It isn’t hard to find articles, books, blogs, or speakers that cover the topic of church structure and missiology. Pete Wilson asks a great question today on his blog, Without Wax and Randy Morgan has some deep discussions going on at his site, Your Best Life Later.
Randy has linked to a video on his latest post where the speaker, Alan Hirsch, presents some compelling findings about the current position of the American church. After watching the video, I responded with some thoughts on Randy’s blog but I thought I would record them here for my readers as well.
Attractional versus ‘Extractional’
A question was raised about whether churches should be attractional (people come to them) or extractional (the church goes to the people). Before I had watched the video I responded in this manner:
As far as the topic raised, I believe 2 things:
1. Christ said if He was lifted up that He would draw men unto himself. (Call it attractional)
2. Christ said Go. (sounds like extractional)
I believe number 1 is accomplished by effectively carrying out # 2.
The local gathering of the church as recorded in Acts chapter 2 was for the following things:
1. Dedication to the apostles teaching (doctrine)
2. Praying together
4. Meeting each other’s needs.
How many of those things do non-christians benefit from on a spiritual level?
My opinion is that those 4 things equipped the local body to help them present a living Christ through their transformed lives. This is what caused thousands to be attracted to what was going on.
Response to the Video
I had these thoughts after watching the video:
I finally got around to watching the video and came away with the impression that the speaker was saying that we need the attractional church but we also need a new paradigm to work in the areas that the attractional church doesn’t reach.
As I thought about that, it made me think about home or small groups or smaller satellite campuses that many churches are trying to incorporate today. While these bring some level of the ‘GO’ or ‘extractional’ church mentality to the discussion, they also present their own issues:
1. The same mentality exists that if we ‘build it they will come’. A church in my area presented this very issue. They have a large central church and many satellite or ‘sphere’ meeting places. I can almost chuck a rock at one of the sphere’s that meets near my home because it is that close. However, they have been there a couple of years now and no one from that sphere has ever been to my house to let me know that they are there or who they are. They just put out a little placard on Sunday mornings and that has been the extent of it. So they have created an extractional model but haven’t changed their methodology from an attractional one. By the way, I visited this sphere on my own accord and enjoyed the teaching there.
2.It reinforces a centralized governing body with subject outposts. Think of the Roman Catholic church with Rome being the center of the Universe or the Mecca for their believers. While there is good that can come from collaborative efforts, there is also a lot of bad. The leaders of these centralized, over-arching organizations become demi-gods to some degree. Not by their own choosing but via their forced popularity. We continue the call of the Israelites, “Give us a King!”. This can create tension when the centralized body wants to harmonize convictions for the whole organization. If a satellite body doesn’t align with the conviction, contention is created where none should be. An example may be the standings on alcoholic consumption. I personally believe the bible allows license for usage based on the individual’s convictions (It is worth mentioning here that I don’t drink but my choice is not purely based on religious reasons). What happens from this type of practice is denominational isolation along personal convictions instead of doctrine. What happens in large, as described here, can then be seen to happen in small with the home church/small group model.
3. The satellite small groups are not looked upon as a church body and are not empowered to carry out the duties of a church body. I can’t speak to all of the models that exist for small group structures, but the ones that I have witnessed are still outposts for the larger collective that is located elsewhere. Instead of empowering the small group to be effective in their community, the larger collective requires resources from the smaller groups to support the missions of the centralized gathering. I am not saying that there should not be collaboration but it should be more equitable towards the small group in order for it to be effective. Case in point, monies that are collected by the small groups, does most of it stay with the small group in order to further the impact in that community or does most of it end up back at the centralized body? How about volunteer service hours – do the satellite posts spend time serving their community or are they asked to support the efforts of the centralized gathering? I guess the question here is how autonomous can the small group/outpost be and does their level of autonomy affect their success?
What are your thoughts about the Organizational Church – is it here to stay?
I am angry with adults!
Certain adults to be exact. Those adults who were involved with my upbringing and were responsible for my learning vocabulary. How could they completely ignore the importance of such a great word as Nudiustertian? I have had to wait until I am nearly 40 years of age to discover its awesomeness.
But have no fear. I have every intention of making our younger generations aware of this finding so that they don’t have to live with the poverty of word skill that I had to suffer. I will, following the posting of this public service announcement, make posts to Twitter and Facebook in order to get the word out… literally. Today is a day that we will take a stand for nudiustertian and its benefits for all generations – its not just for adults anymore!!
No longer will we have to use 7 syllables to refer to ‘the day before yesterday‘ (You totally just counted the syllables on your fingers for that last phrase – didn’t you!) We can now save 2 syllables and sound more sophisticated in the process by just replacing that simple phrase with just one word. Another not so well known fact is that in writing, you will save the scribing of 8 WHOLE LETTERS! My Gosh People, we could have saved the country HUNDREDS of dollars (and probably some cents too) in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome by simply being aware of this most utilitarian of words.
