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Great video. Short, simple, and immensely helpful to understand this overused term.


(HT: Gospel-Driven Church)

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I have a love / hate relationship with the Dallas Cowboys. I grew up in Texas during the heyday of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. And yes, I will freely admit that I chose to ignore the fact that there was a lot of cocaine being snorted in those days.

But the Dallas Cowboys have fallen on hard times. As I have watched their games this year, I found myself looking at them thinking, “This is a team that has no identity. They look like they’re lost even when they’re winning.”

That seems to be the problem to me – they have little team identity or definition. Oh, they’ve got a great new building, and a good crowd that shows up to see them play, but they as a whole don’t really seem like they’re committed to anything. They don’t seem like they want to win. In essence, Jerry Jones has adopted a philosophy that bigger is always better, and that you can pay for alot of talent and throw it out there on the field.

This, in my opinion, is also a problem in the church at some level.

Yesterday I posted about the $130 million building campaign of a church that is, ironically, in the same city where the Cowboys play. Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but these things feel very similar to me. Regarding the same building campaign, fellow-blogger Jared Wilson had this to say:

What is at stake is what church is. In the building Q&A linked above, we find this gem: “[T]he glass walls have an evangelistic effect: people walking by have a view in from the street and feel drawn in.”

In the same way a hobo on the sidewalk might press his face against the window of a fancy restaurant in a Norman Rockwell painting, no doubt.

Nobody should fault FBC Dallas or anybody else for building a building. But this isn’t a building. This, and a bunch of other stuff, is Bible Belt Disneyland. This is evangelicalism with more cowbell. This is Field of Dreams attractional church. And it stinks to high heaven. I was directed to a church website once while doing some research that had in its mission statement this sentence: “We will be a missional church, reaching out to the community to invite them to come see what we’re doing at ___________.”

Not go and tell.
Come and see is the “mission” of megachurchianity. Which is why you need evangelistic windows.

He’s right. This is a problem. And it’s not new. Christians have always looked for any reason and any justification not to go. While this may not be true of FBC Dallas, it’s certainly been true before. We try to take texts like “you are the city on the hill” and use it as a justification for actually creating a city on a hill. The whole meaning of that text (right next to the call to be salt out in the world, incidentally) is not that we should have such impressive churches that people will be drawn to them. It’s so that we should realize that we are meant to be light in dark places. Actually out there in dark places.

Maybe the Cowboys really are America’s team.

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The New FBC Dallas

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Click here to watch a series of videos detailing the massive and spectacular renovations to First Baptist Dallas. It’s a pretty amazing vision, one about which I have mixed feelings. Here’s the brief description from the site:

“First Baptist’s proposed new state-of-the art, 21st Century campus will be a re-creation, not a renovation, of a facility that is united in function and design; open and accessible; and easily identifiable as a church. The campus will embrace the church’s historic past while boldly asserting its place in the Dallas skyline. Amid a wave of downtown revitalization, the new campus will complete the circle of resources meeting the mind, body and spiritual needs of Dallas residents.”

After watching the videos, I’d love to know what you think: Too much? Or a great expression of the grandeur of God?

(HT: TWax)

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The New Shape of Christianity

From Skye Jethani, concerning the state of Christianity in the world:

  • Today there are more missionaries from Brazil engaged in crosscultural ministry than fromBritain or Canada.
  • There are over 10,000 foreign Christian workers serving in Britain, France, Germany and Italy–and more than 35,000 in the U.S. Most of the missionaries in Britain are from Africa and Asia.
  • “This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called ‘Christian Europe.’”
  • “This past Sunday more Presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland.”
  • “Today, the largest Christian congregation in Europe is in Kiev, and it is pastored by a Nigerian of Pentecostal background.”
  • “More than half of all Christian adherents in the whole history of the church have been alive in the last one hundred years. Close to half of Chrisitan believers who have ever lived are alive right now.”
  • In 1900, over 80 percent of the Christian population was Caucasian and over 70 percent lived in Europe. Now, according to historian Dana Robert, “The typical late twentieth-century Christian was no longer a European man but a Latin American or African Woman.”

(HT: Z)

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There is a sentiment out there in church world right now, and the sentiment comes from a struggle to process a key issue – that of contextualization. Contextualization is, as I understand it, the way the church seeks to adapt the presentation of biblical truth according to the culture its in. So based on that principle, the presentation of the gospel is going to look different depending on whether you are in a rural church, an urban church, a church in Liberia, or a church in Switzerland. And frankly, it’s a hard issue that divides alot of people. You have to ask questions like:

“What is the role of illustration in presenting the gospel?”

