Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Woe to you... I guess

(I've edited this post some since I originally wrote it.)

I am typically appalled at the mega church mentality. No church is perfect. I work for one, and we don't have it all together. We don't do everything right. We all learn as we go, too. The size isn't the issue. A church pursuing the way of Jesus will affect its community and will grow. Healthy churches grow. But lots of the mindsets and theology behind the structure and purpose of most "mega church" churches are worrisome to me.

That's not to say that the mega church mentality isn't sincere. I'm sure it is. I just don't get where it comes from. I don't think it comes from a close look at the Gospels and the way of Jesus. I think it comes from years of Christianity, American culture and business mindsets all coming together in some weird form. Its the wrong influence on a sincere desire, if that makes sense.

For instance, Broadway chose a long time ago not to waste their money and time building a megaplex church. They saw the need to branch out, impacting communities one at a time, and using their money wisely. So we chose to go forward with a multi-site church: partnering with smaller churches that are close to closing their doors to bring new life to the church and community. Our first step was with Greenwood United Methodist, a place with a lot of history that had shrunk down to just a few who strongly desired to see things get turned around--and our new campus in that area of town is super great. Brittany and I actually attend there on Sunday mornings. Once again, not to say we have it all together, but even as skeptical of a person as I tend to be, I really appreciate the direction and proposed future of Broadway. (Otherwise, why would I work here? I love being a part of this community.) When I came on staff and was asked to help the church become more outwardly focused, this was question was asked of me: "Do we create new programs or do we support what's already positioned in the community?"

This is one of the main forks in the road where the mega church mentality and other world-views tend to take separate paths.

I see the things God cares about happening through a lot of social organizations already in place in Bowling Green. There are refugee resettlement houses, needs assistance groups, homes for battered women, protection groups for abused children, governmental agencies in place helping struggling families, and the list goes on and on. I sat down with our pastor and executive minister and told them that there isn't a program we could create that would be anything new. All of the things Jesus would be about are already at work in our community--and most of them need some type of help and support. We need to spend some time seeing who does what and partner with some of these local groups to really impact our community.

The mega church mentality is quite the opposite. Everything is done through their church and their church alone. Its great, it really is, that a church wants to do something about issues in their backyard. But when the work of God is really already being in done in different ways all around us, we should join that. (Its a "Same team! Same team!" kinda thing rather than a
competition.) Sure, its not as easy as starting our own program. We don't have control over everything that happens. We don't get to make every decision for that group. Our name isn't put on the plaque at every door and we won't always see eye to eye. In the book "The Externally Focused Church," Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson make the point that we come "to serve and bless, not to control. When we partner or aid an organization in our community, we understand that sometimes the church is merely the hands and feet, not the mouth and brain, of the project."

I think we should be about what's best for everyone in our community, not just us. It's easy to forget that sometimes...


Jennifer of Dog.Yarn.Knit. said...

and this is another reason why
my church

Joe said...

I think that that is mostly the mega-church mentality along with most other churches as well. I know that our church will partner with other organizations that are already in place and this can be good sometimes but sometimes it is better to do your own thing even if there are things already in place.

I think that the reason that would be is because there are many organizations that would restrict you (as a church) from sharing the Gospel with the people you are directly ministering to. This is a fundamental problem if you are to be ministering to the bodies and souls of men and women and children in your surrounding communities.

In Christ
Joe Hussung

JD said...

I don't necessarily think that, either.

Regardless of whether one can evangelize (verbally), I that you are sharing the Gospel by ministering to people/helping people. I know its not an "either/or" thing, its an "and."

If we're honest, though, the immediate needs of some people doesn't necessarily include trying to get them to follow our idealologies or beliefs. Some people just need assistance. Improving the socio-economic status of our communities should be tops on our lists of ways in which we are sharing the Gospel.

johnperry said...

What better way to share the Gospel than to provide for them? By starting our own things it seems to make us even that much more removed from the culture around us. This town doesn't need more holy huddles, and neither do we. Every time we do this we seem more pompous.

Do you expect anyone to take advice from a church who can't even cooperate with the good things in communities? What has us believing that we aren't sharing the Gospel unless we walk people down the ole "Romans Road"? Why not share the Gospel by showing more interest in caring for the needs of people than promoting our churches name? We should not alienate ourselves from these programs, we ought to spend less on us and more on them. That's love. Where's your pocket-book at?

