Archives For April 2009

At first glance this post might not seem like one on outreach but, in my mind, it really is. Like it or not our actions put a face on Christianity to the current crop of unbelievers.

 There was a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0310/p09s01-coop.html%3E .

In it the author is described as: Michael Spencer is a writer and communicator living and working in a Christian community in Kentucky. He describes himself as “a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality.”

He lays out multiple reasons why Christians known as evangelicals will soon be part of lost history. One of the primary reasons he says it that evangelicals are just too strongly associated with the political conservative movement in the United States and that they seem to be against much more than they seem to be for. Another is that they simply have not been able to convince their children that the evangelical movement should be a life long pursuit. Although I discount much of what is in the article I do believe there is some truth to the political realities. Given the significant Obama victory the conservative movement has taken quite a hit. And in the press the evangelicals are most often reported on what they are against rather than what they are for. Will these facts affect how successful they are in Christian outreach? Of course it will! Will this result in a shrinking evangelical population? That is very likely unless they can reverse the current trends.

I to believe that Evangelicals are just too closely linked to radical right political agenda. To many current unbelievers Christians, particularly Evangelicals, are known for Gods, Guns, and Gays. (for, for, and against).

There are just too many red letters in the Bible to even try to associate a follower of Jesus Christ to the social conservative political agenda. Jesus did not tell us to shun, blame, and scorn the least of these as the radical right seem  to do. He, instead, told us to embrace them and to treat them as our brothers with love and compassion.

No, I don’t think that the Evangelical community is on the verge of imminent collapse but I do think that it is possible that they will become much less significant in the Christian community if they insist on continuing to attach themselves so closely to a radical political movement. Jesus taught us to be in the world but not of the world. This message seems to have been lost on those Christians who espouse the radical right political agenda.

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 Continuing with my focus on Christian outreach, I want to give you an extended quote from Rick Richardson in his book “Evangelism – Outside the Box” I would highly recommend the book to anyone who is truly willing to look outside his personal or his churches box.

Religious people tend to create programs and ministries that meet the needs of other religious people. Jesus knew that. He chose a different way. At the cost of his life, he chose to find the lost, to heal the sick, to cure the sinner. He wants his church to fulfill his ministry and embrace his priority.

Lost people matter to God. God is on an all-out search to find them. He wants partners. He wants partners in sacrifice. We sacrifice order. We sacrifice neatness. We sacrifice control. We sacrifice the comfort that comes with only meeting the needs of people like ourselves. We sacrifice the tranquility of those who close their eyes to the eternal needs of others. The payback far outweighs the pain.

All of us need to constantly get our of our comfort zones to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Preaching to the choir is just not good enough. Lets make it our daily prayer during the remainder of this Lenten season to ask Jesus to help us go to those who we have just been too uncomfortable to reach out to. The payback certainly far outweighs the pain.

Who are the unchurched and why aren’t they there?

Here are some statistics about our mission field

Group Born Attend Church
Builders Born Before 1946 51%
Boomers 1946 – 1964 41%
Busters 1965 – 1976 34%
Bridgers 1977 – 1994 29%

Source: Surprising Insights from the Unchurched by Thom S. Rainer , Zondervan Press 2001 
 

  • The growing ranks of the unchurched are not due to problems limited to certain geographical areas
  • Over 80% of Americans say religious faith is very important to their lives and yet less than half go to church.
  • Less than 30% of the New Homesteaders are in church on Sunday  
     

    (1990 survey)

  • Church people are cold and unfriendly
  • Going to church is a guilt trip
  • We’re too busy; going to church is a waste of time.

    (1975 survey)

  • Churches are always asking for money, yet nothing of personal value seems to happen with the funds
  • Church services are boring and lifeless
  • Church services are predictable
  • Sermons are irrelevant to daily life in the “real world”
  • The pastor makes people feel guilty and ignorant, so people leave church feeling worse than when they arrived

    (Source: Inside the mind of unchurched harry and mary by Lee Strobel , Zondervan Press 1993) 

 As you can see none of the reasons that people who don’t attend church are due to basic theology or Christian foundation issues. Instead it is generally that they have a preconceived idea of what “church” means. We must break out of that shell before they will be ready to listen. We must not be “couch potato Christians” and wait for the Holy Spirit to bring them to us. We need to get out there and get our hands dirty. After all isn’t that exactly what Jesus did. Let’s follow his lead.

Country Club Christians?

April 1, 2009 — 1 Comment


 
 

Here it is April 1 and I am going to pull a cruel joke on you. I am going to spend the next few post talking about outreach. Yes, that is that thing that we Christians seem to be deathly afraid of. But, in my mind that is the primary task for us while we are on this earth. We have to constantly be fighting off treating our church as a country club. In other words as stated by William Temple “the church is the only society in the world that exists for its nonmembers.” I think he should have said “that should exist” instead of “that exist” as I believe that some churches, and probably many, today are more country club than temples for honoring and practicing what Jesus taught us. Our churches should never become just places where we get together on a regular basis to share each other’s company and have a good time. When it becomes too cozy it has lost it’s primary directive of making disciples. A club spends its dues on the needs of the members. A church should spend its dues on the needs of the nonmembers. Or, at least it should.

As stated by Rick Richardson in his book “Evangelism Outside the Box”

Most churches think they already have good fellowship for pre-Christians, if they could only get them there. Few of us are aware of how our group feels to pre-Christian people. But often our language, our acronyms, our announcements, our music, our messages, the way we pray and our tendency to greet only those we know when we are together put up very noticeable barriers to those who are not yet Christians.

Does this mean that we have to give up our theology, or traditions in order to make a visitor welcome. Certainly not!. But it does mean that maybe we should looks at ourselves as others might see us to see what we “can” change. It is a known fact that, except for the large non-denomination mega churches Christian churches in the United States have been generally shrinking for the last fifteen or so years. It is certainly not because the message has lost its relevancy but instead it is probably because we have lost the best way to present it to an ungodly world. Yes, I certainly believe that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to soften hardened hearts but I also believe that when Jesus said go an make disciples he was putting part of the burden on us.

 Many Christian congregations seem to treat change as a slippery slope. That is, they say if we have to change anything we are going to eventually change everything! I don’t buy that for one second. I think that mentality is an irrational response to mankind’s general fear of change itself. Don’t put irrational barriers in the way of others who are seeking to know something about this person called Jesus Christ.