Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Random thoughts about the church growth movement (Part 5)

Why was I feeling down and sorry for myself after reading a church growth magazine? It was because there is something about the church growth movement that makes you want to compare yourself with those “successful” pastors and churches that are being touted today throughout evangelicalism.
It is my belief that the church growth/“seeker-sensitive”/“purpose-driven” movement is inherently man-centered. The philosophy of the church growth movement causes one to focus on other people and on oneself. And that’s the heart of the problem! Once you get your eyes on people and on yourself, and start comparing yourself to other people, you’re going feel discouraged if you don’t “measure up”.

This is wrong. This is unbiblical. This is sinful.

God wants His people to be God-centered and God-focused. With our eyes on God, we won’t be discouraged and we won’t be proud. We’ll “think with sober judgment”, as we ought (Romans 12:3). It is my belief that churches would be better served (though, some of them might become a bit smaller) if they just stuck to the Bible.

In contrast to the man-centered rhetoric of the church growth movement, there is this encouraging word from the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:17-31):
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
When I read God’s Word, I’m encouraged, because I’m certainly not "wise according to worldly standards", powerful by any definition, or “of noble birth”. I’m sure the average, highly-trained, mainline, Protestant minister would consider me “foolish” (Perhaps even some of my unsaved family members would think so, also). I certainly feel weak when I consider the immense responsibility that goes along with being a minister of the gospel. But, look at what we’re told: “[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus…” It’s not about me and how qualified I am by man's standard; it’s about God. This is all about God’s wisdom, His power and His ability!

That’s not only an encouraging word; it’s liberating!

I pray that more evangelical churches would conduct themselves as if God’s Word were really true. You know what I mean? We’ve simply got our focus in the wrong place. We think too highly of ourselves.

You know, I think I’ll just stick to what God has to say.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

4 comments:

davidzook said...

Wyeth

Thank you for pouring out your heart on this issue. I am always eager to read your blog and you do not disappoint. In the spirit of iron sharpening iron, you may want to chew on the following: The church being relevant in culture. Look in Acts 17 as Paul debates the Greeks. He seizes upon the alter of the "unknown god" to introduce the true and living God to the Areopagus. You'll notice that Paul who preaches by the name of Christ does not once mention Christ by name, rather he describes Christ, in talking with them. He is contextualizing Gospel and making it understandable and relevant to them. Being non-Jewish, the Athenians may not have known all the OT stuff about the Messiah or about the works and life of Jesus. One could make the case that each of the Gospel writers contextualized and made relevant the life and death of Jesus to their original audience. Matthew wrote to the Jews hence the geneology and all the OT references. Mark to the Gentiles hence no geneology and less OT references. And so on. The point is this: as we do the work of Christ we must be mindful of he audience that we are reaching and be wise in how to reach that audience. White surburan upper middle class churches reach their audience differently than traditional black churches or first generation hispanic churches...and so on. Certianly, folks go overboard and begin relying on man-centered strategies and techniques to reach people, but we must never forget that God is utimately glorifying Himself through redeeming His people. And we as Christians, my friend, are His agents that He uses to reach His people. "Go, therefore and make disciples..." Matt 28:19-20

Blessing and grace in the New Year.

David Zook

James said...

I began to post a comment, which became long, so I just made it a post (here)

Thanks again, Wyeth, for your thoughtful reflections. Man-centerdness (and reliance upon human ingenuity and effort) is a constant temptation, so it's always helpful to think about these things again.

wwdunc said...

David,

Thank you for reading! And, thank you for your helpful comments. Your point is well-taken, as far as being "mindful of the audience that we are trying to reach".

In saying that I’ve never "tried to 'make' the Word of God relevant" or "I don’t have a desire to 'connect' with today’s culture" I didn't mean to imply that I don't care about my audience, and it probably came across like that. It would come closer to my intent to say I just try to be myself. In some ways, I can't relate, because I'm not "with it", as far as knowing what's going on today. I can't pretend to be with it; I'm just who I am. Thirty years ago, I would've been called, "square". So, I don't have a desire to "connect", in the sense of pretending to be someone I am not. My concern probably is closer to what James, who commented after you, stated: we're not trying to "make the gospel more palatable" to the world. We should try to soften the "offense" of the gospel.

And, thank you, too, James, for reading. The comments on your blog were very helpful.

wwdunc said...

Oops!!

I meant to say, "we should NOT try to soften the 'offense' of the gospel."

It's late, so accurate proofreading is getting a little difficult.