This is essay is actually a portion of the Christian Rock Apologetics essays on this site. This essay, however, is the one closest to my heart. It is also one that I have very much looked forward to writing. After over a year of looking at the lies, deceptions, and downright hatred from the opponents of Christian rock, I can honestly say I needed a break - something positive, something better: JESUS!!! There is very little of Him or His love in their essays, I can assure you!
What you will NOT find here is another version of the 4 spiritual laws. This page is different, it is written to Christian believers as a "wake-up call" to clean up our own act, before it is too late!
Walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon who was later called "Peter", and Andrew - casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left the nets, and followed Him.
--- Matthew 4:18,19
Those of us in the ministry can all identify with this passage. Whether we produce a radio show (as I do), own a Christian station, pastor a church, or maybe just teach a Sunday school class - we have all heard this call and responded. We are vitally concerned with becoming the most effective we can be at reaching people - the best "fisher of men".
Why are there revivals of epic proportions in third world nations, and in formerly Communist countries the church is growing like wildfire? And yet in the United States and other western democracies anti-Christian bigotry is growing. Most people do not want to talk about "religion (or politics)". Why is it that vulgar, worldly forms of entertainment are popular, and nobody wants to watch Christian TV or listen to Christian radio? Why is the precious name of Jesus Christ an object of ridicule, or open hostility? Why is Christianity being kicked out of public life, the schools, business, government, and entertainment? Why are public officials saying that they understand why the Romans fed Christians to the lions? Why are implicated in the murder of a homosexual student in Wyoming in spite of universal condemnation of that act from every Christian ministry?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Christian leaders are not equipped or unwilling to evaluate their own performance in terms of how many persons are reached. The result is a lot of inefficiency and outright incompetance in the ministry. A lot of people off "doing their own thing" - totally unaccountable (except to the Lord) for their progress. We in the church could learn a lot from the corporate world about regularly scheduled performance reviews! Instead of seeing a steady stream of new salvations, we hear a stream of excuses:
Much more often (and worse) - those holding such opinions just clam up, cut you off from fellowship or any hope of leadership in your church, and treat you like you do not exist.
Can you guess what these excuses are going to mean when these leaders stand in front of Jesus for judgement of their ministry? All that is going to matter to Him is the multitudes of people who are separated from Him because of the incompetance of these leaders! Yes, they will be saved, but their reward will NOT be great. Guaranteed! Are you one of them?!
NO! Not the revival your church scheduled for 4 nights last summer!!!! True revival cannot be scheduled (sorry - all you preachers who need to schedule guest speakers). So what's the plan?
I don't think it is by accident that Jesus uses the "fishing" analogy in Matthew. This is a simple concept that I was introduced to in a quick message by John Hamilton of WSCF. I need to add a disclaimer - he has not seen, nor would he necessarily endorse this page. I expanded on his idea. It is simple, yet VERY profound in its implications for the church and its entire ministry. The Bible is full of analogies just like this one, and they usually have life changing application. Let's apply this one to the church.
In order to be a good fisherman, you need three things:
Lets examine how the church fails in these areas:
The future of the church is young people. Lets look at the traditional Sunday morning worship service from a young person's perspective - a hypothetical 16 year old girl.
Maybe that is an exaggerated case, but I bet every one of you, including traditionalists, have "been there". In the case of my imaginary church attendee - the church should consider itself very lucky that she came back after the first week, let alone continues attending.
WHAT??? you say. You are talking about MY church there! How DARE you! No - I am not. To begin with, I don't know you, and have never attended your church. I am writing a composite of churches I personally have attended. And YES, if you are a pastor, you ARE doing that to your members. So what happened? How have gone so far in the direction of making church such an unpleasant experience?
What can be done to turn around that miserable experience above? Fortunately, there is a similar activity that has enjoyed mass popularity in the general public in the past couple of decades. What am I talking about? Why - going to movies, of course!!! Not only do people go to movies in increasing numbers, but they PAY to get in. What are movies offering that the church isn't? What can we learn from movie theaters to increase church attendance?
