Archives For Will the real church please stand up?


This next post is from Jonathan Pettus who has been a close friend for many years. He has worked for the Lebanon Road and Mt. Juliet churches and is currently working in the hotel industry in Florence, Alabama. He is married to the former Betsi Hepler and they have two sons, Xander and Connor. “JP” is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University with a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and Communications. You will enjoy his keen insight into how we typically approach discipleship versus the kingdom way of approaching discipleship. Enjoy!    

Most churches today are oblivious to their Biblically-mandated mission. Oh, they think they’re on target, but, sadly, they’ve been off-course for decades, maybe even generations. Here are three big misconceptions regarding the mission of the church:

■         The mission of the church isn’t to “seek and save the lost.” That was Jesusmission.

■         The mission of the church isn’t to be a good neighbor through service to the local community. We’ve got civic organizations that do that.

■         The mission of the church isn’t even to provide programs and ministries for its members to “get involved” or “be plugged in” or to “mature in the faith.” That’s on each of us individually.

So what is the mission of the church?

To make disciples. Simple as that.

We understand that “disciple” means “follower” and that “discipleship” is the process by which disciple-making takes place. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 that there are two components involved in disciple-making: baptism and teaching. Therefore, a disciple is one who is obedient in baptism and observes all that Jesus commanded.

So Biblical discipleship is about transforming lives through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Too many times, I’m afraid, our churches have confused “making disciples” with “making converts.” We’re world-class at the art of convert-making. We can convince people to line up with our moral or doctrinal positions, but we often fall short in helping them mature in their relationship with Jesus. We have to understand that making disciples, at its core, has little to do with church attendance, tithing, or ministry involvement. It has everything to do with reconciling souls to God through Jesus.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 that we have been given the “ministry of reconciliation,” meaning that as Christ’s ambassadors to the world, we have been entrusted with the most important ministry imaginable- bringing souls into a real, growing, and active relationship with God. So how do we, as the church, go about doing that?

I think there must be a paradigm shift. There must be a realization that attendance, service, and giving are a byproduct of discipleship and not the means to an end. There must be a realization that discipleship is intentional, but rarely programmable. There must be a realization that true discipleship is an intimate endeavor.

Granted, I have a limited scope, but here are a few things that must exist in order for there to be real and intimate discipleship:

■         Gospel-centered teaching. Too many churches fall back to the comforts of teaching morality and the fringes of the Gospel. We need more teaching on the nature and character of God and what our lives should look like in response to that…without skipping over the difficult parts.

■         Accountability. The church must be willing to humbly, lovingly, and consistently confront sin in its members. Difficult? Yes. Worth it? Eternally.

■         Community. As the local church grows larger, it must grow smaller. Discipleship rarely takes place in large groups. People need the opportunity to wrestle with life and faith with a smaller group of brothers and sisters who know them intimately.

■         Equipping. Part of the discipleship maturation process must include equipping individuals for service. Not service done to feel included or to check a box, but service that pours out of a heart of gratitude and the desire for the Kingdom to grow. Service that stems from the realization that God has uniquelygiftedus and preciselyplacedus for His glory.

 

When intimate, Biblical discipleship occurs many things happen. People attend, they give, and they serve. But they do so only because their lives are in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. Numbers have their place, but faithfulness and maturity are better indicators of whether or not a church has realized and is locked in on its true mission.

 

Agree? Disagree? Where do you think true, Biblical discipleship takes place?

 


This post is from another good friend of mine, David (Dave) Miller. Dave graduated from Freed-Hardeman University with a business degree and currently works as a realtor for Crye-Leike. He is married to the former Harmony Holland and recently they welcomed their son into this world, Thomas Paxton Miller. Dave and Harmony worship at the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Dave has an amazing knowledge of people and probably is one of the best I have seen at understanding who people are and getting to know them. You will enjoy these words tremendously. 

