Wednesday, August 26, 2009

new strategy: out breed, out educate, out last--survivor

 In a previous post, I discussed the relationship between the shrinking denomination and the shrinking christian family.  My thesis was that ubiquitous decline/plateau of the church had little to do with more of less evangelism efforts but was related to the size of the families we are having (hidden premise: our evangelism efforts are primarily "bringing in" direct kin).  Voddie Baucham's solution is to have more kids and to home school them.  Voddie is really making a splash over the "pull your kids out of public school" issue as in the video and SBC resolutions.  He is now trying to get parents not to send their kids to college-even Christians colleges!  It is a bit ironic {read: hypocritical} since many of his speaking engagements place him talking to Christian college students both from christian and public colleges {we will come and speak, take their money, but wants no part of it, mean while going to the home school/FIC crowd telling them to stay away and writing books and giving voice and credentials for their cause...}.  My point is not to go after Voddie--though I certainly disagree with him on a number of points--and I am doing my best to be respectful since it is the right thing to do, and I have a number of readers who are big fans of his (I used to be till he started sounding like what I left behind).

I want to note a few things about the video/movement, especially since we continue to see these misguided resolutions at the convention.

1. Even if a resolution passes, this is meaningless.  No one cares what the SBC resolves, not even most SBCers.  In fact, the broad majority of southern baptists are probably naively unaware that any such resolutions are even being discussed at the convention.  Many people forget that the convention has absolutely no control over its churches.  As such, resolutions instructing churches to do anything are absolutely meaningless.

2.  The video and resolutions present a false dichotomy.  They present the biblical choice for parent involvement through home schooling vs. the unbiblical choice to remain absent and send your kids to public school.  First there are absentee methods of home schooling.  Second, there are ways to be involved in a child's education even if they are at public school.  Check out Ray Bakke's book Urban Christian.  He provides some great tips for doing just that (it is a great book in all regards and should be read even if there is no interest in the school issues).

3.  It is based on fear resulting from trumped up evidence.  Their idea is that if you send your kid to PS then he will become a humanist and if you HS he will be a saint.  This simply is not the case.  Voddie cites the track record for HS but I am not sure where he is finding this figure.  From personal experience, I have know many HSers who turned out to be licentious atheists/agnostics and many PSers who have turned out godly.  From the HS circle I grew up in, for those who actually stayed the course, the majority have walked away from the faith or have a Christianity that is more folk religion than it is biblical.

4.  It is borderline humanism.  To teach that sending a Christian kid to a non-Christian school will make them walk away from the faith is the same as saying that it is the surrounding environment which corrupts (biblically, we are born with sin into a fallen world: there is no Village).  Environment is the source of corruption comes straight out of behaviorism and humanism.  While the protection mentality sounds biblical, it betrays incipient humanism.  Ironically, while trying to avoid the culture, they espouse some of the most dangerous ideology.

5.  It neglects regeneration and the Daniel factor.  Do we not trust the Holy Spirit?  Ironically, many of the folks in the FIC groups are reformed.  To them I ask: do you not trust God to keep your child?  I am not in favor of throwing children to the wolves.  However, when one is truly regenerated (and that is the problem with many HSers and regular church goers alike, they buy the Christian worldview without the relationship and regeneration) evil influence and even indoctrination are not an issue.  Look at Daniel.  He was taken as a mere boy and placed into occult classes.  Did that warp his "Christian" worldview?  On the contrary, his surroundings were not the source of his power--he was not a humanist.

6.  It feeds the idea that we can pull out of society, out breed and out educate, and that this will restore Christianity to our country.  A friend of mine addresses this trend in Europe.  This is a failed strategy.  As I referenced in my previous post, we are already seeing the failing effects here.  It is a broader problem than just the FIC and the HS crowd.  To be honest, most of our churches have a similar strategy which leaves them only evangelizing those who show up at church.  But the FIC and HS crowd has officially turned this into a strategy.  The not too distant history teaches us that this is failure in the making.

{addendum:  I am not against homeschooling.  We are currently homeschooling our little girl.  I just think that the reasons that many state are based in misinformation, fallacies, and even "vain philosophies" not rooted in Christ.  On the other side, I do believe that there are many missional reasons to utilize and engage the PS system.  If on wants to HS they must take precaution not to adopt and pass on a village mindset-the parents have to model this through missional living}

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Folk Religion

Folk religion has always fascinated me.  The story below is a great example.  It is easy to look down on others since we can see the obvious ways they turn our faith into a folk religion.  But we rarely see the ways in which we turn our own faith into a folk religion.