|Right #1: Within the bounderies of modesty, every person should have the right to attend church in comfortable clothing.|
|A pastor should be very clear that the church is INFORMAL. There will be die hards who dress up, but attending in jeans, even shorts is acceptable. There should be no dress code. Remember the song "Come as you are?"||There are no dress codes at movies except the wearing of shirts and shoes. People dress comfortably.|
|Right #2: Access to the bathroom should be quick, easy, unobtrusive, and without stigma attached.|
|Have your bathrooms open, clean, and accessible at all times. Exits should be clearly marked, operate easily and quietly, and unobtrusive for people looking towards the front of the auditorium. One church that does it right is Second Baptist Houston. There are so many exits it is hard to find your way back to the right one, and so many bathrooms on each level it is hard to decide which to use!||A person seeing a movie is free to get up and go to the bathroom at any time, and then return to the seat from which they came. It does disturb people, but that is a self-regulating control anyway. Very few people will go out of their way to disturb people, unless they really have to go.|
One thing to remember, have proportionally more women's bathrooms than men. At times of peak usage, there are invariably lines at women's rest rooms when there are no lines at mens. Otherwise, the deplorable situation I describe below may happen:
In this "liberated" era, when even our president has the morals of the rabbit hutch, there needs to be a healthy distance and separation of men and women in the bathroom. At a particular church where I attended a large Christian concert, everybody headed for the bathroom during the intermission. It shocked me beyond belief while performing a necessary bodily function to look over and see a line of WOMEN waiting!!!! My first impluse was to retreat out the door quickly, thinking I had entered the wrong room. But to my relief, the rest of the room was filled with men. WHAT WAS GOING ON?????!!!!!! It turns out that the women attending that concert had conspired to "take over" the men's restroom.
I felt like putting on sackcloth and ashes at the shameful morality displayed there. How many of those women were also engaged in a little "peeking"?! What sort of incompetant moral instruction was coming from the pulpit of that church, that those women could possibly justify being in a situation where they could potentially see men in a state of undress?! UN-GODLY!!!! UN-HOLY!!!! REPENT of your sin if you are a woman who has engaged in this practice!
|Right #3: Every person should be able to attend church at a convenient time.|
|Most churches have early services, but in a lot of cases they are TOO EARLY - merely to accomodate the desires of the Sunday school department. I think there is a VAST segment of the church membership who would love to have a 9:30 or 10 AM service. My own church is quite successful with a Saturday night service. Orlando Metro meets on Tuesday nights. A church might even be so creative as to say - if you come on Sunday morning, you are done! Come on Wednesday ONLY if that is more convenient. Just COME!||Movies are scheduled several times during the day, every day. While it is not possible to have continual live church services, perhaps video replays in the worship center several times a day would be a workable solution. With a little experimentation, you should be able to come up with a more convenient schedule.|
Orlando Metro has a growing congregation that meets on Tuesday nights. What about remembering the "Lord's Day" and keeping it holy, you ask? Get your head out of the sand! Do you realize that by insisting on having worship only on Sunday morning, that you are excluding from 10 to 30% of your congregation that have to WORK SUNDAYS?! Sad but true. Many in your congregation are employed in service oriented jobs. The teenager who lives in my home is employed at the local mall. Her shift starts at 12:30. So much for her attending your 11 AM service, particularly when you won't do her the courtesy of ending your service on time. Her employer demands (and rightly so) that she be at work before on right at 12:30. Could she slip out of YOUR service early to go to her job? Would you judge her for working on Sunday?
But the Lord's Day? There is no longer any church that meets on the Lord's day. To begin with, it WAS Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, not Sunday. The Seventh Day Adventists are right in that regard. But --- there was this pope in the 16th century named Gregory that deleted 10 days from the calendar. I am sure that somebody could go back and figure out what day is supposed to be the Sabbath, but would you be willing to sacrifice your job to worship on Tuesday if that was the real Sabbath? I thought so. So much for your convictions. Piecrust convictions, easily broken whenever it fits your needs.
Try sprinkling worship services through the week, in private homes, led by your most trusted elders and teachers. The results can be phenomenal. You have to turst these people to lead worship, if you don't - fire them and get some people you know you CAN trust! You are the pastor, hire and fire as the Lord directs. Forget politics! If somebody isn't fit to lead, get them out of leadership. Then you can have little home churches with confidence! There should be a worship service somewhere every night of the week. Visit these little home services often to validate them. Contemporary services seem to do very well in evenings - early Friday or Saturday. One church very creatively offers childcare for couples that want to attend worship, then go out together for an evening. What a creative, Godly way of building families!!!
