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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

How to Grow Your Church?

Church For those of you who have been regular readers of this blog, you know that there has been a running debate among all different types of approaches to how we 'do church'.  We are a broad group of readers here at the MMI blog; and that stems from this blog being an out-growth of the ChurchStaffing.com website.  ChurchStaffing has clients and readers all across the spectrum of evangelical Christianity... including people with differing views on everything.

We've discussed and debated the purpose driven philosophy; we've talked long about innovation and new methods of delivery (such as the multi-site or the video venue model of ministry)... but I found this on the net the other day, and it really did make me angry.  Here... take a look:

http://www.christianunplugged.com/church_movie.htm
You'll need flash to view this, and it takes a little while to load but is worth it.

I totally understand the idea behind this model.  As a matter of fact, I grew up in this model.  Here's my main problems.

1.  This model assumes that the purpose of what the contemporary church is doing is only to get larger.   It takes into account only that churches are culturally relevent to get bigger.  That's just simply not true.

2.  Rather than concentrate on Kingdom growth of their own, they tear down and criticize those who are experiencing growth; and at the same time, say that the spiritual growth that takes place in these 'innovative' churches isn't really spiritual growth at all.

3.  Along the same lines, while this camp (and I'm generalizing here) attacks their brothers and sisters in Christ; most of them show no real model that is working well in their community.  Some will disagree and think this point is unfair, but I've asked over and over for an good example and I don't think anyone (thus far) has responded.

Two great examples of churches that are culturally relevant and are growing like gangbusters (and would be great examples of what this cartoon would be against) would be Granger Community Church in Granger, IN and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX.  These churches are making a tremendous impact in their community for Christ using contemporary music and while making a distinct effort to being culturally relevant while teaching and preaching the gospel.  Hat's off.

(another interesting side-note... I don't hear the likes of Granger or Fellowship talking down to their stagnant brothers and sisters telling them to get their act together and start reaching their communities for Christ... I guess my biggest problem with all this is the 'knife in the back', 'shot in the foot' stuff that we do in the body of Christ.  Let's rejoice (as the angels do) when one new soul enters the kingdom; whether it's through a relevent contemporary church; or a church that is very traditional.  Either way... rejoice!

More on this to follow (I'm sure).  I'm interested in your take today.  What were your first impressions?

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June 1, 2005 in Church Growth | Permalink

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Comments

I couldn't agree with you more. While we're arguing over strategy, these churches are reaching people with the gospel and what's most important is that the gospel is being preached.

Just because a church isn't flashy doesn't mean that they are preaching the full counsel of God's word or that they're members are spiritually mature Christians (gray hair does not equal - spiritual maturity).

I've known just as many spiritually immature believers in traditional styled churches as I've known in contemporary settings. In the end every one will have to give an account for themselves.

Posted by: Rob Nieves | Jun 1, 2005 10:56:09 AM

Unbelievable. They sure do paint with a rather broad brush!

They ask, "Is this what we are supposed to be doing?"

Like winning people to Christ and growing the church is somehow a bad thing.

Posted by: Art | Jun 1, 2005 11:05:34 AM

So why were you offended? Was it because there is some question about the integrity of the mega"church" movement? Are they truly leading people to conversion to Christ or are they wooing them to a crowd or a cause or a concert or...

Actually, megachurches can be quite inspiring, enjoyable and motivational, but is the movement as a whole truly producing persons who have changed sides from the world to the Kingdom of Jesus as Savior and LORD? It's really not about getting people to say they are following Christ; it's about leading people to forsake self-interest to obey the King and advance His presence in a broken and blind world.

I don't see much of the institutionally organized "Christian" culture behaving much differently than a typical business enterprise in the general culture. Any good business manager who claims to be a Christian can supervise the typical American congregation today. But management is not evangelism or discipling or pastoring or any of the spiritual activity that characterizes a spiritual Body.

I'm not going to knock any religious organization on the basis of its size. What I refuse to do, though, is ignore the general trend of the American culture that has accompanied the rise of the mega"church" model. It has not been a transformative influence, but an accommodating one and I think that was the point of the movie that incensed you.

Maybe we need to quit inviting people to say a prayer asking Jesus into their heart and have them declare a commitment to Him as the absolute monarch of their lives. It's really not about an addition of God to our lives; its about a change of allegiance. Try preaching that to the typical American crowd on Sunday and watch the crowd thin out fast.

