I am not sure if this title is the best to describe what i am thinking through at the moment but it is the best I could come up with. This is a thought that i have been pondering for a while and it spans across denominations and and doctrinal divides, and I get this feeling as an Evangelical operating in a confused Anglican diocese.
Let me explain
No matter what sphere of the Anglican/Presbyterian/Baptist/AOG/COC/Independent we seem to be jumping on gimmicks to present people with the Good news of Jesus and it seems to me that we are all just working for the latest “coolest” or “denominationally acceptable” ways to reach people. I can speak for Evangelical circles and Liberal within the Anglican Church, maybe peopel can give me some insight into other denominations.
Liberals/Progressives: over the past nearly 10 years they have “generally speaking” jumped on board with the whole Fresh Expressions movement that came out of the UK. Now this whole concept started because some really switched on churches (churches passionate about Jesus, God’s Word in the Bible and living as disciples) started to run some interesting ministries that saw masses of conversions and then growth. Unfortunately rather than picking up on what drove them, others just saw something different and thought to run similar ministries and place them around a communion service and called them “Fresh Expressions” jump forward 10 years and ever man and his dog are doing “Fresh Expressions” which are just gimmicky groups that are suppose to reach people, but become little fringe weird groups.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for being creative with how we reach people and thinking through how to connect with people but outside the church but if all we are doing is creating wierd fringe social groups, what is that actually creating disciples?
Evangelicals: Whilst we will tell you that Church planting is Biblical (which it is) I don’t actually believe most of our church planting is either done well, or out of the right motivations. In fact dare I say it is a bit of the latest fad, and that it has become a bit of a status thing? (I know that this is going to create a bit of animosity with some of my church planting brothers and sisters, but if you are honest with yourselves and each other you know i am right) and it has become very much like “Fresh Expressions” just we call it something different. In fact i saw a recent church planters conference with seminars on “How to run Community BBQ’s, Theology and Movies, Cards and Evangelism”. Wow. No offense meant to the organizers of this conference, but honestly, that’s the best you have to offer?? is that what we are limiting ministry to?
Now don’t get me wrong I think they are good ideas, but i think there is a bigger problem that we have to deal with if we want to see churches grow and reach out.
Most of our churches are filled with people who struggle being disciples of Jesus. Now don’t get me wrong we all struggle in this area, but I think there is this aspect where we have separated our life as followers of Jesus to our Sunday lives that we live out 2-3 times a month. This isn’t to mean that we live depraved lives out of church, most of us live fairly moral lives most of the time, we are generally nice people but I wonder whether the driving force of God’s Grace is missing in our lives. Yes we are saved by Faith and it is only by the Grace of God that this is all possible, I just wonder whether we are looking too much a gimmicks or methodologies rather than emphasizing the Grace of God and the Glory of Jesus.
If Grace were to be the driving force would we need to come up with events or gimmicks to invite people along to church or would it happen more naturally as Jesus says in Matthew 5 14 “You are the light of the world.(A) A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.(B) 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others,(C) that they may see your good deeds(D) and glorify(E) your Father in heaven.
Maybe our focus is wrong, maybe it isn’t about starting “Fresh Expressions” or “Hipper” more “relevant” churches, maybe the answer is as simple as those who already know Christ focus on His Glory and His Father’s Grace, at which point we become whole of life Disciples, rather than just event or “hipster ministry” driven
Just got this email from a guy i lead in a small group at a camp a decade ago. So humbled that God used something I said to draw someone into the His Kingdom. Humbled beyond belief
Thought I’d email you to thank and encourage you for the impact that you, under God, had on my life. Your talks on James (when I was in year 7) really taught me heaps. Coming out of primary school, it was one of the first times when I seriously decided to follow Jesus on my own (though I’d always been a Christian). I still remember you saying, ‘You can’t delay following Jesus… you could walk out of here and get hit by a bus and die… then it’d be too late’. That really struck me!
In a strange turn of events, I have now been the speaker on that very summer school program for the last 2 years (and will also be in 2014). I often think about how important those talks were for me and how strange it is that now I am in your position. Praise God that he uses us!
It was a surprise to come across you on the twitter-sphere! Thanks for those talks all those years ago!
One of the things that really surprises me in our current generation is our level of arrogance, not just socially with one another, but also and especially when it comes to History. Over the past 2 years especially it has become common place within discussions and debates to make statements down the line of “we are more inclusive now” or “we are much more developed now”. Really? the world has become a much better place now to what it was? we have become a more equal community? please do tell me how.
As i am preparing for teaching on Sunday we are coming back to the book of Acts 17:16-31 and Paul’s speech in Athens, here he is speaking to 2 groups of people, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The interesting thing from where i sit, is that nothing has changed.
Athens is described as a
city filled with idols
Luke makes fun of them for constantly chasing after the latest “knowledge” and not being of any substance
Epicureans sought “truth” by means of personal experience
Stoic philosophy sought purpose through living a “good” life and followed one’s reason
why is it that as i read this and what Paul encountered in Athens i look at our culture in Australia and around the world, and i see very little difference. Yes we have more technology, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our values and issues have changed.
To theologians, thinkers, speakers before you start saying we are better than our forefathers and more developed and culture has changed SOOO much, start to read some History (any history really) and you will realise that nothing has really changed, it is just presented slightly differently.
Why do we do history? so that hopefully we can learn from the mistakes from our past. does this happen? very rarely in my opinion.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;(A)
there is nothing new under the sun.