Friday, October 3, 2008

Gospel Intentionality: Programs vs. "Ordinary" Life

Another good quote from Total Church by Chester and Timmis:
The need for gospel intentionality means that leaders must work hard to create and reinforce this gospel culture. I remember speaking at a conference about ordinary life with gospel intentionality. Questioner and questioner asked me about the structures that needed to be in place. But you cannot program ordinary life! "When do you do evangelism?" people asked. "When do you pastor one another?" "While I do the washing up" did not seem to satisfy them, but it was the only answer I could give! All this requires people who are proactively committed to speaking the gospel to unbelievers (and other Christians).

A community whose culture is gospel-intentioned is the antidote to programmed discipleship, where "church" is fit into schedules.

The Church is the Body of Christ, and we need it. We need community. We need the sustenance the community provides.
Jesus asked Peter a question: "Do you love Me?"
Peter said yes.
And Jesus didn't say, "Then teach my sheep how to self feed."

What this means is not an end to churchly provision. What it means is an end to The Program as key to spiritual growth. What it means is we cannot install an event, and when we see it doesn't work, install another event and hope it succeeds.

Discipleship is about following Jesus. And people have to want to do this.
Rather than attempt to program churchgoers into discipleship, why don't we try this:

a) proclaim and exemplify the gospel as often as possible.
Isn't it odd that for so long we have begun with the idea that we must demonstrate how practical and applicable to every day life Christianity is, yet so few people are actually being matured by the process that begins that way? I think it has something to do with the fact we aren't beginning by addressing the real problem. We assume it is dysfunction or lack of success, when really it is sin.

b) express and exemplify the need for community as often as possible.
Many churches are finding that simply introducing a small group program doesn't magically make their folks want to do small groups. You have to demonstrate the need for it to them by authentic preaching in worship gatherings and by setting up opportunities between people to share their hearts, arranging mentor relationships, etc. Maybe this means testimonials from the stage. Maybe this means returning to an on-campus small class structure with the aim of eventually transitioning them into home groups. But this is something that has to be cultivated, not just programmed.

c) focus on, center on, orient around Jesus and worship him as God.
What good is it to win people to the life of a church's programs if they aren't in love with Jesus? We have been stunning failures at Christ-intoxication. Exalt Jesus as more than a role model who teaches how to handle your finances, and those who see him as the Door rather than merely the doorman to success will be all the more ready to follow despite the cost.

d) trust the Holy Spirit.
This something that convicts me personally, and I lump myself in with shame: We don't pray enough.

Are we trusting our programs, or are we trusting God?

I don't believe the right response to "the programs aren't working" is to conclude the life of the Church is not the place for Christians, new and "old," to be fed. I don't believe the right response to "our goods and services aren't having their desired effect" is to work on creating more independent Christians.
We just have to further and more fully devote to the proclamation of and the living out of the Gospel of Jesus. In community. Feeding each other. Having all things in common. Caring for the least of these.
That's life together.


Todd Spargo said...

This is a great post, Jared. This is sort of what I've been getting at with my "advertising obsession”.

“Are we trusting our programs, or are we trusting God?”

Substitute advertising for programs in that quote and you’ll see what I’ve been getting at all along.

Whenever I ponder the question of advertising I think back to what drew the crowds to Jesus. It seems to me, in a community whose culture is gospel-intentioned, the crowds will come in much the same way.

How will they know we are there? Through our proclamation of and the living out of the Gospel of Jesus.

Keep up the great work. I completely enjoy reading your posts!

Jared said...

Thanks, Todd!

Brandon said...

good stuff...