We don't need a model that "works" to count bodies or conduct programs. We need a model that doesn't focus on "Kingdom growth of our own" but on non-provincial Kingdom growth. It belongs to the King, not His subjects. All success is His success. He is building His Church and calls us to serve Him everywhere, not just at the box on the corner and certainly not in some standardized program that ignores the wonder of an individual soul.

Bigger, yes. Better? What is this American fixation on size? It's really starting to get boring already. The "big" guys and the general culture brag about it and the little guys sneer at it. Good grief. It's enough to make Jesus go to Korea or Africa or South America or something. :) Now do you want to talk big? The thing is, why don't Americans don't call their puny 20,000 member congregations small in comparison to those monsters. And who's really building the Kingdom by the standards of the Church abroad? Maybe we should attend some seminars that they are conducting. :)

Posted by: Dean | Jun 1, 2005 1:20:23 PM

Dean wrote:

"So why were you offended? Was it because there is some question about the integrity of the mega"church" movement? Are they truly leading people to conversion to Christ or are they wooing them to a crowd or a cause or a concert or... "

Never said I was offended... said it made me 'angry' at the allegations. Yes, and it's statements like this:

"Are they truly leading people to conversion to Christ or are they wooing them to a crowd or a cause or a concert or... "

that I find get my ire. :)

"...is the movement as a whole truly producing persons who have changed sides from the world to the Kingdom of Jesus as Savior and LORD??

uupppp... more ire...

"I don't see much of the institutionally organized "Christian" culture behaving much differently than a typical business enterprise in the general culture."

(and there's the 'church as a business' model that ALWAYS comes up)

OK... here's where our rub will be the most, Dean...

"What I refuse to do, though, is ignore the general trend of the American culture that has accompanied the rise of the mega"church" model. It has not been a transformative influence, but an accommodating one and I think that was the point of the movie that incensed you."

And this is the crux of the issue. What has the 'megachurch' accomodated/compromised on? That is where we differ. If it's the issue of music, I think that's a non-issue. I grew up being told about the "devil's music" and how if the emphasis is on the second beat of the measure than on the first beat of the measure (where God intended it to be) that it would take control of our mind. (Seriously). Music is a tool, that's all it is.

What other areas has the mega-church movement accomodated? The big answer here is that church is now comfortable, enjoyable... even fun. Critics say that Mega-churches meet peoples physical, emotional, and worldly needs. This is very true; and the meeting of those needs allows them to deal with people's spiritual needs as well. The churches I spoke of still speak of sin and the need of a personal savior. The changed lives are real. I'm not sure why people feel the need to argue that.

Finally, something we can agree on, Dean:

"Bigger, yes. Better? What is this American fixation on size? It's really starting to get boring already. The "big" guys and the general culture brag about it and the little guys sneer at it. Good grief. It's enough to make Jesus go to Korea or Africa or South America or something. :) "

Absolutely... and that was one of my points. why are the mega-churches such a target? Why do the little guys 'sneer'? Like I said in my initial post...

"Let's rejoice (as the angels do) when one new soul enters the kingdom; whether it's through a relevent contemporary church; or a church that is very traditional. Either way... rejoice!"

For what it's worth...

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 1, 2005 2:36:32 PM

Dean,

You wrote, "It's really not about an addition of God to our lives; its about a change of allegiance. Try preaching that to the typical American crowd on Sunday and watch the crowd thin out fast."

I have served as an associate pastor in one church that grew from 300 to 500 and another that grew from 400 to 900. In both churches, "a change of allegiance" is exactly what was preached. I am now senior pastor of a church of 100. I've been here 8 months, this is exactly what I'm preaching and we are beginning to see the first signs of growth.

The argument that megachurches must have replaced sound biblical preaching with entertainment to attract people is nothing but a straw man. I'm sure you can find some examples of large churches that have, but then I could point out many that haven't. But then, what is the point of such a discussion? I'm with Todd, praise God Christ is preached and people are saved!