Joe said...

I totally think that we should be helping people with their immideate physical needs and we don't always have to share the Gospel with every person in every conversation. There is wisdom when we wait and build relationships with people so that when we share the Gospel they have a visual aid to Christ's love, but without the verbal presentation of the Gospel what are these people going to see of the Gospel? It is not simply enough give money, clothes to the poor we must tell them why we do these things. So I guess my question is what good "spiritually" does it really do if we don't have the Gospel on our tongues when we do these things?

JD said...

I don't think the New Testaments supports the statement: "The only way to share the gospel is with our mouths." There are multiple ways that we can share/show/express the love of Christ that greatly affect those around us.

And to say that it helps someone's "spiritual" nature is odd, too. I've said it before that I feel like that's totally Platonic philosophy merging with Christian theology--its out of place. We aren't divided beings with separate natures or parts. We are whole beings.

But in the end, like I said early, its not an "either/or" thing. They go together no matter which way you slice it--just not perhaps in the ways some people assume they must.

Joe said...

What do you mean? Christ's great commission is not to go out and help people. it is to go out and make disciples. I agree that you don't do one WITHOUT the other, you help people with the priority of the Gospel. The Gospel must be shared otherwise no one will be saved.

"But how are they to call on him whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

Romans 10:14

In Christ
Joe Hussung

Saintdoc said...

I must say I agree with Joe. The gospel or good news must be shared verbally. The story of salvation is focused on Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and not the good deeds of men.
Oprah gives lots of money to help people physically, but spiritually the woman is lost. Would you say Oprah is sharing the gospel when she does these "good" deeds?

Brittany said...

While I agree wholeheartedly with John David, I must ask why exactly these conversations are centered around the poor and marginalized? What I mean by that is we always seem to have this need to "share the Gospel" (however that looks) with them, and we get in arguments on how to do that, but we disregard our daily lives.

To be more specific, does everyone constantly say to everyone "this is how you're saved" after meeting them or passing them on the sidewalk? No, because we are taught to be kind and treat people certain ways that will make them wonder what we have that is so different. Right? Isn't that what we have always been taught? Because wouldn't we seem very out of the culture to constantly go out and tell everyone how to "be saved?"

So, why when we set apart a certain group, is there the need to "Christianize" them? Why do we not do it to those whose needs are already met? I just think it is ironic, that if someone is not in our socioeconomic position, we feel like we have to "save" them, but daily we pass by "normal people" without saying a word and that is "okay" in the "Christian" world.

JD said...

Once again, to divide a person into a "physical" part and a "spiritual" part isn't Biblical. Its just not. A first century Jew would have never heard of such talk. That's Greek philosophy and Christian theology coming together in some odd way.

And I totally agree with you guys that Jesus' "great commission" was to go and make disciples. But you define that as "sharing the gospel." I don't. I don't think you have to define it the way you do. Not at all. Perhaps I like Descartes too much, but I suppose I ask: what does it mean to make disciples from Jesus' perspective?

To quote one verse, or even a few verses, and say "this is what sharing the gospel means" is weird. I'm simply looking at Jesus' teachings as a whole and saying that perhaps we should be willing to admit that there's more ways than one to skin a cat, so to speak. I'm willing, atleast, to be open to discussing the viewpoint. But to teach that we love the world with strings attached isn't loving the world.

Theology of the past century doesn't interest me as much as what Jesus actually meant when he said certain things. Not that I've got that all figured out, not even remotely close, but I want to pursue knowledge like that.

Joe said...

First of all whether it is "out of the culture" has no baring on whether we should evangelize or not. And maybe you bring out a valid point that perhaps we are only talking about the poor and marginilized. But the reason we have stuck on this topic on this post is because it was the topic talked about. If we want to broaden the topic to everyone, then we can. So, like I said before we don't have to share the Gospel in a verbal way (which is the only way explicitly talked about in the New Testament)in every conversation, but it should be the goal of every conversation that we have, whether with poor, middle class, or rich people. All of them need Christ to save them from sin and death. Which is far worse that physical death, this is a death that is lasting, eternal.

"I tell you, my friends,do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell"

Luke 12:4

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Matthew 5:29

Lastly, I think that this might be a confusion in terms. Because there is a very real way that JD could say that he is sharing the Gospel in a very real way if what he means by "The Gospel" would be defined differently than What I and saint doc say that it is. So what is "The Gospel"

In Christ

JD said...

