Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reaching the Culture... Reaching those Up and Out.... Reaching the World - it's not working.

The church of Jesus in the earth has become very effective at reaching the desperate.  Reaching the poor. Reaching the lost (in worldly terms).  That's why we have soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Most of us came to Jesus when we were at a low time in life.  Transitions.  So our ministry efforts target those in transition.  It's spiritually low hanging fruit.

It wasn't about eternal life they came.  Not for most.  Studies show that even the most ungodly believe that if there is a heaven, they are going there.  Dangling a sinner over hell with a rotten stick doesn't work in our culture.  Even the most pagan get religious funerals.  Look at the huge catholic funeral the other day for an avowed atheist.  Or at least an agnostic.

The church no longer speaks the language of the culture.  We have fallen into a trap of trying to create a better club... one where we can LOVE people into the kingdom.  We depend on our ability to reach the lost.  So we come up with all kinds of semi effective ways of assimilating people by involvement, groups, programs, systems and every kind of connecting program in the world.  The church growth seminars perpetuate the myths.   Everyone hears about the guy who built this great ministry by (Fill in the blank) so we ought to all copy him or her.  That's the problem.  It's in the world.  It is worldly in it's execution.  The gangs on the street do better than we do.  The fans of popular culture music and TV do better at building loyalty.  The sports teams do better.  Go to a football game in the USA and you will see people who find more love and acceptance than we will ever be able to show in our flesh.  And boy are they loyal. The cheering and enthusiasm dwarfs nearly anything going on in our culture by the church today.   Even the great conferences and gatherings are not even close to what the world puts on. 

That is the rub.  Our flesh will fail us if we depend on it to build our church.  The flesh dependent things we do in the HOPES  of drawing a crowd into our church building no longer work.  We have veered off course in our hopes to build a church rather than to build a kingdom.  Church building has become a business designed to maintain the lifestyle of the senior leader in many cases.  IF there were term limits on Senior Leaders in today's church (they used to have them, it was called martyrdom) you would find less emphasis on building churches.  IF you knew prophetically that the church you are building would only have you for 4 years and then you would die AND... as an added caution, no relative of yours would be allowed to take over your work ... would you work as hard as you do now.   Would that next conference or program even exist?  I doubt it.  I have often thought about the word "Work" related to a ministry.  I use it.  Yet.. it's not really supposed to be YOUR work.  It's HIS work.  When you look at Christian Media in all it's public forum... it doesn't look much like His work to me. The ministry machine driven by money in America no longer is functioning.  Look all around you.  Is this the world you want to pass on to your grandchildren?  Your ministry is not the Church... it is the world you were to ye therefore into.  We didn't.  We begged the world to come ye therefore into us.  Visit our church we cry to a world that ignores us.  The church of today thinks she is the Bride of Christ.  No she's not...  the church of today in our culture doesn't qualify.  She is too spotted and wrinkled to be recognized thus.  We have nothing to show to anyone.

The conventional effort that we use to "Build" churches is great worship (which I love) and Great Preaching (which I love even more).  For the Christian it is a wonderful experience.  To the unsaved, it's simply strange.  The idea of Inviting your friends to church to get saved is a cultural oxymoron when the Pastor is preaching and the music is about loving a God they don't even know.  Church is for believers.  Not for the unsaved.  I'm thankful for church... but if we were about building the Kingdom God's way the churches should of necessity empty out.  That would be counterproductive however in today's church culture. Who would pay the tithe to keep the lights on?  Who's gonna pay the mortgage?   How would the Senior Leader live?

The answer of course is BY FAITH (as in the just shall live by).  We have made doctrines of Living by the Gospel and the Oxen unmuzzled.  They are near sacraments in today's assemblies.  Still in all they are not working.  It's a downward spiral.

If Preaching, Teaching and Great Music were going to reach our culture for Jesus it would have already happened.  We are buried in it.  Yet.. we are adrift.  What I am about to share came from the cry of my heart.  It came because I knew that what is happening in our efforts to reach our culture isn't working.  We have lost the culture.  At least in the western world. I asked the Lord... HOW can we reach this lost culture?  The culture has trumped the truth of God in the hearts and minds of most Americans. 

He spoke to me.  Fast as he often does.  He asked me, "I saved you when you were JUST LIKE the people your heart now breaks for.  People with money.  People with stuff.  People who apparently have it all.  How did you come?"    I reviewed those experiences... it caused me to look at the culture with fresh eyes. 

It is always dangerous to use your own testimony as a template for ministry.   Yet, those who came out of drugs seem to have an anointing in reaching those in the same condition.  Those who came out of Alcohol seem to minister well to reach those bound in the same way.  Perhaps God has put this on my heart for so long because He wanted to give me a picture of how it can be done.  This may not be original with me... but it is what God has given me so I will reveal it as it was revealed to me.

I began to search the scriptures.  A light went on.  The rapid growth of the early church had little to do with the trappings we depend on today for church growth.  Preaching, Teaching, Music, Programs, Fellowship, Loving people into the kingdom.  None of that.  No assimilation or connection systems.  There was more.

People flocked to get in... why?  For the same reason the lost (including the up and outers) will if we once more begin to use what they had and offer it to them in the same way.  Joel Osteen who is constantly criticized for his "Motivational" preaching has tapped into a part of this.  He offers a better life (best life now).  Remember, he is well aware that no one believes in heaven or hell at least for them.  They want to know what to do about TODAY.  People are discontent or uncertain with where they are today, so they trot off the the bookstore and buy a new age book, or off to the local psychic, or look at the Oprah show with all kinds of new age promises.  It's the same meme.  They want the supernatural.  They don't want what we are now offering.  I will now explain... in my next post.

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