The shooter who killed over 90 people in Norway was initially identified as right wing and a fundamentalist Christian who was fighting against multi-culturism. I cringed at the thought of many secular people across Europe connecting “Christian” with “violence”.
Since then we have learned that he was not motivated by religious fervor – he wrote that he was not a very religious man. But still, the question remained, how could someone possibly feel justified in killing so many young people in cold blood?
We can never really understand the mind of someone who would do something this, but it is clear that this man’s convictions become more important to him than anything else – even the lives of teen-agers. They became a sort of idol to him.
While we may never consider a murderous rampage in defense of our ideas, it is worth reflecting on whether we have ever treated someone else poorly while defending a conviction. How many, in the midst of an opinionated argument, will say hurtful and cruel things. Later, after calming down, it might look different.
We are to love the Lord will all our hearts, and then others as ourselves… our convictions need to be a distant third.
Have you invited a friend or family member only to have them say “no”… repeatedly? It can be frustrating and discouraging. UIt may be time to stop talking with them about the church and start talking to them about Jesus.
As I said in my last blog entry, 20 years ago most people would be open to accepting an invitation from a friend to attend a relevant worship service. There are still many who will do so, but today most (maybe most) preChristians are not interested in going to a service, no matter how cool it might be.
Reaching preChristians today requires a different strategy than 20 years ago. Now, instead of only inviting people to come to worship with us, we need to go to them with the message of Jesus.
When speaking with someone who doesn’t go to church, you need to discern whether to talk with that person about the church or about Jesus. Some will respond to an invitation to worship. So go for it!
For those who won’t respond, we need to talk with them about Jesus. They may not be open to attending a service, but they may be open to discussing their beliefs and hearing about how Christ has changed your life.
After all, our mission isn’t really to get them to come to worship, it is to help them find their way back to God.
It is important that we get equipped to share our faith in Jesus with others, because that’s what will reach the 60% of preChristians who won’t step into our building.. at least not at first. Many preChristians say “Jesus yes, Church no”. Yet, when they start to respond to the Gospel, they become a new person and the Holy Spirit will help them realize that the church is essential to their following Jesus.
So to penetrate the world today we need more than a great worship service. We need to equip believers to connect with preChristians and to learn how to share their faith. This is much more effective than a postcard invite in the mail, because the most compelling evidence to the Gospel is a changed life.
Twenty years ago when we started Crossroads Church, our goal was to create a church that unreached people would want to attend and in the process be transformed by Christ. So, we spent a lot of time and resources on developing an engaging worship experience and a welcoming atmosphere. Crossroads continued growth would indicate we were fairly successful at meeting that goal.
Now, 20 years later, not only has my hair line changed, so have the perspectives of unreached people. 20 years ago about 75% of unreached people were open to an invitation to a relevant worship service if invited by a friend. Today, that number has fallen to around 40%. Yes there are still many people who will respond to an invitation to worship, but an increasing number, maybe even more than 60%, will not. It doesn’t matter how excellent the music is, how inspiring the message, or appealing the kids ministry – that 60% aren’t coming. In order to reach an increasingly secular society, churches once again need to change their approach or risk vanishing, like the Church of England may do. “Religion Today Summaries” reports:
“The Church of England’s quickly aging congregations means the denomination will be almost extinct in 2020 unless something is done to attract young people back to the church. … Rev. Dr. Patrick Richmond says. “2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage, that is people dying… Another 10 years on, some extrapolations put the Church of England as no longer functionally extant at all.” According to the UK Telegraph, other Synod members compared the church’s direction to a company’s “perfectly and impeccably manage[d] into failure.”
The answer is not to try to attract young people to church, the answer is for the church to reactivate its mission and send its members out daily to offer Christ to a dying world. This will look a lot different than starting a worship band or running cool videos (neither of which are wrong). The 60% (much higher in the U.K) are not coming; we need to be going to them. That means unconventional but effective disciple-making in neighborhoods and workplaces. I’ll say more on that in my next blog.
