Monday, July 09, 2007

What is church for?

So in talking with .justin lately I have been discussing our current sermon series at 1bc. The sermon series is titled "Counter Culture Christianity" and has been the source of some VERY excellent sermons. The highlight of the series so far for me has been this message "Facts about Biblical Femininity" preached by Pastor Gary. The sermon touched on a very culturally sensitive issue (women's roles in the world/church, especially poignent with respect to a potential future president?) [Now I personally don't support Hillary for president, but that has nothing to do with issue of sex, but instead with issues like her views on foreign policy, digital rights, and other aspects of her platform.]

Not only was the subject matter highly relevant and engaging for our current culture, but it utilized media including clips from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty.

All in all an A (possibly even an A+) sermon... except on my sermon report card I had to give it an F. It was definitely an F+, maybe even an F++ but it still failed. The reason for this, the message forgot Christ! We read from the scriptures, we talked about what God and Christ (via Paul) have to say on the subject of femininity, but we neglected to inform the audience of who Christ is and what Christ's gift to them is. This is like going for your drivers test and using your blinkers, checking your blind spots, obeying the speed limit, performing perfectly in the parallel parking and then running the stop sign at the end of the test. You had a perfect score right up until that point you failed the test...

I know it seems like a minor point and a lot of people feel a 1-3 minute "If you don't know Christ here is how" is tacky and turns church into a Paid Programming advertisement for Christ. To myself, this 1-3 minutes is at the very heart of not only what Church is, but what being a Christian is. Our entire lives should center around Christ and we should use every opportunity to spread the gospel to as many people as possible.

I theorize that this entire issue comes down to a simple question, of which is what most of you thought was a very poor title to a blog post whose subject seemingly had nothing to do with it's title "What is church for?"

My point being, many people view "Church" as a time for fellow believers to get together and fellowship with one another while being trained in the scriptures through the sermon. This church model was based around a time where the average church attendence was much smaller, communities were smaller, and any time anyone new showed up the entire church knew it because the whole seating plan was thrown out of whack cause they sat in someone elses "reserved" seat. Because of my lack of formal religious training I don't know all the fancy church model names, so we will label this as the "Boring And Dead" Church model because there is little "newness" being brought into the church from the outside and chances are everyone is now 80 years old since the only church growth was from babies who have now all grown up and moved away. "Boring And Dead" is too long to type so we will just go with BAD Church for short. The BAD Church views church time as a time for fellow believers to get together, pat each other on the back, and revel in their own tiny kingdom set apart from the rest of the world.

I view church much differently. I view church as an opportunity to reach out to non-christians and introduce them to the gospel of Christ in a healthy and relevant manner. If in our church service we neglect to share the message of Christ we are creating a missed opportunity for an unbeliever to come to know Christ. I view fellowship time and growth in the scriptures as VITALY important, but I believe that both fellowship and growth can be fostered more effectively and in a healthier manner in a small group setting than a "big church" setting. I would call this church model the God Oriented Outreach Driven Model. Or the GOOD Church model for short. The GOOD church realizes the importance of fellowship and teaching but moves it into a smaller enviornment (small groups) where fellowship and teaching can be more effective and on a more personal level. It then uses the larger more corporal setting of the "big church" to reach out to the unbelievers through a contemporary message that speaks to both believers and unbelievers, and shares the love of Christ with everyone who enters the doors on a weekly basis.

I am working up the nerve to talk to both Glen and Gary about my concerns over this whole subject so I would like to ask for prayer from all of my readers (all 2 of you). I want to emphasize the point that I think the recent sermons have been EXCELLENT and some of the best sermons I have heard at the church since I joined. I want them to understand how much I appreciate culturally relevant messages that incorporate different styles of media adapting "non-Christian" messages and highlighting the Christian values in them. I just want to also point out that EVERYTHING we do in Church, most especially the sermon, should be about Christ. So when we neglect to have the message of Christ's salvation preached from the pulpit, we are neglecting our core values.

I ask for your prayer in that I can be respectfull and that I convey the message in love.


.justin said...

i think the "driscoll model" of sharing the gospel/pointing it all back to christ is what you're looking for, and our pastors aren't driscoll. they are keeffe and schwarz.

i THINK that if you "accused"? them of not pointing to christ you would be laughed at, ridiculed, and any chips which you do/did have with them, would be burnt.

in other words, i think that they think they are revealing Christ. and what they would hear from you, would be "give an altar call at the end of each message". [and it would turn out to be a very "christian" altar call in our very "post-christian" world.] it would NOT be what you had in mind.

while i don't disagree with every sermon needing to point to Jesus, the "full gospel" as you put it, is/was preached at least in the "biblical feminity". the good news about Jesus' thoughts/the Bible's view of women was honoring and redemptive. that's gospel.

i know what you're saying, and i totally would love to see a "driscoll sermon" every week, but that's what podcasts are for, i guess... unless we become a mars hill video venue [fingers crossed AND it's never going to happen!!!]

i really really really liked your B.A.D. and G.O.O.D. acronymns!

i know what you're getting at here. but i don't want to discredit the boys for giving a little bit more effort.

i understand it's apples and oranges, but i like fresh oranges!

Ryan and Shalisa said...

On your point about the gospel being preaced, I guess what I am getting at is a "missional" message of the gospel (if you want to draw the Driscoll connection).

I for one do NOT want us to become a Mars Hill clone or even a Mars Hill Video Satellite church. While I enjoy Drisoll very much, this is Shelton not Seattle and has different issues and different culture, we need to be culturally relevant to Shelton.

I don't need Gary or Glen to be Driscoll, but I do need for my pastors to share the message of salvation in every message. I don't want a churchified altar call, thats... weak sauce. But I do want unbelievers to be clearly shown the easy steps (or be given information on how to talk to someone about it afterwards) in every message.

It isn't hard, it doesn't have to be long and drawn out and made a show. It's just a simple "sub message" to incorporate into everything.

It's similar to my beef that everyone that speaks on stage should introduce themselves/be introduced. We introduce guest speakers to our congregation when they speak, why don't we introduce our speakers to our guest congregation members every week we have a guest? (which I would assume is every week).

Again, it isn't hard and it isn't a big deal to incorporate into every Sunday.

I think you are taking my critisisms in the wrong context, not to say that the message was wrong or bad, in fact I say just the opposite, it was a great message which I tried to highlight the high points in, but it lacked the final moment where it brought the message of biblical femininity back to point to Christ. It wasn't that the message was bad or wrong, just incomplete.

I don't want Mars Hill 2 or Mark Driscoll 2, but I do think there are things we can learn from successfull churches and pastors that we can incorporate into our own to help us be more successfull and effective in our ministry.

.justin said...