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Archive for February, 2015

Mainline Protestant churches have been in decline for decades.  There are a growing number of people who think evangelical churches are beginning to see a decline as well.  Many churches are reacting with new solutions, new strategies and guesses.  They come under the names such as “emergent,”  “missional,”  “multi-site,” “organic,” “multi-congregational” just to name a few.  I’ve even encountered one model known as the “cowboy” model in which “like-minded folk gather with their own to worship God in arenas, barns or even saloons.”

In many cases, there seems to be a focus on “social justice” or “service” while forgetting of the element of worship, of knowing God.  Often the models seemed to be tailored on “getting people” or “service” often forgetting “growing people” or even to proclaim the gospel — what we are as people without Christ, why we need Him, and what is involved in following Him (namely, we become changed, and changing, people).  There is a danger of much superficiality with little depth.

The source of this danger seems to be the allowance of culture to get the best of us. We so desperately want to be popular that we are sacrificing our distinctiveness as the church, the body of Christ.  We often state, “God accepts us just as we are” when in fact this is not true.  If it were, there would have been no need for Jesus to come to “seek and save that which is lost.”  God does meet us where we are, but He won’t leave us there.  This need for recognition of our state apart from God, our need to repent and follow Him is often what we leave out in order to attract people and not make anyone uncomfortable.

Scripture makes it clear that, as John Calvin said, “to know God is to be changed by God.”  The church needs to be about truths bigger than ourselves and our world. Sometimes the truth will make us uncomfortable (the gospel begins with the bad news about ourselves after all), but the church must be about the truth shared in love and grace — where we can ask questions our culture ignores or caricatures and where we can find real answers as we find God revealed to us in Jesus Christ — God’s free, abundant, deep grace and love shown for us on the cross — and the transforming power available to us in the resurrection and indwelling Holy Spirit.

Christianity is more than social justice, more than service.  Both are vital — but the church and Christianity is about more than that.  It is not about guilting or exhorting to do more and more.  Unless we are seeking God in Christ, unless we are striving to follow Him — to love Him with all our hearts and minds — we will come up empty regardless of how much we serve or how much “social justice” we think we accomplish.

So, remember the place of worship — of being grounded in the faith and the love & work of Jesus Christ.  Of being transformed from, rather than conformed to, the world and its culture.  As Richard Niebuhr once wrote, “If [the] church has no other plan of salvation than to offer men one of deliverance by force, education, idealism (…) it really has no existence as [the] church and needs to resolve itself into a political party or school.”

May we as the church be about more than social justice — may we be transformed and transforming as a result of knowing God more and more and following Him more and more.

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