Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Called to Be Anything But Christians

SEAN - Church ministries call us to be better at lots of things, just not (usually) at being better Christians or at understanding the faith. We need to do much more.

I hope I'm not the only one who notices how, er, shallow some local church ministries have become. I'm serious. Go to most niche meetings -those geared towards men, women, or young adults- and the teaching there is pretty lean. Even if it's called a Bible study, 90% of the time the book people are studying is not actually something that is part of the Bible at all. My church was recently doing a 'Bible Study' through an Erwin Lutzer book - I'm still trying to find the Book of Lutzer in my ESV table of contents, but to no avail. It's just really awful. Our churches are shallow.

So we need a solution.

First, we can be a little more vocal in asking for some depth. It might be that our pastors only ever hear from people who don't want to go deeper in their faith; so we can be a positive force in saying, hey, there are some of us who really have this desire to do something significant with our meetings. Bring on the study of whole books of the Bible. Let's have evangelism classes. Help us advocate for the Gospel in our community.

Second, we can be the solution and do some things ourselves. Maybe the church doesn't have room for a more in-depth, discipleship based group. So those of us who are concerned about that sort of thing can group together and start our own meetings in our own homes. Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop complaining and actually be part of the solution.

Third, we can be thirsty for more. Maybe the problem is also something that we struggle with ourselves; we'd like to go deeper, but our church isn't giving us any direction. In that case, maybe the thing to do is to listen to podcasts from great teachers like Mark Driscoll or John Piper, or go through the Bible one book at a time using one of the commentaries at found here, or start learning how to explain Jesus to non-Christians using something like LeeStrobel.com.

Look, this post could be about all the reasons why most of our church programs don't measure up. But that's a familiar theme. The real point is that, if that's the case, we should do something. So do something. That's today's call from this little Voice in the internet wilderness.


Update: Drew Dyck just wrote a good article about how this affects youth groups; it is available now on Christianity Today's blog: click here to read it. Here is an excerpt from the end of his post:

"Perhaps we've settled for entertaining rather than developing followers of Jesus.

Of course there's nothing wrong with pizza and video games. The real problem is when they displace spiritual formation and teaching the Bible. And ultimately that's the greatest danger of being overly reliant on an entertainment model. It's not just that we can't compete with the world's amusements. It's not only that we get locked into a cycle of serving up ever-increasing measures of fun. Rather it's that we're distracted from doing the real work of youth ministry—fostering robust faith.

Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, liked to say, "It's a sin to bore a kid with the gospel." A generation later, that philosophy morphed into an entertainment based gospel that has actually produced entertainment numbness and an avoidance of the gospel's harder teachings. Somehow we thought we could sweeten the gospel message for young people to make it easier for them to swallow, but it turns out that they're choking on our concoction."

-Drew Dyck, The Red Bull Gospel


  1. I think it's ironic you posted this, because it exposes a problem that I've been seeing for years. If you aren't a part of what I call a "healthy" church, then it's hard to do the things you mentioned. I totally agree with you by the way.

    From my experience, I saw this in my church, decided to do something about it, started a small group Bible Study on the book of Ephesians, and not one person came. So I went to the most popular small group for young married couples and asked them what they thought about doing a more in-depth Bible study, and they looked at me like I had just spoken Greek to them. They wanted their small group time to consist of playing games, eating, and watching movies. None of those things are bad. I love doing all three. But my point, and the point that you have nailed on the head is, since we are gathered together in community, what good is it to simply have fun if there's no sharpening of our faith? The author of Hebrews encourages us to "spur each other on" in our faith, so to me why wouldn't we do this? Is it risky? Oh yeah. Authentic community always comes as a price. But is it worth it? Absolutely. Great post man, and congratuslations on your wedding! I wish I lived in Canada so I could have been there brother.

  2. I hear you, man. It is often harder to get some Christians interested in studying the Bible than it is to get non-Christians interested. That's kind of sad isn't it? So many wonderful, beautiful, Christian people around who couldn't give a damn about studying the reliable Word of their Lord and Saviour. That's not to sound cynical. It's strong words because it's a strong problem.

    So if there's no will for change among the leadership, or among the body, what is left? Let's say in this case that leaving the church isn't an option. How do we become a force for change in a church where there's no interest in going deeper?

  3. I think in this instance you have to be faithful to the Gospel, and to the Scriptures as a whole. In my small opinion, even if there was only one person to be interested in going deeper in Scripture and/or theology, I always find that super rewarding. It's not that we have to have a Bible study that has 40 people, I think too many people have illusions of grandeur when it comes to this, but start simple and be faithful. I've survived as long as I have by listening to podcasts and websites.


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