First step: BUILD RAPPORT. Most sales jobs say this is the key starting point for a relationship to blossom. To me intimacy is about breaking down barriers and the walls of separation. Finding common ground on everyday items can lend itself to a comfort level that will breed meaningful conversations. The meaningful conversations may or may not be deep thoughts but I’m learning that any spiritual conversation is better than just our standard how’s the weather small talk.

I’m finding that more and more people are receptive to spiritual conversation if it is mixed in with our everyday chatter. How often will non believers be open to a discussion that starts off with “You should go to church more often” before we even find some sort of common interest with that person?
For years I said that I would focus more on evangelism when I get older or when I get more time or when I get to a certain place in life. I’m 30 years old now and I’m wondering if I will still be using those same excuses when I’m 60. I then started thinking that maybe I should start living way below my means so that I can use some of my work time to “do” ministry. Thankfully I have found a peace in that I can evangelize during everyday activity. This can be done even on days that I feel 24 hours isn’t enough to get it all done.
We are always taught to make the most of any opportunity to spread the love of Christ. But what does an “opportunity” look like to you? For many, I’m afraid we are waiting for the dream come true opportunity. One that would be so easy we wouldn’t feel any discomfort at all. The perfect situation that someone would randomly knock on our door and say, “I’m 99.9% sure I want to become a Christian. All I ask is that you tell me that I should and I will.” Wake up; it’s not likely to happen this way.
Opportunities are around us every day if we can only learn how to mix our everyday contacts and conversations with some sort of Godly words. It starts by being intentional. Being intentional about bringing up a faith based thought. For many situations the simpler the thought the better it will be. It can’t be right out of the gate and that is why some sort of rapport needs to be built first. Once it is then you will be surprised what type conversations can come from a simple, “God sure gave us a beautiful day today!” or when someone praises or compliments us we can say “I give God all the credit, He is so good to me.”
For fellow Christians we can get to the much needed deeper conversations if we only are willing to build the rapport and then step out and show interest in the spiritual well being of someone. We have to be willing to share our own struggles and be willing to help when others share theirs. We have to be intentional with where the conversation goes and the questions we ask. Thousands of times after worship I have asked many fellow Christians, “How’s it goin?” or “Do you think the Titans are going to win today?” but how many times have I asked, “how were your spiritual thoughts this week?” or “how’s your relationship currently with your spouse or kids?” or “what are your current struggles that the devil is currently hitting you with?”
How intimate will our evangelism and Christian fellowship be if we are willing to mix some sort of faith based thought with our everyday conversation? For strangers it takes building rapport. Once we have that we must be intentional about where we take the conversation. These intentions are highly needed with our friends and fellow Christians that we already have some sort of connection with. It’s not easy and in the past I thought I could never do it. It’s a struggle that I’m trying to get better at. Let’s pray about it and remember that nothing else in this world matters more than sharing Jesus with others. Are we going to say we will be better at it when the time is right or when that perfect opportunity hits us? Hopefully we won’t be asking ourselves that same thought in another 30 years. My hope is that you and I will both make the most of our present daily lives and that our love for Christ will show itself in how intentional our rapport building is and how intentional our spiritual conversation is with others.


This post is from a friend of mine named Kevin Turbeville. Kevin is the Youth Minister for the Rogersville Church of Christ in Rogersville, Alabama where he and his wife Leila live and work. He is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University where he received a degree in Bible and Youth Ministry and worked in the admission department for a number of years. Kevin is a “go-getter” and has a heart and passion for service in the kingdom. You will be blessed by his words.

Intimacy in Service :: Luke 7:36-50

Let’s consider the sort of life to which Christ calls His followers. From the beatitudes we see that a covenant of blessing is made with the beggar in spirit, the conscience-stricken, the unpretentious, those that starve for righteousness, the compassionate, the transparent in heart, those who embrace peace, and the tyrannized. (Matthew 5) What would we call the disciple of Christ in which this sort of character is found? In Luke 7 Christ calls her faith-filled.