|Right #4: Every person has the right to be UNOBTRUSIVE if they desire.|
|If the church feels a need to be friendly, there should be two entrances. One filled with greeters, the other completely "unguarded". A lot of people, myself included, feel that the greeter's handshake is phony. They aren't glad you are there, they are assigned the duty of acting like they are. I prefer sincerity. Just let me go in unheralded and sit down without hassle. If there are bulletins, put them on a table near the entrance where I can pick one up - if I want it. I've had ushers shove those things in my hand even if my wife two feet in front of me already has one! I am NOT attending a Jehovah's Witness church - the usher's don't win brownie points for pushing paper on people. So why do they act like it?!||Movie theaters have no greeters except for ticket takers. There are ushers who occasionally intervene in the case of bad behavior or theater hopping - neither of which should be a problem in a church. But I did have a security issue one time when somebody refused to hand me a plate when I was an associate deacon. I should have been able to raise my hand and have security on the scene immediately to eject the troublemaker. With school shootings becoming prevalent, church shootings are almost inevitable. You should have some contingency plan.|
|Right #5: Every person has a right to be comfortable during the service.|
|If the front part of your church doesn't fill up, start asking yourself some difficult questions about why people are uncomfortable up front. Are they intimidated by people on the stage staring at them? Take a lesson from Broadway plays and modelling - NEVER stare at your audience, in particular those in the front rows. NEVER make sleeping or distracted members in those rows an example in your sermon. Within the bounds of reason, be oblivious to their behavior. Adjust the lighting off of them - remember that movies are dark. Are they bored and afraid they will be seen nodding off? Are the kids bored and afraid to be seen passing notes? I have seen a lot of writers that try to blame the kids or the members. But NO! Its your church, your pulpit - why are people bored? That is a big problem, and its up to YOU to solve it!!!||
NEVER does an usher come into a movie and announce to people to squeeze together to make room. People are allowed the dignity of seating themselves, and I have personally seen that many times perfect strangers will accomodate families that want to sit together. Your entire ushering staff is probably superfluous. The front of the church WILL fill up, on its own. In movie theaters, it fills up last because it is hard to tilt your neck up and get a muscle cramp in it for two hours. I have been in churches where the service is TOO LOUD DOWN FRONT! You are not setting out to create a "mosh pit" in front of your altar. Turn the front speakers down, and install a lot of smaller speakers around the building if you have a large building.
Here is one hint - don't put people to sleep with slow boring music right before you start to preach. Pick the tempo up and up and up before you sit them down for 45 minutes, get their blood flowing. Or they WILL be sleepy when you preach.
A strong admonition - do NOT pack young people together tightly. I guarantee two things: The teenage boys will situate themselves next to the most desirable girls, and the girls will be intensely uncomfortable by this, unless the attraction is mutual. In any case, you have just placed oversexed youth in physical contact. I hope that latecomer is worth having your youth concentrate on physical contact instead of the sermon!
If you have pews, and there is any budget at all for replacing them - get rid of them immediately and substitute movie theater chairs. The cost is not much different, and there are many benefits besides keeping your young people from getting close. First and foremost, your members will be more comfortable. Movie chairs are less threatening, they speak to the unchurched visitor that your church is "fun" and "entertaining", not stodgy and formal. There are other benefits as well - you no longer have to downsize your attendance estimates to accomodate fire codes. You know the exact occupancy of your church, and can state it with confidence to the fire inspectors. Have you ever been caught over capapcity by inspectors? The day is coming soon when inspections will be used as subtle forms of state control. Movie seats also make it much easier to sell tickets to special events, you can assign seats intelligently.
WHAT is the reason for standing / sitting / standing??? Good grief - can't you make up your mind? Is the congregation "holier" on its feet than on its rear? Better have them stand the whole time, then. Are they supposed to "spontaneously" respond to things like: praisegodfromwhomallblessingsflow praisegodallcreaturesherebelow praisegodallyeheavenlyhosts praisefathersonandholyghost Yep - the old 100th doxology. Have you ever heard of songs that go through your mind all day and you can't get rid of them? Talk about burn-out. Give that poor old thing a rest! I ran it together, blurring the meaning because that is about the way your congregation thinks of it. Any worship value it has, particularly after the relatively painful experience of passing the plate has been lost in antiquity! Yet every week in thousands of churches people stand up for it. How "meaningful". Nobody stands during a movie.
I presently have a painful (and as yet undiagnosed) foot injury. It hurts to stand up / sit down oever and over. I prefer to just sit. So does everybody else. If people won't sing sitting down, the problem is with the songs NOT the people sitting. They are sick of the songs and / or can't sing in the pitch you are forcing on everybody. Let us all belt it out any way we can - the Lord will joyfully accept "noise" if it is true worship. When I go to the movie, I sit the whole time, and do not go to sleep. Unless the movie is particularly BAD, like most church services. People won't go to sleep if you are not boring them.