Church rules no pants on Sunday

By Theresa Ralogaivau (Tuesday, August 18, 2009)
THE strict observance of Sunday worship has resulted in men on a Bua island not being allowed to wear pants on Sunday.
The Sunday ban also forbids travel and the hanging of clothes on lines.
Galoa Village headman Josefa Baleinasiga said the ban was enforced so that the islanders could learn to respect the significance of Sunday as a holy day.
Mr Baleinasiga said the Methodist Church and the vanua also decided to impose the ban as a means of bringing good fortune to the people.
"The ban is meant to bring good luck to the island as we respect the day of the Lord," he said.
"You can see that often misfortune befalls us because we don't respect His commandments that there be no work performed on Sunday except worship.
"Before our islanders used to go diving on Sunday, and there was a lot of travelling and it was difficult to separate the days all the days were the same.
"Now on Saturdays the clothes line in the village is full as the villagers know they can't hang anything out on Sunday."
As a mark of respect, men can only wear a sulu or sulu vakataga on the day; travelling by outboard from the island is forbidden.
"But we make exceptions during emergencies for the sick so it's not a ban that hasn't been well thought out."
A villager who requested anonymity said the ban was too restrictive because it limited movement.
"We can't understand how wearing a sulu vakataga on Sunday will help us forge closer relations with the divine," he said. "At times too for the school children who come home for the weekend, the best time to return to their hostel in Labasa or Savusavu is on Sunday - so that is getting in the way."
Mr Baleinasiga said anybody who breached the ban would be chastised by the vanua.  From the Fiji Times

Thursday, August 20, 2009

like a sore thumb: closer to home

So the examples from the last post were definitely soft targets.  It should be blatantly obvious to everyone just how out of touch these methods are.  So, lets get a little closer to home.

Exhibit A
It could be the First Baptist Church of anywhere.  It is a midsized church of around 600.  The church has been in a plateau for many years.  They recently hired some new staff to try to help the church grow.  Part of this plan included updating the music.  The low grade worship war, or rumble, had been decided in favor of modernizing.  After all, if they were to reach the boomers, they would need to have better music.  They have given their website a face-lift, and are even trying to connect on facebook and twitter.  They brought in a younger worship leader and Pastor.  They are using projectors and movie clips.  They don't talk about hell, tithing, lordship.  Instead, they talk about sex, finances, and other American dream feel good topics.  They can see that they have updated their church from its former days of traditionalism. The church appears to be growing so everyone is happy.  If they were to look behind the curtains, however, they would see that the growth was not from the church impacting lostness, rather they were receiving disgruntled people from other churches.  If they were to take an honest look, they would see that in spite of their new marketing strategies that they were essentially reaching the same people: people who are already inclined to come to church and who, typically, already share a cultural Christian worldview.  They trade missional living for church growth; the lost are still lost, but at least their church is bigger.  They have made the basic mistake that many churches make.  While they rightly critique the traditional church, they make the same basic error.  They say that the church of the 50's is stuck in the cultural presuppositions of the 50's, that people will come to church.  That is true.  It was assumed, especially in the south, that on Sunday everyone was in church.  The problem with many "contemporary" churches is that they make the same mistake.  They assume that if they are simply more modern or more entertaining that people who don't care about God will somehow fell compelled to show up.  I have never found a church that good.  The problem is even deeper than drawing the lost world.  The problem extends to trying to draw believers.  Churches don't realize the extracted christian sub culture which they espouse and how phony it feels to anyone, believer or not, living in the real world.  Just think about christian music.  Personally, I own and listen to secular music more than christian.  All of the knock off bands are just that, knock offs.  Don't even start me on christian movies....  But I digress.  The point remains, take away all technological trappings and the traditional and contemporary church are essentially the same in mindset: the world will "come and see".  "Go and tell" in these camps is equated with an invitation to church.

Exhibit B
Bob is a young man who recently became a Christian.  He comes from a lower income family in a rough neighborhood.  He decides to go to the closest church which happens to be First Baptist of Exhibit A.  Exhibit A church is across the highway in the nicer part of town, mostly upper middle class.  Bob is instructed that he should not attempt to win some of his friends till he has more knowledge and training.  He begins coming to Sunday School, morning worship, and the evening service on Sundays.  There is a Monday night football group with some of the guys from church.  Bob's friends, who are a little rougher than he is are never interested in coming to church, though he invites them to many events.  For some reason, guys who are sleeping around with many women don't think they have something to learn from a Pastor about sex.  They don't want to hang out on Mondays, because they were told there would be no alcohol there--it is a Baptist church after all.  Bob also goes to church on Wednesday nights, because that is small group Bible study, and Friday nights, because that is Singles group.  He picks up extra hours at work on Tuesday nights and on his only remaining night left, the night he and his friends used to hang out at the local bar, he just stays home since his new group of friends are advising him to make wiser choices with whom he associates.  He no longer has any real connection to anyone in his old world.  His life has been transformed, but all they see is that he is no longer there.  Bob is interested in getting married, but is meeting lots of resistance at church since most of the available women are wary about his rough past.  Some of them are just "too good" for him.  He can't choose a girl from his past since he is looking for something else now.  He finds him self to be rather lonely.  One of his church friends offers him a better job.  Bob takes it.  He is now removed from the final network from his past.  His old friends just thing he is self righteous and used religion to get out of the hood to a better life in the burbs.  He no longer talks like he used to, he no longer lives where he used to, and since he has a nicer job, he doesn't even dress like he used to.  He is a carbon copy of the middle class southern American Christian sub culture.