I think that makes the way of Jesus look really small.

Do you and the latter half of Matthew not get along?

Joe said...

sorry JD i didn't see your post before i posted so it was meant as a response to brittany. So let me breifly respond to your post. First, you don't even believe that the physical and spiritual are intemantly intertwined. At least not to the extent that when you help someone physically that you help them spiritually because you would not say it in reverse. If they are intertwined to that extent it would work both ways. If I helped them spiritually would it then in turn help them physically? No. They are different and not equally important. Both important yes but not equally. Also the great commission defines what "disciples" means and it includes Baptizing, teaching what Christ taught, and how can you do that without talking to them verbally?

In Christ

Joe said...

sorry again I posted after you did. what in the latter half of matthew don't I agree with. And then what is Christ talking about in Matthew 7 when he speaks of a narrow gate that does not lead to distruction? And you didn't answer my question "what is the Gospel"

In Christ

JD said...

I'm saying you can't separate the two. There is no "spiritual" nature of us and "physical" nature of us that are different. We are only one being. One nature. One person. One creation. I don't see how it's possible to separate someone, I guess.

And to say that's what making disciples means makes Jesus look stupid. Because he did way more than that throughout the rest of his time with the disciples. So for him to tell them at the end "this is the only things you have to do now" would be ridiculous. He wouldn't just throw out all of his other teachings in his final words to those he entrusted everything to.

And... specifically talking about Matthew 25, when talking about the "latter half."

And... the gospel is good news. Its the way of Jesus. Its that a little ambiguous? Sure. Purposefully...

Me and Joe, talking about theology. Feels like the old days friend... Glad to have some open discussion without anyone being angry... high five!

Joe said...


It is like old times. First of all it would take me a little bit of time to unpack an exposition of Matthew 25 but essentially when Christ says "my brothers" about those that were taken care of I essentially think that those are of those in the church. I know that sounds strange to you but take or leave it. Also the term "The Gospel" is not ambiguous at all. It has a direct article on the beggining of the phrase "The" Gospel. So it deffinately without a shadow of a doubt has something very specific in mind. I am asking what specifically is in mind when the phrase "The Gospel" is used in the NT?
Lastly, I am not arguing that they be split up. I am arguing that there is a priority of Spirit over flesh. There just is. What do you do with those two verses that i gave that Christ seems to say specificall that the spirit is more important that the physical?

In Christ

JD said...

That's an awful stretch of Matthew 25. Making it fit our ideas doesn't really mesh with the whole concept.

And its simply: good news. I think it is simply the way of Jesus. Period.

And spiritual vs physical... there isn't anything to put priority on. There aren't separate aspects of a human to emphasize. We're one being. How you can place importance on an idea that doesn't exist?

Joe said...

That exposition of Matthew 25 is the common Historical Orthodox position. Look at people like John Gill etc.. The majority of people have interpreted it this way in the past. So i think that the burdon of proof is on you if you are going to not take the historical position. My view is clear and you can see in the text that those are the brothers that he talking about. Who do you think "my brothers" are? Random poor and disinfranchised? that doesn't make since.
Also what news? what news is good if it is ambiguous. You can't run around and say "good news goods news" and when someone stops you and asks "what news?" you say well it is ambiguous what is good for you isn't necessarily that great for me. So I guess my question is what news is good?

JD said...

Oh no... sorry. You got me wrong. I was saying MY response was ambiguous. I think that it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but is centered around following the way of Jesus. His message of reconciliation of the totality of God's creation is good news for everyone.

That's not vague. I was being vague.

John Gill? Really? You should know that regardless of how long ago he lived and how smart the guy was, its hard for me to follow the logic of anyone that would be labeled the father or precursor of hyper-Calvinism.

"Orthodox"... now that's a vague term!

Saintdoc said...

Tell me what you think this verse means?

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. -John 6:63

Is Jesus making a distinction between the flesh and the Spirit? Do we receive a new spirit when Jesus is Lord of our lives?

The Gospel is redemption for the lost through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Joe said...

sorry I misread you I thought that you meant the term was vague. Gotcha. But frankly lets take a look at what is being argued. I am argueing for the verbal evangelism which is what historically is what hyper-calvinist did not agree with. I think this is a bit ironic that the Calvanist is arguing for verbal evangilism and the Arminian is arguing against it. Correct me if I'm wrong about that but that is what it seems.