|Right #6: Every person has the right to their own musical taste.|
|Most churches impose classical, opera, or nightclub "crooning" style on their congregations. This is probably turning off more and more people as time goes on. While these styles shouldn't be discarded or thrown on the scrap heap of time - their appeal is limited. Most people now listen to some variety of rock music, or country music. If you want to appeal to these people, you need to update your musical style. I am completely convinced that the style is neutral - but I am aware that many well-intentioned people disagree. If you have a conviction against these styles of music, that is fine. Don't listen. But don't force your taste on everybody else. Have two services - one traditional and one contemporary. If that simply violates your convictions, at least be prepared to send those wanting contemporary worship somewhere that has it. At least they won't be frustrated in your midst, pushing for change you can't tolerate. And they will be getting fed spiritually in another body, which is the most important thing. But you have NO RIGHT to question their salvation because their musical taste differs from yours! Why is it that I have no trouble at all calling my traiditionalist brothers "saved" and going to heaven, and saying that they have a right to services with their music, and they turn right around and question my salvation and music? Don't I deserve the same courtesy from them? To the best of my knowlege, I am saved and going to heaven. The Holy Spirit operates in my life mightily, I am under the authority of a local pastor, I am in the Word. My musical taste is Christian rock, which lifts my worship heavenward and makes the Holy Spirit within me rise and rejoice. The problem with many traditionalists is SECTARIANISM - you have to believe "their way" on everything or you aren't really saved. Or at least are badly backslidden and desperately need their intervention and guidance back to the "truth". Their truth - that works for them.||It is not hard to come up with a movie analogy here, people go to movies that they enjoy. Statistically, how many people in your church enjoy classical / opera style music? A majority? A minority? A very small percentage? Would they PAY $6 to get in to hear your church's music? What about the $30 to $70 a secular concert ticket would cost? Depending on how young your congregation is, or how young you want it to be, you are going to find that the vast majority want contemporary music. NO organ, NO choir, NO orchestra --- find a few really talented people who can play guitar, keyboards, and drums - and a few people that can really sing well, and let them lead the music. You will also find that logistically it is easier to move a dozen people on and off the stage than 100 in the choir - much less time and intrusion into the flow of the service.|
|Right #7: Every person has the right to have consistant quality in the pulpit.|
I have been to churches where the main pastor is intelligent, articulate, well educated, and can hold the attention of the church for the whole sermon. When he goes away, there is a substitute. The source may be an associate pastor, youth pastor, elder, deacon, a preacher from another church, or even a lay person. The qualifications for this person are usually vague, the default mode is to look for someone with a strong walk and love for the Lord. All too often, however, you put this Godly person in the pulpit and they are boring, digressing, monotone, obscure, and simply cannot hold anybody's attention! Every pastor needs a substitute on their staff who is almost their equal AT ALL TIMES. If substitute is required, they can take over and teach the same sermon series with no interruption in quality.
People choose those movies that will succeed and fail by paying to attend. If the movie is poor, it will be out of the theater in a week or two, replaced with a better one. Ask yourself what would happen if churches operated the same way. Would you be out of the pulpit in two weeks because the quality of your preaching is poor? Lets suppose you are a dynamic Christian leader, with a fast growing church body. Your reputation eventually earns you occasional guest speaking appearances at other churches. Who preaches in your absence? What happens to church attendance when you are gone? If you were to die, where would your church be in a year? In ten years?
I attended a large singles Bible study in Houston 20 years ago. When I first started attending, it was a very large event, attended by dozens, perhaps even hundreds of young adults. It completely swamped the apartment of the two girls hosting it. Over the course of two years, however, it dwindled to nothing - because the role of main speaker / teacher passed to progressively less and less qualified people. I liked the guys who were chosen, and they all were strong men of God, but I could see that their personalities were not suited to the job. When I left the group, the attendance had shrunk to a dozen people, and it had become very clique-ish and exclusive. Ichabod. I occasionally drive past Ann and Lenita's apartment complex in Houston. A lot of good memories there. I barely remember the locations or names from the later years of the group.
This pattern was repeated so many times in my early Christian life I began to seriously wonder if I was "jinxed", or somehow the cause of the decine!!! Of course not, but this was a serious question in the life of a young and immature believer. From the youth group at 1st Presbyterian, Midland, to a Bible study at a Mary Beth's house in Lubbock, Texas (where I was first introduced to Christian contemporary music), to the study at Harold Humphries' house, to the youth group at Trinity church, Lubbock, to BSU gathering at the University of Texas, Austin, to the Campus Crusade group. One lively, on fire for the Lord group after another completely disintegrating around me, leaving me alone to search for another.
What were the traits of the wrong leaders?
Avoid having replacement preachers / leaders in your church that fit into those categories above!!!! No matter how Christlike their lives are, the call to preaching is a special call - and being a strong man of God does not necessarily qualify somebody to substitute for you in the pulpit!