“How does media play a role in that presentation?”

“How far do we contextualize without distorting the rock solid truth?”

These are tough questions, and I don’t want to make light of them. But I think there is a danger here when the contextualization becomes the focus of the message, and that’s where the sentiment comes in. Some would make the argument, “People have technology everywhere. They’ve got MTV, streaming video, and can make their own movies on their Macbooks. If the church doesn’t have something that can compete with these things then there’s no hope of keeping people there.”

I understand the sentiment behind the statement. And I appreciate the desire for the church to be excellent in all areas. But the way this argument is presented is that without these things, the right soundboard, the great video, the engaging fireworks display, then people aren’t going to listen to the gospel.

Bull.

That’s an attractional church model, and my fear is that if a church is based on attraction, then it’s one small step from entertainment. Should the church be engaging? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Thought-provoking? Yes. Entertaining? No.

I’m reminded of Paul who had to contend with the other traveling false apostles, those who were better speakers, more nicely dressed, and more polished than he was. And yet he had the confidence to let the gospel speak for itself: “When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

That’s the affectional church. That’s the church that works not to compete with the culture, but to present the gospel and let people fall in love with the message. That’s the church that builds holy affection for Jesus. And that’s the church where people stay, even when they’re not entertained.

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Don’t get me wrong: I like Mark Driscoll. And Andy Stanley. Heck, I’ll say it: I like the creativity and admire the delivery of Ed Young. These guys are amazing communicators and it’s no wonder they have a tremendous following.

But there’s something in me that’s a little uneasy about a church going so multi-site that churches across the country look to a guy who lives thousands of miles away as their preacher of the morning. (I wrote more about the vitual pastor in this article).

The trajectory of the church seems to headed this way, and I’ve got to wonder if we are seeing the rise of the next stage of denominationalism; this time, the denominations won’t be called “Methodist” or “Baptist,” but instead organized under the platform of a main speaker. Now I don’t doubt the sincerity of these guys. I certainly don’t doubt their ability to effectively communicate God’s word. In fact, you could easily argue that they have more or less been pushed into this position by bad preaching. After all, who wants to hear the local guy when you can have Andy Stanley?

But maybe there’s another reason that has forced this issue – sheer lack of numbers. Where are all the preachers? My own demonination is reporting a continuing drop in seminary enrollment and that less and less people are giving their lives to be pastors. I can’t help but wonder why that is. I suppose you could argue that they’re being run off. After all, the job of “pastor” doesn’t have the greatest reputation as far as paychecks or sustaining a good home life. Or maybe it’s sort of circular, that young ‘uns feel intimidated about potentially having to “compete” with the big dogs on the video screens. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem like we are turning them out any more.

So where did they all go? Where are all the preachers? I don’t think it’s arrogant for someone to stand up, under the calling of God, and say simply: “God has given me something to say. And I’m going to say it.” It maybe my perception, but it seems like fewer and fewer are doing so.

What do you think?

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One of the principles of church growth involves creating homogeneous groups. That is, that the most effective way of growing a church is to create a group, or a church for that matter, where people look, dress, earn, and act similarly to each other. The idea behind it is that people feel most comfortable and attracted to groups that are like them. So in doing this, we target a specific group of people, gear all our marketing efforts toward them, and hope to create a buzz in that specific group of people. The homogeneous unit that’s created becomes the core of the church.

And it works. Make no mistake, it works. Well.

But just because it works doesn’t mean it’s right.

In truth, I like being in churches where people look like me. It’s easier there because I know they’re thinking what I’m thinking. They’re feeling similar things to what I’m feeling. It’s comfortable there. Only one problem – that’s not what heaven is going to be like.

If places where people are different colors, have a different socioeconomic background, or are a different culture make me uncomfortable, then the afterlife has a surprise in store. God has always been cultivating a people of His own, and that people represents every tribe, tongue, and nation. And in heaven, those people will retain their cultural identity. We’ll hear every language being spoken under the sun before the throne of Jesus.

Now among other things, the church of today is supposed to be a glimpse into the future. It’s a foretaste, a preview of what eternity is going to be like. If that’s true, how can we intentionally or unintentionally try and cultivate a church experience where we all look the same? It’s effective, sure.

But what is pragmatic isn’t always what is right.

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