Posted by: Rich Viel | Jun 1, 2005 4:08:04 PM

I think what takes place is that many traditional churches have stopped growing and someone has to be to blame. It can't be the fact that the same songs are being sung today as 200 years ago. It can't be because the preaching is boring. Yes, I know it's all God's word, but David kills Goliath every time I read the story. But some 1 SAmuel 17 messages are great. They inspire me, they educate me, and they motivate to serve God more fervently. Then there are others that bore me. Does that make me shallow? I think it just makes me human. Just because churches are using 21st century means to communicate a 1st century message isn't wrong. It should be applauded. The very incarnation itself was God being relevant to culture. I have a friend that is 1 of the 5 best people in America when it comes to Morse code. Guess what? His employment in Morse code ran out a long time ago because people aren't speaking that language! Maybe that's why the church in the video wasn't attracting anyone. Not because the message was bad, but because they were speaking an outdated language!

But please don't say the modern church is bad and then quote Spurgeon! Most people quote him but have never read him.

How about we do get back to Spurgeon-like church? Let's go old school! Throw out the amplification! All 'Thin chested' have to resign from ministry because that was 1 of his rules at his Pastor's school. I hope you don't have a long tongue, because he said 'no' to a potential student who wanted to be a Pastor and wouldn't admit for "All the gold Tarshish!"

No thanks! Interestingly enough, that's what everyone else has said about that style of ministry as well. As Todd said, getting relevant isn't about being cool. If that's what you think,, then you don't get it. It's about communicating the greatest message EVER in a language people can understand...

Posted by: bob Franquiz | Jun 1, 2005 4:16:05 PM

Thanks for the feedback from all. I accept it with grace. Although I certainly understand the reaction to so-called criticism of the mega-church model. I rejoice for anyone who exchanges self advancement for Christ centeredness. But I doubt that mega churches are doing it any better than smaller ones and they typically use far more time, finances and effort to accomplish that.

For me, it's more a matter of stewardship than size. I'm not switching arguments here. It's just something I neglected to mention before. Of course, a soul is worth more than the universe so it doesn't matter how much we spend and are spent. But I'm just curious. Pragmatically asking, are mega-churches satisfied with the return on their investment of human and material resources?

Posted by: Dean | Jun 1, 2005 5:21:10 PM

After reading the post and comments it seems very clear that the issue is communication. Those in support of traditional churches do not understand the meaning of relevant and vis versa those from Mega churches(relevant) do not understand the importance of tradition. We are at war and the only one loosing is "The church". What needs to take place in American churches is universality when it comes to church terminology. To the traditional church member the term relevant is misconstrued as compromising,sell out, and any other negative word we can place there. What I've interpreted relevant to mean is applicable to where people are at. I use this example: Churches utilize (real life) methods of addressing real life issues. In other words we discuss television,immorality, and purpose because these are real issues in our society. Instead of mearly making up rules to protect the members of the church we discuss what is happening in our society in very real ways ie.(dramas, film clippings, candid discussions regarding sin and yes even music). Traditionalism from Mega church stand point is viewed as inhibiting, self righteous, and exclusive. However, that connotation realy doesn't give the term justice. For example, is it wrong to raise your family to live and serve God? Oviously not. This is a practice of tradition that clearly is Biblical. "Train up a child in the way it should go and when it grows up it will not depart from it." Traditions are not necessarily bad if they are not linked to salvation. After all we are able to have a relevant church movement because there was a traditional movement first. Things change and methods change but that doesn't necessarily mean that both are not even necessary. What we are really saying here is we define movements by what we see rather than what it actually means. For the relevant church believer, Tradition means hard nose preaching and suits on Sunday. For the tradition church believer they see the relevant church as a glorified Sunday social clubs. BOTH ARE WRONG VIEWS. Truth is we need both an acceptance of tradition and a relevant message that deals with what we are facing today. It's not wrong to have suits on Sunday and loud preaching anymore than it is is for people to wear casual clothes and illustrated sermans. We could discuss all day the pros and cons of both sides of this issue however, truth is lets not base our opinions on just what our past experiences have been. Let's try to understand both the good and the bad behind these two distinct worlds.

Posted by: Pete King | Jun 1, 2005 5:31:59 PM

Todd wrote:

(and there's the 'church as a business' model that ALWAYS comes up)


My response: You really didn't respond to this, Todd. You just used the typical spouse-like response "You always do that." :) I'd welcome a reasoned argument for turning the Body of Christ into a human business. Last time I checked, Jesus had not delegated His kingly role of adding subjects to His Kingdom. We're just the messengers, so for anyone to take the credit of humanly organizing church growth successfully seems to carrying a lot of hubris around.

