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?

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