It’s hard to believe, but it was 20 years ago this month that I was appointed to start Crossroads Church.
My District Superintendent was rather reluctant to tell me of the appointment, thinking, I suppose, that it wasn’t so good to be appointed to a church with no people, no building and no land. But I was thrilled for the opportunity.
Right from the beginning I was convinced that Crossroads would become a large church. I had no clue, though, that we would have multiple campuses nor be working in Mozambique as we are.
These days the leadership team and I are praying over how we can catalyze a movement of Kingdom-minded people who multiply churches and bring the life of Jesus into every sphere of life. That won’t be easy, but then again, ministry hasn’t been easy so far either. The best part is it is not by our power nor ingenuity that this will occur – it is the power of God working among us.
“Missional” has been the buzz-word among evangelical churches for several years now. Many conferences, books, blogs, and even seminary curricula are dedicated to the idea that the church must be missional in order to be relevant today. If you want your book to sell, just insert the word “Missional” in the title.
Broadly speaking, the idea of being missional is to be outward (“extermally”) focused as a church; that is, to move out from behind the walls of the building to impact the surrounding community. This is a vital and important reminder.
Practically though, for many churches, to be “missional” has become synonymous with engaging in projects like tutoring in schools, working at food pantries, or doing any number of noble good deeds. These are worthwhile activities through which the Church should leaven society. However, I must ask, is this the mission for which Jesus trained his 12? I think it falls short to define “missional” in terms of good deeds done for the community.
Jesus’ mission was to usher in the Kingdom of God (not completely – for that will not happen until the end). The Kingdom is “life when God is in charge”. Jesus came preaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. For 3 years he taught his 12 to fulfill the mission so they could do so when he left .
In Luke 4 Jesus announced his mission, then immediately launched his ministry by 1) casting out a demon (Luke 4:31-36) 2) healing the sick (Luke 4:38-41) and 3) preaching the good news of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43-44)
After several chapters of watching and helping Jesus do these 3 things, the disciples get their turn. In Luke 9, Jesus sends out the disciples on their first mission, and what does he tell them to do? The same three things they watched him do: preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.“(Luke 9:1-2) And reading the book of Acts we see the whole church doing a lot of those 3 activities as they fulfill the Great Commission.
I haven’t heard many “missional” speakers/teachers urge us to do those 3 things Jesus told his followers to do. Why not? Have we succumbed to rationalism — reading the Bible with a filter over our eyes which strains out anything that smacks of the supernatural? Is it easier to say “your sins are forgiven” than “rise up and walk”?
I am not suggesting that we eliminate helping the poor from our definition of what it means to be missional. But it is far too narrow (and ineffectual) to define missional primarily in these terms. We also need to reclaim our missional heritage by doing that which only Jesus’ Church can do: preach the Gospel, and demonstrate the Kingdom of God through healing the body and spirit by the power of God. The great moves of God around the globe are marked with many of the signs found in the book of Acts. In order to fulfill the Great Commission we need to equip members of our churches with all the tools God provides.
Next month we will be offering a workshop at our church on how to pray for the sick. I look forward to seeing many followers of Jesus become missional as they fan out into their neighborhoods and workplaces, equipped to demonstrate the love of God through the power of God.
Steve Cordle is the founding and lead pastor of Crossroads Church, a small group-based congregation with five locations in the Pittsburgh metro area. He also leads a18movement, a non-profit dedicated catalyzing church plants globally. Steve is the author of three books: A Jesus-Shaped Life, Hear it, See it, Risk it, and The Church in Many Houses. He coaches pastors and church planters in the United States and Western Europe. He enjoys running, playing classical piano, and all Pittsburgh sports. Steve is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary (M. Div) and United Theological Seminary (D. Min). Steve and his wife, Linda, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-love, and three grandchildren.
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