When a Bible study or church progresses to the last couple of steps, the end is near. I was a young man needed a lot of love and acceptance - instead I received judgement and rudeness, and occasionally asked to leave the group. It is a wonder I somehow managed to remain one of Christ's servants when faced with incompetance like that!!!
Incidentally, if you know me and wonder why your study in Midland, Texas, or in Austin, Texas was not on the list: YOU ARE A CULT!!!! Godly, Christlike principles do not apply to your group. Get saved - really saved. Just DO IT! NOW! In the name and under the authority of JESUS. You KNOW who you are!
|Right #8: Every person has the right to hear a well prepared, well organized, and concise message.|
End your service ON TIME, EVERY time, WITHOUT EXCEPTION!!!! Nobody likes the "open-ended" service, and a fair number have made plans and have tight schedules after your service. Respect them and their right to their own time. I visited a black church one time. Quite an experience, I can tell you! But also quite a revelation. The pastor allowed lay people to use their talents in the service. The first item in the order of worship was the appointment of a "minister of protocol". "Momma" was a large, heavyset black lady. Her job was to throw you off the stage if you ran over your allotted time, which was 8 minutes. It didn't matter what you were doing, when 8 minutes was up, you were done. If you were praying, after 8 minutes you were done praying. If you were laying on hands, after 8 minutes you were done. Same with preaching, prophesying, singing, etc. "Momma" would come and get you, and "momma" was pretty big and tough. You didn't cross "momma"! I used to like the clock in the Carpenter's Home Church - ten foot high digital numbers to tell Pastor Strader that he was done. I am afraid that clock is gone - along with their ministry to young people. "But what about the move of the Holy Spirit?" you ask. Shouldn't He have the ability to move and override human schedules? Overwhelmingly "YES", but I have found that some churches schedule the ministry of the Spirit as often as they schedule revivals. It just doesn't work that way! Genuine moves of the Spirit are as rare as genuine revivals. That is because the Holy Spirit has NO PLACE even in most Charismatic churches - He is inconvenient to the church authority heirarchy. Some old families that contribute a lot of money simply cannot be challenged, or they might stop writing checks. Face it, when a church goes over the scheduled time, it is the pastor's plan, not the Holy Spirit. Or simply a poorly organized or poorly prepared pastor. PERIOD.
There is sort of an unwritten law for movies. They take about an hour and 45 minutes from beginning to end. You may underestimate how much this mentality affects the church. There is a reason why movies last as long as they do. It is called "artifical selection", a process by which movies become a certain length because that is about how long the public is willing to sit for them. Anything longer, and people get bored. Unless the movie is really good. Titanic comes to mind. I do not recommend this movie because of nudity, and explicit language. The effects and story, however, were sufficiently attention grabbing that the movie could last longer than the traditional hur and 45 minutes and still hold the viewer's attention. There are very few billion dollor blockbusters, however. An average movie that will never even hit one hundred million dollars in revenue will not hold viewers for more than an hour and 45 minutes. Children's films average even shorter.
The bottom line is - make your services including Sunday school last no more than an hour and 45 minutes from start to finish!
|Right #9: Every person has a right to be anonymous in their giving.|
This is where your "faith" will really show. To non-believers, money is the symbol of all that is wrong with the church. As painful as it is, you must abandon the plate passing. I suggest having elders and deacons quitely contact committed, long term members personally or on the phone. Now days - a public solicitation of money must be avoided at all costs!!! That is the surest way to confirm in a visitor's mind that you are the same as Jim Bakker and the other televangelist frauds. Whatever you do - don't pass the plate after the fat lady! People are going to be MAD! Opera is not very popular right now.
There is a "democritization" that occurs in the movie theater when you know everybody in there has spent the exact amount for attendance that you have. How would you feel if you had paid $100 for the privelege, and somebody else $1? Or the opposite situation, would you feel guilty to get in for $1 when everybody around you paid $100? Be careful in your stewardship messages not to step on "the big givers" or "the little givers". Somebody's 1 or 2% of their income may be a significant sacrifice. They should not be made ashamed of it. It may be a stepping stone of faith for them to eventually give more.