Can he go back and reach his buddies for Christ?  Could he just invite them to church?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I have been off of here for a while.  I will put in the third installment of the extraction series shortly.  In the mean time, here is some great stuff from friends.

We only play with other Christians, and if we’re not on a sales-call (time of evangelism) we’re mentally off. So when we show up at some poor guys house to do a survey, thank him for visiting church, or whatever it is we do all we’re presenting is a message….a message the person has never had a chance to see fleshed out. So unfair…anyone in marketing knows that a good product is contagious when you see it in action. You play someone’s wii and you have to have one, you ride in their Mini-Cooper and it becomes your dream car. We’re asking people to buy into something they haven’t seen in action. I know that proclamation is vital….but it has to be partnered with us living out our faith with people, living with them, playing with them. When we do this they can see and touch the results of a transformed life.  From Grady Bauer

Here is a great video on the unreached via JD Greear

Monday, August 3, 2009


_5200711   My world  religions professor used to say "unless you can see how someone could believe a particular thing, you have not studied it enough."  It is all to often that I  hear something to the effect of. "how could anyone be so stupid to believe that?!"  While this comment smacks  of arrogance, it betrays an underlying ignorance.  Ever heard someone say that?  Perhaps about Mormons, Postmodernism, Islam, or animism?  At the base of this statement is an ad hominem.  The persons intelligence or lack thereof neither proves nor disproves a particular belief.  What is really being said is "I don't understand your belief system.  it is easier to call you an idiot and affirm in my mind that you are wrong than it is to actually listen, learn, process, and engage."  Most people cannot understand how someone could be LDS.  This is because they have not studied the issues enough.  They don't understand the cultural issues and pressures.  Having grown up nearly neo Amish, I can completely understand how someone can be LDS, especially if they grow up in it.  I completely disagree; but I completely understand it as well.  My understanding of LDS changes my approach. It releases me from the need to "get them off my doorstep" and actually treat them like real _5310898people.

The real point of the post is not to talk about religion but about culture shock and ethnocentrism.  People go from one culture to another, don't see what the locals see in their food, climate, culture, etc. and make lots of arrogant "you people" kind of statements.  What is true of religions is true of cultures and countries.  I recently experiences someone who moved to my town from the middle east.  He missed his home country and was experiencing culture shock.  I had him over for some texmex, and, though he didn't say anything, he hated it.  He would make remarks about how much better his town is than mine.  After so much of this, out of concern for him, I almost suggested he return. _6061384 I realize Americans do this wherever we go.  We eat their food.  But when we get home, we enjoy the satisfaction of "real food" with people who "really know how to cook."  No doubt my friend felt the same way.

So, here is my observation: unless we understand how someone could live in a certain place, relish a certain food, and subscribe to a certain culture out of love for these things, we have not been there long enough, studied it enough, and experienced it enough.  In my previous job I did quite a bit of traveling.  My company operated in the gulf coast states as well as the rockies and parts of the west.  I would travel to oil field towns and think to my self "wow! how could anyone live here."  {That is actually exactly what I thought of Houston right after we moved back from Scotland...  Now I miss it every time I am gone.  I miss the traffic, the rude driving, the bums, the illegal's, the sprawl, the noise.  I miss it all.}  The problem with my view of these places was that I would come in for three days and be gone.  Riverton Wy was _5160488one of these places.  It looks like any other oilfield town-ugly and purely utilitarian.  I hated it.  It gets to 40 below in the winter, not to mention it has 9 months of hard winter.  This last summer I was tired of being treated like a terrorist in the airports.  I talked my company into letting me drive and renting me a 5th wheel trailer.  I brought my family and we stayed out the entire summer.  We drove 10,000 miles a month, and loved it.  We stayed the longest in Riverton.  After experiencing life there, I can now see how people would live there.  They go big game hunting in the fall.  They drink beer and shoot prairie dogs on the weekends.  They ATV and snowmobile religiously.  I loved certain aspects of their life and territory.  I still could never live where it gets below 0 for months, but I can see the lure. 

I now look at new places, foods, music, and cultures this way.  Everyone was shocked when I signed up to head overseas.  They act as if life is somehow over if you move somewhere out side USA.  How will you hav_6061345e kids over there?  What will you eat?  Where will you live?  These are common questions from shocked friends, families, and church members.  My logic is that the whole earth belongs to God.  The other side is just as inhabitable as this side.  The food is just as edible, and life is just as sustainable.  Think about the other side of the world... billions of people are making it somehow.  Perhaps we should drop the "you people" complex and sit a while with an open mind.