I don't believe the largest differences in the Body of Christ are between liberals or evangelicals or even less between the
traditionalists and the contemporary proponents. I believe the largest gap in the "Church" is between the institutional mindset and the organic view. That's going to be the pendulum wave of the emerging followers of Jesus. It's a paradigm shift in ecclesiology that is finally coming to fruition.

Todd, you also wrote:

OK... here's where our rub will be the most, Dean...

"What I refuse to do, though, is ignore the general trend of the American culture that has accompanied the rise of the mega"church" model. It has not been a transformative influence, but an accommodating one and I think that was the point of the movie that incensed you."

And this is the crux of the issue. What has the 'megachurch' accomodated/compromised on? That is where we differ. If it's the issue of music, I think that's a non-issue. I grew up being told about the "devil's music" and how if the emphasis is on the second beat of the measure than on the first beat of the measure (where God intended it to be) that it would take control of our mind. (Seriously). Music is a tool, that's all it is.

What other areas has the mega-church movement accomodated? The big answer here is that church is now comfortable, enjoyable... even fun. Critics say that Mega-churches meet peoples physical, emotional, and worldly needs. This is very true; and the meeting of those needs allows them to deal with people's spiritual needs as well. The churches I spoke of still speak of sin and the need of a personal savior. The changed lives are real. I'm not sure why people feel the need to argue that.


And my response: Did I actually say that the mega"Church" movement had compromised? I did say "accommodated" and I believe that is accurate. Whether you believe that accommodating is the same as compromising is up to you. I didn't use that word. I am concerned, however that the most visibly organized expressions of Christian assembly have no distinct difference culturally from the world around us. We should have stronger marriages, deeper friendships, higher ideals and simpler lifestyles. But statistics do not reflect well on us.

Am I the only one who thinks the greatest sin in the American "Christian" culture is materialism? The illusion of the Laodicean church was that they thought themselves wealthy when they were starving spiritually. Mega churches have not only accommodated the American ideal of materialistic wealth more than any other expression of the Church; they have glorified it. Christian enterprise is big business.

Is that what Jesus had in mind when he told us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and preach the good news to the poor. I don't think this prominent aspect of church growth makes the Savior smile. May I pose an honest question? Do any financially destitute people actually frequent these mega-churches? I never see any when I visit them. Maybe they are just well-hidden in the suburban neighborhoods where these congregations thrive.

And no, contrary to your assumption that I'm quibbling about music, I actually like a much wider diversity of music and art and narrative than most people prefer to convey the message of Christ. I don't fit into any neat little stereotype you may have. Sorry about that. The Kingdom is simply too big to fit into the provinces that Americans call "churches."

For what it's worth, I do rejoice for every person who truly transfers allegiance from the world to the Lord and it doesn't matter to me who He wants to use to point the way. But we will still give an account of everything entrusted to us. We can pour it into brick and mortar or people. Seems to me that we choose the stubble over the gold too readily in this place and time.

Dean

Posted by: Dean | Jun 1, 2005 8:10:53 PM

TODD WRITES:
And this is the crux of the issue. What has the 'megachurch' accomodated/compromised on? That is where we differ. If it's the issue of music, I think that's a non-issue. I grew up being told about the "devil's music" and how if the emphasis is on the second beat of the measure than on the first beat of the measure (where God intended it to be) that it would take control of our mind. (Seriously). Music is a tool, that's all it is.

BeHim responds:
I disagree Todd. I believe the crux of this issue is "THE" Gospel.

A different gospel is being taught and preached and it revolves around man, not around God.

Also, I have issue with your final statement: "Music is a tool, that's all it is."

We congregate together to WORSHIP God. Read that: Believers who worship God. Our congregating together is to Remember HIM! Not to be used as a "tool" like a marketing project.

Of course when the Gospel is changed, everything else will change with it (except the heart - which still deceives).

TODD WRITES:
The changed lives are real. I'm not sure why people feel the need to argue that.

