The Sunday Morning Obsession

Worship bandThis is an excerpt from Lance Ford. Sadly Sunday Morning ‘church’ seems to be the highlight of many a Christian’s spiritual experience. I can’t imagine that Jesus intended this to be so. That the best expression of our faith should happen inside a religious building?  I’m not sure that the average Australian is remotely interested in Sunday Morning Church no matter how we jazz it up. But many Christians love a slick, well oiled Sunday event – and would be offended by me describing it as such.

A couple of nights ago I was channel flipping and caught a talk being given at a church planter’s conference. First of all, I was surprised to see a church planting conference being shown on TV. I was soon cringing though as the (well known) speaker said, “The first priority you have is to present a great Sunday morning service.” The camera quickly scanned the audience, as a sea of goateed future planters scribbled down this “critical” learning point.

I literally yelled at the television, “No!” This is one of the biggest problems we have with attractional churches today. Pastors and church staffs are obsessed with Sunday mornings. The vast majority of time, resources, and energy go into creating and sustaining Sunday mornings. Jesus’ commission to make disciples gets the leftovers.

Lance Ford   shapevine@christianitytoday.com

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The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2

Continuing Maurice Smith’s great article – this is the encouraging part.

Maurice Smith

 

The Collapse of Evangelicalism

Part 2: Evangelicalism in Transition

Now I want to offer several observations regarding what I see as the outcome of that collapse.

Evangelicalism will look more like the church of the first century, and less like the church of the last (i.e., 20th)  century. I’m tempted to simply allow that statement to stand without comment – forcing you to simply digest it without elaboration . . . . but what fun would that be?!  When David Lehman in “The Answering Stranger” declared, “The Twentieth Century is the name of a train that no longer runs”, he could easily have been referring to the Evangelical Church. The Church of the 20th Century witnessed the rise and fall of the temperance movement in the first half of the century(culminating in the 18th amendment), and the rise of the pro-abortion movement (culminating in Roe v. Wade) in the last half of the century. The Evangelical Church has witnessed Billy Graham filling Times Square (September 2, 1957), and “gay pride” marches filling those same streets. The Evangelical Church has witnessed the rise of the mega-church and the precipitous decline in the impact of the church on American culture. We began the 20th Century with a world wide awakening of historic proportions, and we ended the century with . . . . nothing of note. I believe God is done with the Church of the 20th Century, and He is taking us back to the Church of the 1st Century.

Evangelicalism will be vastly smaller, but vastly more effective.  Let’s face it. In traditional Western Christianity of the 20th Century, “success” is measured by size: the size of your congregation, the size of your budget, the size of your facility, the size of your staff, etc.  Size matters . . . except in the Kingdom of God.  But the day of “size matters” is quickly Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2”

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1

nooseThis is a reprint of an excellent article by Maurice Smith of the Parousia Network. It’s a bit of a challenging read but worth it.

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1: Anatomy of A Collapse 

The English author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once observed regarding the hangman’s noose, “It marvelously concentrates the mind”. Confrontation with our own mortality, whether at the point of a gun or the short end of a noose, tends to do that. There comes a point in every person’s life or the life of a community when, when confronted with the harsh facts of reality, they must decide whether or not “denial” is just a river in Egypt, or whether it represents a condition of the mind which they must overcome and move on if they are to survive. That, I believe, is where Evangelicalism as a biblically based Christian movement is at in the opening decade of the 21st Century. We stand at the short end of a noose. We are in need of a very searching self examination of who and where we are. Why? Because Evangelicalism as an identifiable movement of God’s people gives every evidence of both internal and external collapse; a collapse which will prove fatal to “church as we have known it” and is probably  irreversible apart from a divine intervention unlike anything we have witnessed or experienced in well over 100 years. 

Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1”

A MEGA CHANGE

I’ve been struggling to find inspiration or motivation to write something lately but there’s plenty out there to inspire. Such as this Article by John White from www.lk19.com . He writes …

I was delighted this last week to meet Jim Shindler, a LK10 member visiting here in Denver from Dayton, Ohio.  Jim is part of the leadership team of Apex, a mega “church” of 2500, which in the last few years has been moving toward house church as the primary expression of church.  Here are some of the ways that they are moving beyond the “cell church” model.

1.  Their name.  Apex:  A Network of Community Churches.  It’s not Apex Community Church.  Apex is not a church, it’s a network of churches.  See www.apexcommunity.com

2.  Their message.  In the large gathering on Sunday morning the message is:  “This is not church.  Church happens in the small groups scattered throughout the city.  If you have to choose, go to your house church before you come to the large gathering.  The larger gathering serves the smaller gatherings.”

3.  Their connection.   Regional groupings of house churches are connected but autonomous.  Every house church and every regional network must listen to the Lord for direction.  (It doesn’t come down from centralized leadership.)  They are free to separate from Apex and go any direction the Lord leads them.

Jim would be the first to say that they don’t have this all figured out.  At the same time, it’s clear that they are developing an important new prototype for other traditional churches.

Deja Vu

I’ve been musing on the similarities between the apostolic movement in Australia and the movement that I was a part of in the UK during the 70s and 80s.

Back in ’74 I found myself, at the end of a long period of backsliding, thrust into a new thing that was emerging in the UK – a house church.  House churches flourished in the 70s in the UK, born out of the Charismatic Movement and expressing a dissatisfaction with the existing expressions of Christianity and a desire to get back to ‘simple’ church. Those in more traditional structures dismissed them or criticised them as being theologically shallow, dangerously independent or ‘fly by night’ but they never the less flourished and many of the most mature and influential churches and networks in the UK today trace their beginnings back to homechurch.

Alongside this movement however was another important move of God that embraced these pioneers and gave them the foundations they needed in order to stay on track and grow. This was the Restoration Movement, a move of God to restore the foundational ministries of apostles and prophets to the church.  Men like Terry Virgo, Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallace and Gerald Coates emerged as fathers and mentors to these fledgling churches and brought stability, orthodoxy and vision.  Under their ministry there was a restoration to the church of such concepts as true community, discipleship, the true nature of the Church, the oneness of the Body of Christ, the power of grace, and the true destiny of the Church. It was an exciting time.

Consequently the churches that embraced the apostolic began to grow.  Many grew too big to meet in a home but, instead of multiplying into a network of home churches, they followed the conventional wisdom of the day and moved out of their homes into a hired hall.  And then out of a hired hall into a purpose built building.  Then out of a smaller building into a larger one.  And on the way, of course, out of jeans into suits, out of simple acoustic worship into a worship band and out of song sheets into overhead projectors, and out of OHPs into Digital Projectors etc etc…..  And, in the process, out of ‘simple’ church into ‘sophisticated’ church – Sunday morning ‘event’ church. I did it myself and loved.

The problem was however, that although we loved the new songs, the bigger crowds and the you-beaut technology, our churches in fact often looked very similar to the ones that many had left in the 60s/70s except that the buildings were newer, the songs more contemporary, the technology more up to date and the preaching more entertaining. Sometimes though, if we were honest, we would find ourselves travelling home from ‘church’ wondering whether we had actually touched the throne of God or simply been caught up in the ‘event’. Bit like the effects of a good concert or movie. The trouble is that it is not easy to see that when you are a musician or preacher, caught up in the program of producing the Sunday morning event (and making sure that it is a better event than the one offered up the road). Sometimes you have to leave the thing to see what it has actually become.

IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN

And that, I believe, is where we are right now. Deja vu. It’s happening again. There is an exodus taking place in the Western nations of people who feel that they have for a long time been mere spectators in a system that is geared towards producing the Sunday event, as if it were meant to be the main expression of church. People who are looking for Continue reading “Deja Vu”