we still be friends?

Is there just one “real church” out there and everyone else is doing it wrong? Is the concept of a perfect church possible, or is it more likely that most churches/denominations fall short in one area or another?

Church…. The Way it Used to Be

Posted in Church, Evangelism, Religion on February 21, 2007 by Scott

I recently received a mailer from a local Baptist church that had the American status quo on it…4-unit Caucasian family, husband in a suit, wife in a long dress with pearls, etc, daughter with long dress and the young son with his suit. The title read, “Church, the way it used to be”.

Does this mean…

  • Matured and hymn-based…
  • Welcome but please dress appropriately for God…
  • They do not talk about sex…
  • Safe and homogeneous…
  • They know what God likes…
  • Developing fully devoted followers of Christ…
  • Children’s choir and bake sales…

  • Is this inferring today’s forward-thinking churches are irreverent?
  • Is this effective niche-based marketing?

Green Effect: Recycling of the UnderChurched

Posted in Church, Evangelism on February 14, 2007 by Scott

Is today’s megachurch tomorrow’s fad? The numbers are mind-blowing; thousands per year surrendering (or recommitting) to Christ, embracing Christ’s sacrifice, and tens of thousands flocking through the doors weekly.

Are we seeing a real revolution in the church or is this merely a recycling of the under-churched – transfers from the congregation down the road? I want to believe that the Holy Spirit is truly at work; however, perhaps it’s our American culture at work here, where if you get tired of something and move on.

I see real teaching taking place, the Word of God is read and the simplicity of the Gospel is explained at every experience but are the earplugs still in…what is the contentment curve on those who migrate; and they migrate denominations too…Methodist, Baptist, Presby, AG, and more…they all moonlight…no congregation is immune.

We thought our experience was different. Yet the more people we meet at our megachurch, the more we realize that many around us are simply from a one of the many surrounding denominations. More under-churched than unchurched.

This is real, right? I mean the coming together of so many different Christian backgrounds cannot be a fad…there had to be something missing in their prior congregations. Or is it just the same people, with the same mindset, with jeans and a t-shirt instead of tie?

For me, I see a shift from the stench of worthiness to the cries of downward mobility; it is caring and evangelism. I believe people are drawn to the message of loving the world and the people in it, and realizing praying for them is just not enough. If it were, Christ would have never walked among them.

So the next time you see the moonlighters, the under-churched, remember how many “Christians” they tripped over in the pews of their last church to get to where we are…to lead people into a moment-by-moment relationship with Christ.

Thoughts…

  • Can fast growing, forward thinking megachurches sustain the momentum or will they eventually be replaced by the next big thing?
  • With today’s progressive teachings, where does that leave the seemingly small-minded teaching of previous generations?

Megachurches: Mile Wide; Inch Deep?

Posted in Church, Megachurch on February 4, 2007 by Scott

According to Wikipedia, a megachurch is a large church, having around 2,000 or more worshippers for a typical weekly service. Critics of megachurches claim that such churches are more concerned with entertainment than God’s truth.

Before we made the leap to our local “megachurch,” we got an earful from friends and family:

  • The messages are geared toward seekers, not long-time believers.
  • The kids programs are less than desirable. All they do is play. They don’t teach them anything.
  • It’s too big. You can’t develop close relationships. No one speaks to anyone else. As soon as the church service is over, everyone leaves.
  • People only go there because the Pastor is a great communicator. What happens if he leaves?

One common thread with these fast growing megachurches is discipleship, particularly small groups meeting in homes.

2 Timothy 2:1-2: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

Skeptics say there is no depth because there are too many “seekers.” Not enough qualified teachers; no discipleship of the saved.

For example, an unmarried couple, living together, leads a small group. Their leading and being surrounded by others who are encouraging them, may lead to them obeying God’s will for their lives. However, their leading is a witness and not a good one.

Is there a responsibility of the church to guide those whom they ask to lead small groups, and have an expectation of obedience in those public sin areas? On the other hand, are the megachurches doing a better job of not making people feel like they have to be “worthy” to contribute, to attend, so these areas are lesser concerns, lesser evils?

It presents some thoughts:

  • Can those who are unaccountable lead others?
  • Is discipleship intentional or a hopeful byproduct in the megachurch format?
  • Can megachurches effectively balance messages and programs directed at seekers, while still training and developing leaders who are qualified to teach others?

Tithing Debate on Evotional Blog

Posted in Church on February 3, 2007 by Scott

Take a look at the lively debate over tithing on Mark Batterson’s blog – Evotional.
Mark summed up the debate with his second post – “The bottomline is this: the first fruits have always and will always belong to God. But the tithe isn’t even the goal. The tithe is the starting place.”

Mark is the Lead Pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC and the author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. If you haven’t read it, get it.