BeHim responds:
There's no doubt people's lives can be changed by even the mention of Jesus. It's not about the hearers, it's about the message of a gospel that is not Biblical. Any gospel (given by men or angels) not Biblical should be…. (what do you think should be done about a “different gospel”)

Here's the thing, let's test THIS gospel first. If the gospel message is wrong, isn’t that ESSENTIAL?

RICH WRITES:
The argument that megachurches must have replaced sound biblical preaching with entertainment to attract people is nothing but a straw man.

BeHim responds:
Then let's test the "straw man" - Is what is being taught by Rick Warren and Joel Osteen the Biblical Gospel? I say NO! You say YES? We can’t both be right.

RICH WRITES:
But then, what is the point of such a discussion? I'm with Todd, praise God Christ is preached and people are saved!

BeHim responds:
I praise God for those saved too and nobody can deny that there are some, even in the mega-churches. That's not the "crux" the crux is "HOW" is Christ being preached?

As the one died for sin and saved us from eternal death, who teaches us to fear the one who can destroy both the body and the soul?

or is it

The one who can provide all your finances and take care of your health, heal your ailments, etc, etc… (all this after he pops out of the bottle)?

BOB WRITES:
As Todd said, getting relevant isn't about being cool. If that's what you think,, then you don't get it. It's about communicating the greatest message EVER in a language people can understand...

BeHim responds:
If changing THE Gospel is required to reach people with relevancy, then I think we all know where God stands on the issue (His Word WILL NOT return void – men can say whatever they think or want BUT GOD will not change)

We don't change The Gospel, no matter how irrelevant we are!

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 1, 2005 9:36:49 PM

BeHim responds: Then let's test the "straw man" - Is what is being taught by Rick Warren and Joel Osteen the Biblical Gospel? I say NO! You say YES? We can’t both be right.

He's right. You're wrong. Simple as that.

Posted by: Art | Jun 1, 2005 9:45:21 PM

Pragmatism...great sermon:
Ten Shekels and a Shirt
Every MEGA-RELEVENT-USER/FRIENDLY-BUSINESS MODELing minister should read this sermon.
http://www.firesofrevival.com/shekels1.htm

Posted by: pdl | Jun 1, 2005 11:00:50 PM

...hear "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" at:
http://69.44.157.77/sermons/SID0290.mp3

Posted by: pdl | Jun 1, 2005 11:16:42 PM

ART
Who is right? "He" can be just about anybody???

If you mean God is right - yes, I agree, God is ALWAYS right!

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 1, 2005 11:59:12 PM

I like to keep arguments like these simple. I have one question for those who oppose contemporary churches or "mega churches".

What proves that traditional styled churches are doing a better job at "saving souls" than contemporay "mega churches"?

After all, isn't God the only one that can save souls?

The problem I see with Traditional styled churches is that they want converts to accept a style of christianity rather than the Christ of Christianity.

Its almost as if we believe that people are saved by simply adopting our "church culture".

I believe that God can save anyone in a contemporary or traditional setting -- but to persist on doing things the way they were done 100 years ago would be like a Missionary going to another country and persisting on people learning his culture and language before he could share the gospel in a way that they could understand it.

You see, rather It's the missionaries job to learn the language and culture of the people that he desires to reach in order to reach them with the gospel in a way that they can understand.

Let's stop trying to make the world understand us, and lets start trying to understand them --- that's what I think it boils down to.

Traditionals persist on having the unchurched understand them, while Contemporaries are trying to find ways in which they can understand the unchurched.

Posted by: Rob Nieves | Jun 2, 2005 12:30:11 AM

The purpose of the meeting of Christians ie. church services is not primarily to evangelize the lost. It is to worship God, disciple believers and equip them to do what God has called them to do...which ultimately includes evangelism. This is where we are going wrong in the mega-church fad of our day. The church house has become a hall for "evangelism" which effectively means that we must make the church "relevant" to the culture in order to attract the sinner in the doors--we do this by appealing to their desires/comforts/wants/language/music styles. This is not a matter of tradition vs contemporary, but of biblical vs non-biblical view/role of the Christian worship meeting/assembly. True relevancy is to take the culture of the Kingdom out into the American culture and challenge its presuppositions on the points of its sin with the unique claims of Christ and the full counsel of the Word of God. Then, when they are saved, bring them to church to be discipled under powerful unabashed preaching, prayer and power of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: pdl | Jun 2, 2005 1:00:37 AM

PDL

GREAT sermon friend! I heard this message about 10 years ago when I first came to the knowledge of my salvation.