Also, I agree that everyone gets something from the gospel but I would like for you to flesh out what you mean by this and the term "reconciliation". And lastly explain how the Gospel can be different for you than it is for me. Doesn't it contradict what you asked the question "what does it mean to make disciples from Jesus' perspective?" Shouldn't we ask "what does the gospel mean from Paul, the Apostles, and the writers of the NT perspective?"

Saintdoc said...

Yes it is interesting Joe you are arguing for verbal evangelism. Have you finally seen the light? :)

JD said...

Sure we can ask what all of those guys thought/had to say about it all... but only they only have meaning through the teachings of Jesus. They can be easily misconstrued otherwise.

Not enough time for the rest. Gotta go hang out with Mike and his kids all weekend! Yay! I'll get back with you on Monday...

But please, don't misunderstand me, I'm not arguing against verbal evangelism. NOT AT ALL! It most definitely has its time and place. For sure, for sure. I'm just saying that's not the only way to share the gospel. I do appreciate your open-mindedness though.

PS-I'm not sure I qualify as an Arminian. We'll talk about that later, too, I guess...

josh hussung said...

Hey John David,
I know you often have too many hussungs commenting on one thing. But I have a question or two for you:
How is a person saved?
Specifically: Do you think that people have to actually believe in the name of Jesus Christ in order to find salvation?
josh hussung

BfH said...

In response to the original post:

Broadway is doing things that have managed to capture my attention. The satellite church concept is great - it's under the radar, it's humble, and it's helpful.

Kudos to Broadway.

markandparx said...

I wonder if I could add my little perspective here. Most of you commenting here must make efforts to go to the poor and the hungry. I, on the other hand, must simply walk out of my compound. I live in the poorest country in the world and am daily confronted with physical needs that overwhelm me.
Now I could take my entire savings account and give it away, I could empty my closet and my cupboard and yet tomorrow, the need would still be there.
That doesn't mean we don't do things to help, it just means that's not all we do. I think Brittany has come the closest to getting to the bottom of this issue. We try to categorize people into "the poor" or "the needy" instead of seeing all of humanity as fallen and in need of something greater than food.
"The poor" and "the needy" have become my neighbors, my friends and you just naturally help your friends out.
However, we feel Ayorou's and all of humanity's problems for that matter would be solved if there was a vibrant church. You guys can cut lines about why you dislike this church and that church or argue about mega versus un-mega churches. We're just trying to see A church. And a church won't come about through food programs. A church will come through the verbal proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That is what the gates of Hell will not prevail against. Jesus didn't promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail over a food bank or a homeless shelter, it was His Church that would stand.
Don't know if all that makes sense, just wanted to offer a word from this side of the pond.

Lindsey.Beth said...

thanks for the post comment.

and that song is great!

Keep enjoying Christ,
Linds. <><

Kickert said...

It seems every time I go to post on a JDR post I get so bogged down in reading the back and forth in the comments that I never actuall post. Do you all have jobs?? ;-)

So here is my thought. The dichotomy between helping and sharing is a false one (and I think we are all on board with that). In response to the thoughts on the original post, I think JDR is on to something, but at the same time I think the comments a'la Hussung are important as well.

In the USA the church is not the best equipped institution to deal with social issues (in other countries it often is, and in our past it often was). The result is that the church often puts twice as much work and money into a project and yeild half the result. Unfortunately the church often muddies the water even more because untrained and unqualified people are at the helm (and I am not speaking of anyone or any church in particular). Lets face it, in most cases the secular is much better trained and equipped to deal with social issues.

Now then, does the church sit idly by ignore these issues? Of course not - we must engage and engage affectively. Now, it is in that support and engaging that we can share the message of the Gospel. We as the church can bring something that other social organizations cannot - an irrefutable message of true reconciliation.

In the long term I think the answer is for the church to be move back to the front lines of being change and healing agents. In the short term I think the best option is to, as Blackaby said, join God (and other organizations) in the places where He is already working to bring about reconcilliation.

JD said...

I appreciate all of the thoughts.

Much of it got far away from what I was originally talking about, but it matters not, I suppose...

time to move on to something else: new one is coming soon...