|Right #10: Every person has the right to hear the Word of God in their own language.|
|I think we should get down on our knees and that God that there are translations that are easier to read than great grandfather's. The problem we have with most young people is not illiteracy, it is ALLITERACY. They can read, they just choose not to. My first "lesson" as a youth Bible study leader is a Bible inspection. If I see King James, I counsel them to get a more readable translation. We can worry about fine doctrinal points later, after daily Bible reading is an entrenced habit in their lives. I have had several kids tell me "I didn't know THAT was in the Bible - that is really neat!" Yeah, he didn't know it was there because he couldn't ever understand it. And gave up Bible reading at a very young age because of the archaic language. I teach scripture memory out of whatever translation they have, too. It makes it harder to have scripture memeory lessons, but the retention rate is better and the kids stick to it better. By the way, a Bible inspection is a good idea no matter what your convictions are. The other side is frighteningly thorough - I have seen a lot of translations from cults in my inspections.||
Who besides real art film fanatics attend a movie in a foreign language without sub-titles? Sorry - AV 1611. I love you guys, but you got a lot of things wrong. Let me ask you a question. You never answer any of my emails anyway - so I don't expect you to answer. Is the work of Wycliff Bible translators valid? Those are the guys who are going into every third world nation, finding every dialect, and translating the Bible into a language that people can understand. If their work is valid, then so are the English translations of the Bible that are readable to modern Americans, especially youth. If you say Wycliff is not a valid ministry, then God help you! You would deny others salvation simply because they don't speak the same language as you! What a pitiful attitude of sectarian bigotry. The Lord will judge you for it. Count on it!
|Right #11: Every member should be served by their church.|
|Remember foot washing? The ones who lead are supposed to be the servants. Nobody is going to come because you issue a guilt trip and make them come! If they aren't coming it is YOUR failure, not theirs. I have little love for a preacher at a church I attended in college. I was a lonely college student who was brought up correctly, to respect young ladies and have honorable intentions toward them. I took a liking to the daughter of the preacher, who was admittedly a few years younger than myself. My intention was to have a begin a dating relationship, based on God's principles of purity. This preacher called me from a New Year's eve party, obviously drunk, and cursed me out. I never attended his church again. I found one with a Godly pastor instead. The last I heard, this man had left the ministry and was a loan officer at a bank. Now - my point here is that, in spite of my bad experience with this man: AT LEAST he had the sense to leave the ministry. He knew he was not fit to be a pastor. Good for him! I now have a limited respect for him. He was not a servant - if he was he would have thought of my feelings and spiritual condition before acting as a protective father, assuming I had dishonorable intentions. I sincerely doubt any young man lived up to his expectations, and I can assure you she probably did not marry very well, probably not even a Christian man.||This is one area where the movie parallel breaks down. Nobody, however, will go to a movie theater where they were mistreated. And they will tell others about their bad experience. I unashamedly tell people which churches to avoid based on lack of love and compassion that was displayed towards me or my family.|
Be a servant - you are the lowest member of your congregation. The "Ferengi" of Star Trek have a principle that you should learn:
"Never trust a man wearing a better suit than your own." Does your manner of dress, selection of car, house, or lifestyle speak to your
congregation that you are a servant, or are to be served (and envied). I am not saying to dress in sackcloth and ashes, but the $2000
Rolex watches are OUT! Don't go to your congregations saying you will pray for them to get a job while wearing one. They are likely to
think of becoming a mega-minister, just like you! Who does that exalt? You or the Lord?
Park your car out with your congregation. If you are fat, start a Biblically based weight loss program in your church, and be the most exemplary member of it! If you are involved in materialism, resign until such time as Jesus is the Lord of your life, not material things! If you are sinning publically (such as the speeding ex-president of the Southern Baptist convention that I was talking about), STOP! Think about your actions. I left that man's church over that and many other problems.
