Only conversion-based church growth allowed!
I read this, then thought, then read it again. There's lessons here I would love to see StB wrestle with! Brian Jones made this promise to God when he started a church that "I promise we will grow this church through conversion growth only.” Of course, one problem he faced was also how to stop church transfers from other groups!
Read and think: HERE
One might argue that the church is generating a bunch of emasculated metrosexual men.
Too strong a statement? Yes, probably. But we do live with a much more nuanced definition of what it means to be male.
Within the local church the topic of maleness is poorly addressed, and the global church instead panders to the sensitivities of multiple communities for fear of offending any one perspective (and thereby losing even more people to this post-Christian world). Simultaneously it seems there is unthinking adoption by the church of many cultural norms in order to (obsequiously?) try and be "relevant". In both ways we miss the target.
It's not about 7 steps to find success, or 3 ways to please your lover. What's wrong with churches taking a strong stand, and with building strong people who can stand against the current when needed? Why is it that society sees fit to involve itself with defining religion, yet it is not acceptable for religious people to bring their perspective to define secular society? What's wrong with the Christians saying things like "you're wrong", "I disagree", "that's heresy"? The secular world uses much stronger words in speaking about the church.
If Christ is our standard, and if we say we're Christians, then where is the Christ compassion that is properly balanced with righteous anger; where is the authority that sets the godly goal and will even at times (sadly) close the door on those who will not agree, rather than compromise in an effort to find acceptance in the name of relevance? (I leave it to you to find the many relevant scriptures on these issues).
I read this essay on why men are leaving the church; the 9 points raised are issues that churches would do well to reflect on. For example, why do most men older than 35 not have a close personal friend? What is male sexuality - and by the way, when did you last hear a sermon on male sexuality that was actually relevant to living with the reality of sexual pressures from the ever-earlier pubescence and ever-later marriage? Most men want relevant insight on the daily stress of living with the world's unrealistic expectations, not to be lost in intricacies of multi-layered and opaque biblical theology. Men are supposed to be intimate and introspective in emotive worship, whereas most of them would rather be in action to see great works accomplished.
As for the church herself (and without trying to be sexist): in our current world the practical reality is that leadership is dominated by men. So if the men are not there, then we have a void in leadership. Lets relearn how to do manly men's ministry.
Here's a thought-provoking article on men and church. It's highly relevant, somewhat disturbing, and provocative topic for men. If you're a man, do you agree with the article's perspective? If you're in church leadership. how are you responding to the issues? And if you're a woman, do you empathise?
One example: "According to statistics, the average man over 35 years old does not have one close friend" ... hmmm, and we're doing what to address that? Or "Men do not follow programs, they follow men", or "Most men do not see the value of going to church because it is not addressing the issues they face."
I challenge you: read the article and ask yourself two questions:
I recently read a thought provoking essay of a man's journey from Catholicism to where he ended up building a church of atheism. Along the way he passed through sectarianism (dealing with die-hard adherents of different sects), syncretism (the combination of different forms of belief or practice), personal relational stresses as he chose to disbelieve God, and how to lovingly raise a family with no spiritual reference point (essay is here).
At the same time I've been reading perspectives such as "God is not an object", and about evangelistic atheism, and digging into Chesterton's unique expose of a reasonable faith.
In all this two thoughts strike me: about how deeply embedded this is in the society I daily engage with, yet which goes mostly unrecognised; and how easily human logic can reinforce a "what's in it for me" reasoning that leads a person down an alleyway of self-defined values and ultimately into nihilism. If there is no God, fine. If there is ...?
I live mostly surrounded by nice people; "good" people, who have morals that largely steer their lives (at least so long as their lives remain reasonably secure). Many profess "Christianity", at least in name. But of course, to know what a person really believes I simply have to look at how their priorities play out in their commitments - that is the real give-away. For the most part these "good" people's actions show a commitment to securing a comfortable and "happy" personal life.
However, so long as Christians (dare I invoke "the church" ... perhaps not) play the game of "lets not offend anyone with our statements", so long as Christians continue to placate rather that perturb, these good people will continue with a sense of "I'm ok" before most likely drifting off into practical atheism. "So long as" ... a problematic phrase.
As a Christian, for me God is not an object to be picked up and set down, or exchanged for another that makes me feel comfortable. Likewise, God is not a "something". For me, God is the subject: "In him and through him I have my being". Further, while some say logic is religion's great predator, I find logic to be religion's great defender. The difference is whether I am using logic loosely to seek a path toward moments of happiness, or will I use logic honestly to disclose the truths that lie before my eyes. Uncomfortable truths, disturbing and perturbing truths that end in joy if I can only ever get over having moment by moment "happiness" as my goal. Truth is not abut happiness, truth is a Joy that says "I can see clearly now".
It is my contention that the path to prioritized personal happiness is logically and necessarily also a path to atheism. Conversely, a path to atheism is necessarily a path that seeks personal happiness. For I can only be happy when I am shielded from the truths of what I am in myself, and what the world is around me.
Personally, I'd rather choose to remove the blindfold and replace happiness with Joy. And if others proselytize to draw me into their church of blindfolded comfort, I'll say "Be logical for once in your life, do you really believe you've got your eyes open?"
Recently I have been in many conversations with people who would like to live a re-invented Christianity - one where God is an object, and where they take the virtues they like along with a freedom to use as they will. In doing this such people are no better than the New Atheists who also profess the virtues while keeping firm hold on their private vice.
There is no right way to do something wrong,
but there are many wrong ways to do something right.
Many are "doing" Christianity wrong.
This is what the modern world seeks to do; to take a virtue (e.g. love, imagination, pity) and hold onto this through the wrong means (e.g. many transient relationships, experimentation with drugs, or charitable conscience-massaging good works).
As Chesterton wrote about our post-modern secularized world where vice roams freely: "... the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone."
As a Christian I'm beginning to look at people's lives in a different light; it's not simply a matter of how do we separate vice from virtue, it's really about how to connect the virtue back to it's source - Jesus. The virtue is not the goal (but we make it so); the virtue is only the outworking of the goal - disconnected from its source the virtue will ultimately go bad, like a rotten and decayed fruit it becomes a vice.
Whenever we take hold of a new thing we have to let go of another. So as we help people connect their virtues to Jesus the connections to vice will break; no condemnation is needed, no judgement is required, only the compassion of Jesus.
1. We need more culture engagers and more churches engaging culture.
2. We need more Christians in culture creation and we need more churches encouraging them that way.
3. We need more culture defenders and churches that will stand winsomely for the truth.
Read it all HERE