Monday, September 27, 2010

No One Cares About Your Church...

Tim Schraeder shared the following thoughts recently. I can't say that I agree with everything Tim writes, or that I would have said this exactly the way he did. But Tim made me think. And I'm thinking it's a good thing when people make us think about what it means to be church.

I'm sorry to say it so harshly but it's true... no one cares about your church.

Look at recent polls, church attendance, or even watch the news and it's fairly obvious... people don't care about the church or what we have to say anymore. We've lost credibility for some legitimate reasons. And don't chalk me up to being a church-basher, I passionately care about the church, I'm just saying what's true and what some of us might not want to admit.

The church has moved from the center of our Western culture and while some fight to keep it in the public square others of us are realizing the greatest way we can impact culture is by being on the periphery.

Christianity at its core has always been about counter-cultural, so why in the world do we try to be perceived as being relevant by looking just like the culture around us?

We've cheapened the Gospel by trying to be accepted at a great cost. The emerging generation can see right through the charade. We've created a machine out of what was always meant to be a movement. We've organized something that was meant to be organic. We've franchised something that was meant to be localized. We've put CEOs in the seats of what was meant to be a spiritual office and treated salvation like a commodity. We made an idol out of our methods.

And to try and fix everything we've thought marketing it to look like a cheap version of everything else in culture was a good idea.

Here's two truths: people don't like the church and people don't trust advertising. Why use a mechanism people don't trust to promote something they don't care about?

I'm not trying to paint a picture of gloom and doom, I am just saying it how it is. I have great hope for the Church and believe that it does matter and believe the church has a great future ahead of it... we've just got to make some adjustments.

I think we have a great new opportunity to reintroduce Jesus, the Gospel and the church to a world and culture that has been weary of what they've seen and heard.

The next generation is tired of gimmicks they want something real and authentic. They want to be known. They want community. They want a sense of belonging. They want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. They want to be significant. They want to be a part of the Church they read about in Acts but have only seen poor reflections of in today's world.

More than anything they want to give themselves to cause that is greater than they are. Why do you think movements like TOMS Shoes, To Write Love on Her Arms, LIVESTRONG, charity: water, the one campaign or any of the big social movements that are out there today exist and have so much popularity?

They are all doing great work and doing tremendous good, yes. But they are telling a compelling story. They are giving people the opportunity to make a difference. They give people the chance to do something that matters. They are sadly, doing the work the church has been neglecting.

When you r
eally care about what people care about, things happen.

When churches rally around the needs of their communities and are actually outward focused, truly living for something outside of themselves, that's when change happens and that is when the church matters in culture.

To truly care about the things that matter to people is to truly live out the Gospel. God is all about people. And what matters to people matters to God.

We've been too focused on ourselves, our numbers, our growth, our success, and at the expense of a generation that's looking for a cause to believe in and give themselves to.

I can't think of a better cause to give my life to than the cause of the local church and I think while we live in a culture that doesn't care about church we have an amazing opportunity to redefine what church means and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

When we sing or pray the words
break my heart for what breaks Yours, we are really asking God to allow us the opportunity to see the world through His eyes.

We'll never earn the right to be heard in culture by screaming on street corners or by having a slick ad campaign. We earn the right to be heard by caring about the things that people care about and ultimately the things the move the heart of God.

Stop trying to promote and market your church. It hasn't been working and it won't. Stop trying to make people care about something they've already decided isn't worth their time or attention.

Start listening. Start looking around you. Listen to the cries of people in your community and start responding with the love of Christ. See through His eyes. Earn the right to be heard. Be Jesus hands and feet. Do good. Care about what people care about. Be Jesus and the church to your community.

The church isn't an organization or a building, it's people.

When you truly care about what people care about and prove it, people will care about you and what you have to say.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Church Is Not A Building...

Church is not a building. Church is not an event that takes place only on Sundays. But listen to our language:

"I go to First Church."

"We are members at Second Church."

"Is it time to go to church?"

Church as a building is never how the Bible uses the term. When the Bible talks about church, it means
community. The little fellowships of the heart that are outposts of the Kingdom. A shared life. They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together. They hang out together, in each others' homes. When Peter is sprung from prison, "He went to the house of Mary the mother of John where many people had gathered and were praying." (Acts 12:12)

Any time an army goes to war or an expedition takes to the field, it breaks down into little platoons and squads. And
every chronicle of war or quest will tell you that the men and women who fought so bravely fought for each other. That's where the acts of heroism and sacrifice take place, because that's where the devotion is. You simply can't be devoted to a mass of people; devotion takes place in small units, just like a family.

We have stopped short of being an organization; we are an organism instead, a living and spontaneous association of individuals who know one another intimately, care for each other deeply, and feel a kind of respect for one another that makes rules and bylaws unnecessary. A group is the right size, I would guess, when each member can pray for every other member, individually and by name.

This is the wisdom of Brother Andrew, who smuggled Bibles into communist countries for decades. It's the model, frankly, of the church in nearly every country but the U.S. Now, I'm not suggesting you don't do whatever it is you do on Sunday mornings. I'm simply helping you accept reality - that whatever else you do, you
must have a small fellowship to walk with you and fight with you and bandage your wounds.

Church is not a building.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Majestic Plastic Bag...

What's not to like about this mockumentary?

I'm pretty sure I saw this curious creature in my yard recently.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Be Unreasonable...

I found this recent post by Craig Groeschel to be, well... unreasonable, and convicting.

I bet you have heard this many times… "Be reasonable."

Truthfully, under many circumstances, "Be reasonable" is sound advice—but not always.

As Christians, there are times to be unreasonable.

- When you pray, you might ask God to do something most consider impossible or unreasonable. Pray unreasonable prayers.

- When you seek God, He might lead you to do something others consider undoable. Empowered by God, do unreasonable things.

- When you lead, some people might think you’re making unreasonable demand. Lead passionately and pull unreasonable results out of reasonable people.

Being unreasonable all the time would certainly be a mistake. But if you aren’t being unreasonable every now and then, you probably aren't being led by faith.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Friend Charlie...

I learned yesterday that my friend, Charlie Walton, has ALS. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive and degenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells controlling voluntary muscle movement. There is no cure for ALS.

Charlie paid his bills as a writer. But when he wasn't word mongering (that's how he described himself), Charlie invested time as a mentor and friend in younger people like me. In fact, for almost two years... Charlie, Don Davis and I met every Wednesday for lunch to enjoy a three vegetable special, bad jokes and Charlie's wisdom.

Like I said, Charlie was a writer. He was also well acquainted with grief. Life had dealt Charlie some tough hands. And yet Charlie allowed his personal journey through the valley of the shadow of death to serve as a guide for others walking that path. I've given Charlie's book, When There Are No Words, to grieving parents and children... and allowed Charlie to do what he does best, be available if you need him.

I'm confident Charlie is facing ALS with the same deep faith and trust in God he reflected in his book, Packing For The Big Trip. Humor has always been one of Charlie's greatest gifts... he could turn a phrase and make you smile quicker than anyone I've ever met.

As I sat thinking about my friend this morning, I paged through another of Charlie's books: Laying It On The Line With God. Here's one of his prayers in this book Charlie lets us listen in on:

This body, Father, is so much in the way when I try to concentrate on you. I really like my body... Your design is wonderful and testifies to your divinity. But I am so attached to it that its aches and pains and positions get in the way of my communication with you. Help me to grow and mature, Father, to lessen the hold that my physical body has over my spiritual self. Get me ready for the brand new body you have promised. I can't wait to put it on, Lord. -- Charlie

Thank you, Charlie, for helping me see God's smile more clearly.