Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some notes about reaching the unchurched

I once attended a seminar at Hendersonville 1st UMC on connecting with non-religious people. Some of the points made I found somewhat dubious, such as the claim that "Jesus broke away from his religious tradition for a higher good," which I addressed in more detail here.

But here are some points worth thinking about:

  • Do we present Christianity as a system of beliefs or a way of life? John Wesley said that one may affirm the truth of one, 20 or 100 creeds and yet have no saving faith at all. Faith that saves is not "believing beliefs," not the mere assent to propositions. It is, said Wesley, a conviction wrought in one's heart that in Jesus Christ, all that is necessary for our salvation has been accomplished and that there is no life apart from him.
  • Don't present Jesus as the answer to problems but as the lover of souls. The deepest need of human souls is not problem solving, but the search for meaning. If you have never read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, I urge you to order it and read it as soon as you can.
  • Do we have a passion for Christ, or a passion for the church? When we substitute passion for the church rather than for Jesus, we start to prize order, routine and predictability. Jesus said (John 3):
    "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
    The Spirit-led church will often appear unpredictable! As I preached last May,
    We will never thrive with top-down leadership, where the pastor and committees decide what the ministries of the church will be, then nominate and elect members to carry them out. We will thrive with ministries that emerge from Spirit-led disciples who are mostly self-organizing.
    Unchurched people are not looking for organizational excellence, but a church that is trying, for all its imperfections, to be "worthy of the calling to which it has been called." That means our passion must be for Jesus, not one another.
  • We should be about attraction, not promotion. This is linked closely with communicating Jesus as a lover of souls. What is it about our faith life and practice that will attract people of our community and make them commit to it along with us, rather than simply participate in an event? Church promotion gains only participants, and very temporary ones at that. If we understand that we should attract people to commitment, not mere participation, then our own self understanding will change.

Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...