Thank you for sharing. The flood of memories and heart piercing understanding of this message (Truly from God) has been resounding symbol in my heart and head (may the lamb receive the reward of His suffering).

All Glory to God!

Here are some of my favorites:
[where the whole plan of salvation was to give intellectual assent to a few statements of doctrine. And a person was considered a Christian because he could say "Ah hah" at four or five places that he was asked. If he knew where to say "Ah hah", someone would pat him on the back, shake his hand, smile broadly, and say "Brother, you're saved!"]

[Humanism is, I believe, the most deadly and disastrous of all the philosophical stenches that's crepted up through the grating over the pit of Hell. It has penetrated so much of our religion. AND IT IS IN UTTER AND TOTAL CONTRAST WITH CHRISTIANITY! Unfortunately it's seldom seen.]
Ministers (pastors) will actually argue FOR IT... amazing. But in the end, it is God who opens the eyes and ears of His sheep.

[And here we find Micah, wants to have a little chapel, and he wants to have a priest, and he wants to have prayer, and he wants to have devotion, because "I KNOW THE LORD WILL DO ME GOOD!"]
Or, in today's terms, instead of "I KNOW THE LORD WILL DO ME GOOD!" it would be said: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

["I KNOW THE LORD WILL DO ME GOOD!" AND THIS IS SELFISHNESS !!! AND THIS IS SIN !!! And the Levite comes along and falls right in with it! Because he wants a place! He wants ten shekels and a shirt and his food! And so in order that he can have what he wants, and Micah can have what they want, THEY SELL OUT GOD! For ten shekels and a shirt. AND THIS IS THE BETRAYAL OF THE AGES !!! And it is the betrayal in which we live. And I don't see HOW GOD CAN REVIVE IT! Until we come back to Christianity. As in DIRECT AND TOTAL CONTRAST WITH THE STENCHFUL HUMANISM that's perpetrated in our generation in the name of Christ.]
AMEN!!!

[I'm afraid that it's become so subtle that it goes everywhere. What is it? In essence it's this! That this philosophical postulate that the end of all being is the happiness of man, has been sort of covered over with evangelical terms and Biblical doctrine until God reigns in heaven for the happiness of man, Jesus Christ was incarnate for the happiness of man, all the angels exist in the..., Everything is for the happiness of man! AND I SUBMIT TO YOU THAT THIS IS UNCHRISTIAN !!! Isn't man happy? Didn't God intend to make man happy? Yes. But as a by-product and not a prime-product!]
How is this possible? I submit because most don't know/understand/believe God is the ONLY Sovereign Being in existence!

and the most beautiful portion of the sermon (brings tears to my eyes even now, today):
[There alone in my bedroom AS I FACED GOD HONESTLY WITH WHAT MY HEART FELT, it seemed to me I heard Him say, "Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The heathen are lost. And they're going to go to Hell, not because they haven't heard the gospel. They're going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN! And because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn't send you out there for them. I didn't send you out there for their sakes." And I heard as clearly as I've ever heard, though it wasn't with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its' way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this, "I didn't send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM !!! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM !!! I DIDN'T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM !!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME ! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON'T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?"]

Read that: Do I (Jesus) not deserve the reward of my suffering? Don't I (Jesus) deserve those for whom I died?

Ladies and gentlmen, those who would be called pastors, YOU who are here, on this blog day by day, humble yourself and take 51 minutes of your busy life and listen. Pray God open your ears and eyes to this message and that you would understand and know. Please, I beg of you in the name of Christ, take a moment! 51 minutes of eternity!!!

[Two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2000 to 3000 slaves. And the owner had said, "No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he's ship wrecked we'll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he's never going to talk to any of us about God, I'm through with all that nonsense." Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic and there to live and die without hearing of Christ.