|Right #12: Church should be FUN!|
|This is one of the biggest problems with the church today. There is an attitude is that if it is fun, it isn't spiritual. We should suffer for God. If church isn't fun for you - leave and find one that is. Pastor, if your service is stodgy and boring, people falling asleep - liven it up! Other wise your church will whither and die. I know this flies straight in the face of a lot of people, but I am sorry. A boring church is one where minds are wandering off the gospel message. Yes, most people are little spiritual babies who have to be entertained. So entertain them!!! Jesus died for them - are you going to sit there with a conviction that they should come on your terms, and they never do - and are lost? Is THAT what the Bible teaches? Read Romans 14, and get a life - an ETERNAL one!||Here is one message from movies - if the movie is not entertaining, it is OUT of the theater in a week or two. If people attended churches the way they attend movies, would your church be closed in two weeks? If so, what are you going to do about it?!|
As long as
your service is not violating Biblical standards or presenting wrong doctrine, you are free to organize it any way you want. Don't worry
about the traditionalists - there are plenty of places that they can go for worship! You are better off without them, believe me! There
is nothing wrong with traditional worship, provided it is presented to those who seek it. Don't fool yourself into thinking that the
traditionalists know what is best for your church. They do not. They know what is best for themselves only. If there is a large group of
them in your church, have a worship service for them. But depending on the mix of ages and tastes, have a service for the younger members
or they will leave. There is beginning to be quite a backlash against traditionalists, one you are not aware of because the people who
demand change a lot of times never return to a church. I have read some of their material - church the way the traditionalists organize it
is leading to a militant brand of atheism that takes the concepts I have presented here, and expands them into an vicious anti-Christian
A good example of this is the vicious atheist tract "I invite you to kiss Hank's _____" The story goes something like this - a young couple comes to the door and invites the hapless homeowner to come with them to kiss Hank's _____. If they do it, they will receive a million dollars. But only after they have left town, at a time of Hank's choosing. They have never met anybody who got the million dollars, but Hank promises -----. I will leave it to you to fill in the rest of the story (I considered reproducing it here). Actually, your mind is probably filling in the details right now, and that is the main reason WHY I did not reproduce it here. If your mind is able to fill in details, you will have a long list of things WRONG with the way you present the gospel message!!! Fix your presentation and try hard not to make it so foolish to your target audience - the unsaved. Remember, most people come to the Lord through friends. They have a friend whose lifestyle is different, they have something - joy, happiness, peace - that the seeker want. All your years of speaking in the pulpit pale into insignificance compared with the tireless work of your congregation being light out in their little corners of the world. You are there to bring in the harvest grown by the diligent work of your congregation. You will win many more to Christ by teaching the Christians in your church to be gracious than you will by intellectual arguments from the pulpit.
Too many times, Christians in churches I have attended have been too busy to become friends, refusing social invitations. I have had a beautiful wedding gift (a table cloth) ruined by careless adults at a social event. I lent it, thinking it would add to the elegance of a party. Instead, I was informed days after the event that it had been irrevocably stained by a spill, and the hosts had discarded it. Nobody called to ask me if it was OK, no offer of buying us a replacement. Just throw it out like it was nothing. I went to a home Bible study, hoping to have an hour of study followed by good conversation. The guy taught for 3 1/2 hours, and everybody went home strangers.
Must be, because it isn't reaching very many people. It even seems to be turning a lot of people off ---
I have to be very careful here to make myself clear. I do not want any misunderstandings. I, myself, am a Christian, who is firmly convinced of the inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Jesus from the foundation of the universe, and particularly in the exclusivity of the Christian faith. It is the ONLY way to God. All other religions are false and lead people to HELL. Saying that, however, I am saying it to a sympathetic audience - the other believers in Christ. If you happen to be a non-Christian who stumbled onto this page, do not be too discouraged. Please read on ----
There are certain constants in the Christian faith:
The way the gospel message is traditionally explained, and people are familiar with, has actually changed dramatically over the centuries. It seems that in every great revival of the past, some new technique of spreading the gospel becomes popular and results in many people hearing the message in a different way that makes sense. I firmly believe that before revival can occur in our modern age, the way we share the message must change. I am not talking about giving up any fundamental of the faith. Just a re-emphasis on some technique other than the "instant conversion / four spiritual laws" approach. Whether it is in a small pamphlet or expanded into an hour message, there is something about this technique that is no longer effective.
I am NOT advocating a watering down of the gospel message, or a perversion of the truth with bad doctrine. I am merely suggesting that perhaps different portions of the gospel message should be emphasized at different times, in different ways. The truth stays the same, its presentation to non-Christians changes. So what changes am I suggesting?
The world can see right through the "fast religion" approach. They are besieged with advertising, and are able to resist the ads. The four spiritual laws are just one more commercial to be avoided. They also see the lack of committment we have to them when we use this technique. It requires us to give nothing. They are only worth a couple of minutes, then we are gone. Where is the love? Where is the committment? Every convert I have led to Christianity knows I genuinely am their friend. I had the displeasure of being in a Campus Crusade group at college. Those people were so fast paced that they had no time to become my friend. I was finally asked to leave - when I asked a girl in the group out. I think the leader of that Campus Crusade group also liked her and was jealous. That sure demonstrated a lot of love ---- If Bill Bright ever reads this and contacts me: I WILL name names!!! I am sure he is appalled.
A woman from our church enters into the situation. She has a little Mary Kay cosmetic business, and my wife innocently asks her to meet with our neighbor as well. The woman promptly digs into our neighbor's background, finds out that the family is nominally Jehovah's Witness, and proceeds to trash their church! Let me say right now that I, too, believe that Jehovah's Witnesses are a mean, exploitive, money loving CULT! I don't have any disagreement with the lady from my church on that point. But in doing what she did, she short circuited any chance we had of bringing our neighbor out of that church into the truth. She even continued to call and harass our neighbor, demonstrating her "love" (I am being sarcastic). I think our neighbor finally told her exactly what she deserved to hear! What a witness for our church, which is one of the finest, most Christ centered I have ever joined. I did what damage control I could, going over there and apologizing on behalf of our church. But any possibility of us just "casually" asking her to a function at our church is GONE FOREVER!