So will you help me? Can we make this happen? YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! (For some reason I am having strange flashbacks of posters lifted in the sky and glitter and balloons falling).
Join me today in the education of our youth. The word of the day is nudiustertian – Spread the Word!
As I have been studying the book of Philippians, I continually ask myself questions about what is going on in the text and how that impacts the receivers of that particular letter from Paul.
Just to give some context for this post, here are some points of detail:
- Paul had visited Philipi during his 2nd missionary journey around 50 A.D.
- He impacted the lives of a wealthy citizen (Lydia), a slave girl, and a jailer. Read Acts 16 for more context.
- Paul most likely visited the Philippians during his 3rd missionary journey during the mid-to-late 50’s A.D.
- Paul was falsely imprisoned in Jerusalem following his 3rd missionary journey.
- He would be kept in chains for 4 years as he faced off with his accusers several times before taking his case to Caesar
- During the trip to Rome he would survive a horrendous storm at sea and subsequent shipwreck
- He wrote the letter to the Philippians during the latter half of his imprisonment from Rome around 61 A.D.
- The church in Philipi has continued to support Paul while he has been imprisoned
There is so much more that you can pull out for yourself if you read Acts 20-28 but that should be enough for this post.
In the opening chapter of Philippians we see three major themes:
- Paul’s affection for the people in the Philippian church.
- Paul reminds them of his present circumstances but highlights that God is in control and is glorified
- Paul’s hope that God will work in them to His glory through their love and circumstances
Let us suppose for a moment that Lydia, the jailer, and the slave girl are all part of the congregation that has received this letter from Paul and that they have stayed current with all that Paul has been through since his last visit to them. Now, try to synchronize your emotions and thoughts with theirs as they read through the letter.
It’s not hard to feel the excitement that they experience with the opening of the letter as they read about the joy and love that Paul is sending to them. And then, as Paul reminds them of his present circumstances, there is probably some deflating of that internal celebration as they feel compassion for him and ponder on the glory that Paul highlights is occurring for God through his current situation. But then they get to a part of the letter where Paul exhorts them with these words:
29For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
“Hold on! Wait a second! Paul, what are you saying? You are in chains and look at all you have been through to get to that point. There are some highly visible people around you and many of them don’t like you. Why would you want us go through the same thing? What happened to the love, brother?”
It is not a hard jump to make to think that those types of thoughts were going through the readers minds after reading that one sentence. I want you to do something here. Pick one of the characters that I mentioned earlier and put yourself into their shoes and think about the impact that sentence has on them.
- Lydia the wealthy merchant who knows comfort and shares her home as the early meeting place for the church. She is respected in her community.
- The jailer. He is a blue-collar, government worker who’s job it has been to put people into chains and watch over them for the crimes they have committed.
- The slave girl. She knows what it means to be in bondage both physically and spiritually.
Which one are you?
How do you respond to Paul’s hope that you suffer as he has?
Take a moment and share with us through a comment what is going through your mind.
I was watching America’s Funniest home videos with my family this evening following dinner. Below is a snippet from the tv show that I would like to present as evidence of true joy.
I gotta think that this made Jesus smile. I know that I instantly liked that kid because he saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.. and feet.. and back side. He was fully committed no matter what others were going to say.
What if we all had that kind of enthusiasm about our faith?
What has God been calling you to ‘Cannonball’ into?
Can a man who has been blind since birth believe in the rainbow?
Think about it.
He has no concept of color.
He has no context for the fragmentation of sunlight that is necessary to create the rainbow.
He can’t touch the rainbow.
He can’t understand why this common phenomenon impacts the sighted the way that it does.
So. How can he believe in something that he cannot experience?
Maybe if we asked him he would tell us why he believes.
“Sir, could you please tell me why it is that you believe in something that you cannot … well, um… could you tell me why you believe in the rainbow?”
“Child, I have never had eyes to understand what it is that I can’t see. But I was born with an imagination and I have had the witness of the sighted to help me put together a thought to what is that you think you see. Take a seat and let me describe what the rainbow looks like. I learned to ‘see’ it when I was 10 years old.”
It was a light spring rain that soaked the front yard that stretched out and away from the step that I was sitting on. I liked the way the rain felt as it hit my face, formed into bigger drops, and rolled down my cheeks to my chin and then fell away. Their individual thunder claps as they slapped my skin were captivating. I could hear lighter slaps of the rain hitting the grass and smell the dirt below it come to life in a muddy aroma. I felt alive sitting there on that step taking in the shower.
I don’t know how long I sat there before the rain slowed to a stop and I started feeling a hot glow on my face that faded in and out. That is how my mother found me. Sitting there with my face pointed to a sky that felt warm to me. I heard her sigh as she stepped onto the porch and then sat down next to me on the front step. There was a quiet pause that lasted a minute or two and then she said to me:
“Son, I wish you could see the rainbow that the sun has given birth to.”
