Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good Conversation...That Left me Puzzled

I was having a conversation tonight with some of my teens and we were discussing what they would and would not invite their friends to. You know, church events. Well it got to the point where I started "encouraging" them all to invite their friends to a particular event. The conversation with a particular high school student, whose also a leader, went a little something like this:

Me: "So will you invite your buddies?"
Student: "No. Cuz that's not where they're at."
Me: "Um. what do you mean?"
Student: "I dunno, it just doesn't seem like it's something for them, so I don't like...wanna freak them out. You know?

We continued on but I was kind of blown away. This is also just one example of many similar conversations. I want teens to feel comfortable inviting their friends to church, but time and again I feel like I'm running into the "Church is not a 'safe' or 'good' or 'right' place to invite my friends." So are there some questions we need to be asking? Does the church, in general, need to take a look at itself and what it's doing? Are we about catering to those already 'inside' or are we about bringing 'outsiders' 'in'? Does it have to be an either/or system? To me, the first question has an obvious answer BUT, it seems like almost every church is having trouble anwering this question...and most of those church's are in a steady to sharp decline.

I love the events and traditions that my particular "denomination" has, BUT. I hope, that as a leader, I will constantly and consistently keep asking: "Is this working?" I don't want to be tied to a program/event/tradition. I want to be tied to winning souls...and no, I don't mean winning other church's souls. I mean winning the unreached/outsider/unchurched souls. It seems so easy in my mind, but even I get in a groove...and admittedly, enjoy just doing things. But isn't that what Jesus warned the Pharisees about? I know I have a lot of work to do...I just hope that those I lead will step out in faith with me and be brave enough to change, because it's easy to just do things. But what, in life, is worth-while, worth fighting for, and easy at the same time? I heard a qoute once that relates to this, "In life, change is inevitable. Growth is optional." Is our culture changing with or without the church? Is what attracts people changing with or without the church? Are we, the church, willing to grow enough in order to change?

Struggling, wrestling, thinking out loud, and being honest. What are you thoughts?


Blogger D.L. White said...

Good questions, Josh. I'll probably be stealing Shawn's thunder by posting this before him... Back in the day, the church was the leader in regards to our culture. It set the standard. Our culture stemmed from our faith. Now it seems that things are the other way around. The church is struggling to keep up with being "relevant" to the current culture and are far from being the trendsetters, which makes it hard to connect and communicate with people. But it's more than that. In our society, we've compartmentalized church/religion, vs. daily life, work life, relationships, etc. It's not integrated into everything we do. And I think that's why it's also easy for someone to say "Oh, that's not something I do." It's just a catagory of life choices, just like "Do I go to the gym on Saturdays?" instead of being the thing that influences everything we do. Argh - I don't feel like I'm explaining this point adequately... Anyway - good thoughts in your post...

June 28, 2007 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger The Trousered Ape said...

From the outset of Scripture we see that God is an eternal relational being. He is one God in three persons. When God created us in his image, he created us as relational beings as well. We broke that relationship through our disobedience, and the rest of the Bible is about God's plan of salvation - of restoring our relationship back to him. It is about reconciling ourselves back to God through Christ. Our lives ought to reflect that relational aspect of both our humanity and our spirituality.

When Christ was approached and was asked the question “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” by an expert in the law, Jesus responded: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and the second is like it “Love your neighbor as yourself,” all the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

Both of these have relationship as its center. That has to be the focus for us as well because that is where it is lived out. That is where it moves from the theoretical to the practical – from Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy – from the abstract to the concrete. The reality of God is found in our relationship with God and that relationship is only possible if God is a person as well. There is the person of the believer, the person of the one who is lost, the person of the Holy Spirit, the person of Jesus, and the person of God the Father. If we attempt to remove the “person” in any one of these, then the Gospel message becomes irrelevant and the relationship breaks down.

I suppose denominational status/standing, traditions, rituals, events, ministries, etc. are important on some level – but if they usurp the relational aspect of Christianity, then they become a stumbling block to us. Instead of being aids to help us get to God they end up being obstacles that keep us from God.

If people don’t feel safe coming, then maybe we haven’t lived out “safeness” as a body. However, regardless of how poorly we live out of faith it doesn’t render the Gospel irrelevant. The Gospel isn’t true because we are perfect, the Gospel is true because we sin.


June 28, 2007 at 12:10 PM  

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