Two young Moravians heard about it. They sold themselves to the British planter and used the money they received from their sale, for he paid no more than he would for any slave, to pay their passage out to his island for he wouldn't even transport them. As the ship left its' pier in the river at Hamburg and was going out into the North Sea carried with the tide, the Moravians had come from Herrenhut to see these two lads off, in their early twenties. Never to return again, for this wasn't a four year term, they sold themselves into life time slavery. Simply that as slaves, they could be as Christians where these others were. The families were there weeping, for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. As the gap widened and the housings had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier, and the young boys saw the widening gap, one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them, they were these,....{go and listen!!!}

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 2, 2005 1:15:05 AM

ROB WRITES:
Its almost as if we believe that people are saved by simply adopting our "church culture"

BeHim responds:
And what is the mega-church's "culture" - use the world to reach the world?

The “culture” I’ve spoke of is use the Bible and True Gospel to reach the world and you know what, there are contemporary AND traditional churches that do so. Although not many of either (but Glory to God, there are more and more each year!!!!)!

ROB WRITES:
Traditionals persist on having the unchurched understand them, while Contemporaries are trying to find ways in which they can understand the unchurched.

BeHim responds:
Is it really about understanding traditionalists, contemporaries, churched, unchurched? Is it really about understanding mankind?

OR IS IT>>>>
About knowing and understanding the Word of God and Jesus the Son of the Living God, the Christ (Savior)?

What do you say Rob, should we be learning more about mankind (traditionalists, contemporaries, un-churched, churched, etc) or learning more about God in His Word and through His Son, Jesus?

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 2, 2005 1:36:46 AM

ROB WRITES:
Traditionals persist on having the unchurched understand them

BeHim responds:
I would say traditionalists (Christians) persist on having the unbeliever understand the Bible.

ROB WRITES:
while Contemporaries are trying to find ways in which they can understand the unchurched.

BeHim responds:
I would agree: Contemporaries are trying to find ways to understand the unbeliever?

Do you see the problem?

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 2, 2005 1:41:56 AM

I'd make the point that the individuals in a small church that is in error is in just as much trouble as the individuals in a large church that is in error.

It's just that the larger churches make better targets, while the small churches stay under the radar.

Posted by: Ellen | Jun 2, 2005 8:59:32 AM

Another follow up

Todd wrote:

"Critics say that Mega-churches meet peoples physical, emotional, and worldly needs. This is very true; and the meeting of those needs allows them to deal with people's spiritual needs as well."

And my response:
Churches do NOT meet needs. People meet needs. People may work together to meet the needs of others, but that is a different thing from saying that an organization does something. I think this negates the whole size issue altogether.

However, whenever most people talk about "their" church or someone else's church, they seem to be more interested in how big they are. Those who think they are big talk about how large their assemblies are and how those assemblies have expanded, not about whether the people are representing Jesus wherever they are. I recently asked an acquaintance to tell me about his church and the first thing he mentioned was how many people attended on the weekend. He couldn't even seem to comprehend that I wanted to know the character and behavior and attitudes of those who were attending.

I'd like to know who changed the topic of discourse from the Christ-like nature of the Church to the size of the congregations. I think this has cheapened the whole idea of following Christ. Jesus made sure he communicated the requirements of being His follower to the extent that the crowds disappeared and He wondered if even His own disciples would abandon Him. When a church crowd thins in America, we call it failure.

The size of the crowd has never been the measure of the character of that crowd. Some of these mega-fans need to set the example by telling their participants to shut up about how big they are and how big they are getting and show a lifestyle of self-renunciation, simplicity and sacrificial turning their backs on the values of the world. The mega-church movement is a convenient target, not because of it's size but because of its preoccupation with size. Unfortunately, that is setting the tone for the everyone.

Many people without Christ have already dismissed this as shallow and not worthy of their lives. If we want to lead people to Jesus, we had better have a greater offer than the chance to join some organization that provides a weekly opportunity to reinforce the values of a fallen world. I do not include all congregations in this assessment, but many of the mega-fans are feeding this "size = success" syndrome and they are the only ones who can straighten our the record. How about it, guys?

Dean

Posted by: Dean | Jun 2, 2005 10:32:56 AM

Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses." Not, "You will be my evangelists." Think about it. There is a subtle difference but it is a difference nonetheless. It implies that in our witness to His very existence we would manifest the love of Christ so completely that people couldn't help but ask about God. Not that we would go forth and cram a feel-good religion down people's throats.

Think about it. Making the gospel "culturally relevant" and palatable in order to suck em in and then supposedly to save them reeks of the work of men and of deception. Is this what Jesus did or would do?