“Can you tell me what it looks like, mom?”
She sat there for a little while and then she laid her hand across my head.
“Do you feel how my fingers are cupped across the crown of your head? Kinda like a small bridge?”
“Well, son, that is how the rainbow is shaped. It is like God has bridged His fingers across the sky but instead of a hand, He used seven bands of color to cup the world. I know you don’t understand color but think of them in this way..”
“The first color is red. It is a warm color like the blood that runs in your veins and it is a firm color like the skin on an apple.”
“Next comes Orange. It is like red except it feels lighter like someone dumped water across it and washed away some of it’s weight.”
“After Orange comes Yellow. I love yellow because I smell lemons when I see it. It is bright like how the sun felt on your face after the rain had stopped.”
“Green is the middle band. When I close my eyes and think of green, I can smell grass and hear summer. It is a living color.”
“Many people like the next color. Blue reminds them of the sky or the ocean. I guess you could say that blue feels like open spaces. I don’t know why but I am reminded of blue by the skin of a ripe plum.”
“The last two colors are indigo and violet. They are very similar in how they look. They feel like that fuzzy bathrobe that I used to put on you after a bath. They smell like the lilac bush that grows along the back yard. ”
“Mom…. I wish I could see them the way that you do. But it’s ok. I can hear the rainbow now. ”
“Really?! So what does a rainbow sound like?”
“It sounds like a lullaby that starts all quiet but it keeps getting louder as more people join in to sing. It makes me want to stand on my tip toes to see if maybe the sounds will pick me up. I know they can’t because they are like rocks that my fingers could go through. I know that doesn’t make sense but that is how I hear the rainbow.”
“Aww, sweetie, that is perfect. The rainbow is the same way. It is there but no matter how hard we tried we wouldn’t be able to get to it on our own. Maybe that is why God gave it to us as a promise. A promise is not something that we can grab with our hands. Instead it is a hope that takes ahold of our hearts.”
When the old man had finished telling his story, he asked me a strange question.
“Do you believe in rainbows?”
I think I knew what he meant. And I wondered…. could I describe a rainbow to somebody else.
…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you… ~ 1 Peter 3:15
Moses spent 80 years in preparation – 40 in the Pharaoh’s house and 40 in the wilderness.
Joshua spent decades as his apprentice.
David did not become king right after his anointing by Samuel and let’s not forget that Samuel spent most of his developing years being prepared for his role.
John the baptist was set apart from the womb but did not begin his ministry for nearly 30 years – as did Jesus Christ.
Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus by a bright light by which Christ called him into a ministry that he would not begin for several years. He had to go through a time of preparation even though he was one of the most well-versed persons in the bible (Old Testament) of his day.
Why do I give all of these examples? For this reason:
In the American global consumer culture, we are more interested in availability and cost effectiveness than we are in quality.
If I translate that to its impact on the church, I could say this: We are in danger of mistaking zeal for maturity and pressing those persons into service before they have been properly trained and prepared. The church has a large appetite for bodies to be used in a myriad of projects and programs and, in my opinion and experience, will fore-go procedures by which individuals are tested for preparedness.
Now, I don’t mean to make this a blanket statement for every purpose that the church invites people to participate in… there are functions that are practical means by which persons can be trained for their greater purpose.
So what is the danger of pressing persons into service before they are ready? We run the danger of creating the walking-wounded on both sides of the service – those serving and those being served.
The military understands that you don’t take 18 year old boys, hand them a gun, and send them into combat. This is because there is a greater likelihood that they will hurt themselves or the men around them if they don’t understand how to follow orders, take care of their weapon, or take care of themselves in the middle of combat. It is one of the reasons that those boys are started down the path to manhood during 8 weeks in boot camp.
It is so easy for us to use expediency and need as excuses for taking shortcuts. I mean, we can’t have the latest project fail just because we don’t have bodies to throw at it, can we? That would rob people of their blessing for the service that they would provide. Right??
I wonder how many churches have defined policies by which they can train and qualify persons for service. Or how many just consume.
You know.. I was thinking about Paul and the time he spent in preparation. And two things came to mind:
- He needed time to work through the changes that occurred during that roadside conversion.
- AND… he needed time for the people around him to understand the changes that had occurred in him.
These are just some thoughts for a rainy, Monday morning.
I am not sure how to describe it other than that – Amateur Grace. It’s the reason I watch the tv show, American Idol. Every once in a while a person will make an appearance on the show that can just flat out sing. This season’s person is Crystal Bowersox.
Regardless of whether she wins this season, though there is no one who can hold a candle to her from amongst the other contestants, we will probably see her name grace the professional ranks of musicians in the near future. I hope she remembers why she loves music today – it’s that spark that colors her music that goes beyond the raw talent.
Here is her performance from last night. Watch it and tell me how you would label it.