The traditional logic has been:
Does something sound wrong with all that? It ought to - it violates 1 Corinthians 13 principles of LOVE.
Once, and I hope FOR ALL: you are not going to force anybody to get saved. Granted, there are some super salesmantype of people who can walk up to somebody and bang, they get saved. But there are a lot of us who are not comfortable with that technique of witness. What is more, I doubt how successful it really is. God gave Adam and Eve the dignity of making a choice between life in fellowship with Him, and life apart from Him, even knowing in advance what their decision would be. Ask yourself some questions: do I love this person I am winessing to enough to give them the same dignity? Suppose they reject Christ, initially. Do I have enough love for them to be their friend in spite of it? Or do I treat them like a leper and drop their friendship? What a witness - they will SURELY turn their back on Christ because of the insincerity of your friendship! Suppose they NEVER accept Christ, and request that you permanently drop the subject. Are you going to wipe the dust off your feet on the way out of the door? Or are you going to commit to pray for that person and continue to live a good Christian witness in front of them anyway. NOT SELF RIGHTEOUS witness, just a silent witness of His love living in you.
My personal belief, probably shared by the majority of readers here, is that Jesus Christ is the one and only path to God, and salvation. God's greatest gift to mankind is the ability to accept or reject this truth. He does not love those less who choose to reject him. He does not send anybody to hell - they freely choose to go there because they do not want anything to do with God. God regrets their choice greatly, but allows them to make it. How can we, who are supposedly reborn into His Spirit, do less?! Yes, when you are invited to speak about Jesus Christ and His wonderful love, DO SO with boldness of the righteous. But do not do so out of turn. Allow others to have the dignity to make the choice that God himself has allowed.
Those who take the horrors of hell as an excuse to witness, when the other person does not wish to hear, come off as extremely ARROGANT. I doubt such people have much success in their witnessing. They would do far better to get on their knees and pray for that person, rather than turning them off to talk about Jesus Christ. They would do even better to commit themselves to love that person as a friend, no matter what the eternal outcome of that friendship.
The person who has embraced a different religion from Christianity, including atheism and agnosticism, has given a great deal of thought to their beliefs. When you attack their beliefs initially upon meeting them, you attack their intelligence. That is a sure way to alienate them. If you are going for lots of salvations in a hurry, don't go this path. Go somewhere in the world where nobody has ever heard the gospel of Christ.
I don't care WHAT you think of evolution, one way or another. That is not the point here. The point is: they should have witnessed about Jesus Christ, NOT creationism!!! Creationism does not save - Jesus Christ does.
What spiritual baggage do you ask people to accept along with Christ? Do you insist they pray a certain way, get baptised a certain way, believe certain doctrines that are instituted by merely human authority? Do you insist they join the "correct" church, read only the "correct" Bible, listen to only the "correct" music? WHAT A PATHETIC WASTE OF TIME!!! The issue is: Jesus Christ - YES or NO. The "KISS" principle (no, not a singing group). It means "Keep It Simple, Stupid!". All that other stuff will sort itself out in time.
This is related to the spiritual baggage I talked about above. The world is starting to associate Jesus Christ with political activism in one or more areas such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gun control, and a myriad of other issues. Remember, when you are talking with a non-Christian, they may have deep seated opinions on this type of topic. Their opinion was based on incorrect information - as you know. But when you attack their opinion, you are attacking their intelligence. And this will offend them greatly. The situation is complicated by non-Christians who use these issues as an excuse to commit acts of violence, such as abortion clinic bombings. When you associate yourself, and Christ, with these phonies, Christ himself because associated. It is no wonder that we are getting public statements that are violently anti-Christian such as "the Romans were justified in feeding Christians to the Lions").
I am going to say it loud and clear: When you are talking with somebody about Jesus Christ, do not get sidetracked onto issues like abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gambling, smoking, drinking, secular rock music, gun control, political parties, etc. These are off the subject, and a total waste of time. They are also the way people have of not facing Christ. A lot of people will use these issues as smokescreens to get you off the subject of Jesus Christ. Whoever you are talking to - if the subject gets off onto one of these tangents, and they refuse to get back on the subject - then your witnessing is over for that encounter. That is because of the way the "world" associates us with these topics:
If your discussion with a non-believer degenerates into any of those topics, you are done for. It is a lot easier to stay off of these topics than to do damage control once you start on them. Damage control will be difficult, if not impossible.