I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is not men but God who adds to His church. His way. With His power. With His Gospel. Of repentance. Stop trying to make it more "agreeable" to men. You remove the very power of God.

I wonder what would happen if we didn't have the degree of ecclesiology-gone-wrong in churches today. Say, for example, that the elders (note not "a" pastor)had a small FIXED income from the church and were tentmakers. Let's say it was stated in the by-laws that their income would NEVER be permitted to rise based on offerings, but that only the missions and benevolence budgets would.

Do you think we'd see a church of 253,000 in this case?

Do you?

Really?


Posted by: SPCT | Jun 2, 2005 10:55:14 AM

Dean,

Quick comment (I have some catching up to do from earlier ones)... of course people meet needs and not churches... churches do nothing without people. It is the church (small or large) that collectively allows people to reach needs... that's what I meant.

One other point of contention. :)

"The mega-church movement is a convenient target, not because of it's size but because of its preoccupation with size. Unfortunately, that is setting the tone for the everyone."

In all my readings (especially on this blog), I've never heard anyone from a 'megachurch' say how big they were; but I've heard literally dozens of comments from people outside that environment (including many 'small church' pastors), bemoan their size.

Some people bemoan numbers simply because they don't have any themselves to speak about. Others use numbers to, as you say, promote themselves. But here's my bottom line:

1. Growing numbers do not mean God's blessing or will, or that the church is even following God's word or principles. Even cults can grow big numbers. In essence, growing numbers do not equal church growth.

2. But the contrary to that would also need to be taken into effect... a healthy church should be a growing church. I know there are some that disagree, but if a church is healthy, it should be growing in my opinion. This is kind of a no-brainer.

My whole point is... who cares about size? This whole blog or thread was started by someone outside the mega-church movement that attacked the larger churches. Let's all strive to be effective where we're at. Small churches, let's be healthy and grow. Large churches, let's be healthy and grow. And let's rejoice together as God's Word is spread and people come into the Kingdom.

If you don't like your local megachurch, work all the much harder to make your church what God wants it to be. Be happy the your God is the God of both your churches.

Just my 3 cents worth (since this was long, it has to be worth more than 2 cents!)

I'll try to answer some of the other questions earlier so that you all can pick them apart as well. :)

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 2, 2005 11:01:17 AM

P.S. as a follow up to my earlier post...

Can a flock of 253,000 sheep be adequately fed? Where are there pastures large enough for that?

We should focus more on feeding the sheep we DO have and making them into disciples and worry less about making converts. Converts come from disciples not from converts who were unwilling to cross the Jordan.

Posted by: SPCT | Jun 2, 2005 11:07:25 AM

Pdl writes:The purpose of the meeting of Christians ie. church services is not primarily to evangelize the lost. It is to worship God, disciple believers and equip them to do what God has called them to do...which ultimately includes evangelism.

I can agree with that However the book of Acts would show us that people got saved at their gatherings as well, which did not include multi-media, but I believe was relevant to their culture.

Please don't misunderstand me, I don't believe that church needs to be a place of spiritual recreation. But on the other hand I don't believe it needs to be boring. If we can make learning the bible interesting and exciting, then Why not?

I don't see anything wrong with using modern technology tools to share the same message in new ways. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we've been changing our methods for years. For example there's no mention in scripture of Sunday School or of an organ being the preferred musical instrument - we adapted these as we went along and they were a blessing in their time and still continue to be a blessing to many.

Because of the recent increase in technologial advancements, it seems that our culture has taken us for a loop and we need to adapt as we've always done, except this time we may have to adapt a few things at once.

The very fact that we're posting messages up on the internet reflects our changing culture.

I often ask myself if the criticism of mega churches is even an honest criticism or a way to verbally express jealousy.

Let's always remember that not all mega churches are created equally in the same way that not all small churches are created equally. There's both extremes and we all know that extremes can be dangerous.

Instead of spending anymore time talking about this, let's focus on making sure that we're doing what's right regardless of what level of ministry God has given us charge of.

If we honestly take a minute to think about this debate we'll find that we're starting to sound alot like the disciples when they were arguing over who among them was the greatest.

It was great chatting with you all...but I've said enough, so for me its time to move on.

Posted by: Rob Nieves | Jun 2, 2005 11:22:56 AM

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