Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is Your Church Missional or Missing The Point?

I was just listening to talk by David Bisgrove, from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and heard a great soundbite. In fact, I have stopped listening in order to write this. David was talking on the subject of sharing the good news of Jesus in a post-Christian culture. Let's cut to the chase:

Scripture tells us that ... non-believers are expected to be in our worship services ... [They should find our] worship challenging and comprehensible, NOT comfortable.

When you preach, or teach, preaching is done as if the whole community is listening...If you preach as if non-Christians from the community are there, even if there are not, it will not long be long before they are brought.

In most (even thriving) churches the whole service usually assumes
- a lot of biblical knowledge
- a we-them mentality
- a lot of evangelical terminology.

Most Christians, even if they are edified in the church, know intuitively that their non-Christians friends would not appreciate the service.

Sad but very true. For years now I have lamented the "Christendom" or "Holy Huddle" approach to meetings, where it is always assumed everyone is a Christian, an often a mature one at that. I always feel somewhat bad about this, because people often respond with "but the service blessed me", "I really found the Lord during worship", "the sermon was really interesting". I'm glad David Bisgrove has hit the hammer on the head of the nail with this one. Public Christian meetings should not be catering for obscure teaching, bless-me praise times, and lengthy in-house announcements which often bore the people the news relates to, let alone anyone else. I think many churches believe their public meetings are a cross between a social gathering and an annual general meeting. In other words, there is a preoccupation with internal, inward-looking, in-house matters, rather than the public proclamation of the gospel, a time of worship which both Christians and non-Christians can in some way enter into and appreciate, and a time of corporate prayer for the city and nation.

Now some people will say, "but Alastair, we want meat, not milk; we want depth, not shallowness; we want to glorify God, not be seeker friendly". I suppose the answer to that is two-fold: One, as David Bisgrove went on to say, should people really be seeking such things from a public worship/gathering ? He points out that Redeemer has other venues and times where education, training, counseling, etc. takes place. They don't jam it all into their Sunday meetings. In addition, I believe it is possible to hold a public Christian meeting in which God is given the glory, he is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth, and the gospel proclaimed, in such a way that both Christians and non-Christians can a) comprehend/appreciate and b) be challenged by and (c) be given space for appropriate ways to respond.

So what do you think?


Peter Kirk said...

Thanks, Alastair. In principle I agree with Bisgrove. But there is also an opposite danger found in some churches as satirised here, of preaching always for conversions even when the congregation is only the same small group of known Christians. So we need to steer a middle course on matters like this.

Alastair said...

Thanks, Peter. What you say is true, but having been in small groups of known Christians before, its very easy to get stuck into that mentality and slowly drift into a "lets bless ourselves" meeting, a quite natural response I might add if there is no stream of newcomers coming into the Christian community.

The link you posted is quite funny, thanks for that. But what isn't so funny is the opposite problem, where some folks can attend a church meeting for three months solid, and never hear the gospel. As a bare minimum, I would suggest that if the gospel, is some aspect, is not being shared every month, something is wrong.

Of course, if a church does not expect anyone new to come along in the space of one month, that is also something to look at!

Alastair said...

I should add, that when I say "the gospel", and don't mean some simply "you ugly lot are sinners. Jesus has saved you good-for-nothings, so repent and believe!" ... I'm convinced, in line with most of the New Testament teaching, that we need to focus on Jesus, no matter what we are talking about.

Peter Kirk said...

Alastair, I can only agree with you.

Laura Anne said...

All I can say to the post Alastair. is AMEN!

I do think it's important that we look at the meaty issues, and I do believe that sometimes churches can put so much emphasis on 'mission' or 'evangelism' that they forget the main way in which many are attracted to Jesus...when they see how much the church family love and care for one another, sharing everything and living in community.

I've been to too many churches where folks get left behind 'injured' as it were while people are focusing on the next 'evangelistic tool' or 'event' or 'mission trip'...

Laura Anne said...

I might add that I spent a good 2 years in total confusion at church services after becoming a Christian.

1) The weird terminology - salvation, atonement, the tree, revival amongst other bizarre phrases

2) The number of times when someone teaching referred to a bible story as a way of explaining a concept in a bible passage...e.g. we see this too with what happened to Jonah at Nineveh...meanwhile I'd be sitting there (with another friend who was a new Christian too) going 'who's Jonah?' 'what happened?'

So many people forget that we didn't all grow up in Sunday school or singing hymns and Graham Kendrick songs...

sorry..that's my rant over :S

Alastair said...

Thanks Laura, I completely agree with you.