This woman who by all indication is not far from the sort dragged before Him in John 8. Imagine the last 24 hours of this woman’s life. If she was indeed a prostitute, had she plied her trade the previous evening? Since she was a “sinner known to all”, had someone approached her “to conduct business” on her way to find the Christ? Is this the sort of person the church would bid God-speed while proclaiming their faith to all within earshot? Don’t worry, just like in everything else, if we won’t, Jesus will. The woman with the alabaster box held Jesus Christ in such high regard that she, in spite of His audience, subjected herself to the ridicule of on-lookers just to approach His feet in order to take the filth that covered His feet onto her body.

In being asked to contribute an article on “Intimacy in Service” I found myself at a loss. I had no idea where to start the conversation as to how we are to go about serving on an intimate level. Today I see that I had trouble finding where to begin because I have never experienced the sort of brokenness the woman with the alabaster box knew. The kind of brokenness that calls me to His feet with tears because I know there is nowhere else to go. You see when I approach Christ I am aiming right for His face. I need Him to see me. I want to know He knows I am there. Kind of like, “a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel.”(James 2) When in truth those that are righteous in their aim to please find it difficult to get up off their knees.

If the real church is to truly stand up when it comes to intimacy in service, we must be prepared to sit down. Sit down at the feet of the Master, down there with the rest of us sinners that populate this wretched planet. Because if the statistics are true, and we are willing to accept that perception is reality, then there is a world of hurt out there not looking to the compassion of the church because they believe it is a myth, and if they believe that the body of Christ serves the broken of this world is an urban legend, then what do they believe of its Head?


This post is from a dear friend Rob Hatchett. Rob is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and is currently President of Crye-Leike Franchises, Inc. He is married to the former Rachel Parker and they live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and Rachel worship at Clear Creek Church of Christ in Hixson, Tennessee where he is their song leader. I believe you will grow from this lesson as it will draw you closer to understanding what intimacy in worship is like…or what it should be like.

Intimacy in Worship

I Samuel 16:7 – Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

I believe 1 Samuel 16:7 can be applied correctly to many areas in our spiritual lives. I’m afraid one area where I haven’t let this verse apply is in worship to God. I’ve spent countless hours of my life critiquing how other people choose to worship God.  I observed some people as being too emotional in my opinion. I observed others as being too unemotional in my opinion. But the fact is – while I’m busy looking at the person’s outward appearance, God is busy looking at their heart.

So I begin this blog by repenting for at times appointing myself the hall monitor of worship services. Whether you attend a church where your song service consists of the greatest hits from 1840-1940, or you attend a church where it resembles a high school pep rally – if God can see a heart of worship then it doesn’t matter what people like I used to be have to say.

I personally get a little nervous when I read about the Pharisees because I see so many verses about them that at times could apply to me.  Take this verse for example from Mark 7:

6″This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7in vain do they worship me,.
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

My worship transformation from Pharisee to Intimacy started with my prayer closet. I had read about Daniel praying 3 times a day in his closet but I had never really done a lot of that private stuff by myself. I was much better at my public relationship with God (sounds like a Pharisee doesn’t it?).

One day I decided it was time to get in better physical shape. My plan was to run 3 miles each morning and then I thought I would try spending 20 minutes in prayer. This sounded like an insurmountable task! Not the running though. That was the easy part. I didn’t know if I could actually spend 20 minutes communicating with God. I really didn’t know what to say. My personal prayers usually consisted of me telling God the things that I needed him to do for me that day and that usually took less than a minute or two.

Truth is, it wasn’t easy when I started. I decided to start mixing in some scripture reading and worship music with my prayer time. That almost made it like God was talking to me and then I was talking back to Him. I started feeling a connection with God that I really hadn’t felt before. Strange how that works! When you spend quality time with someone you start feeling a lot closer to them. Plus – my prayers stopped being completely about what I needed God to do for me.  I started looking for people each day that I could pray for and I actually started asking people if they needed me to pray for anything in their life. Even more, I started asking God to show me ways I could bring Him glory in my life.

In all my years of Christian high school, Christian college, and regular church attendance, this was the most intimate I had ever been with God.

This intimacy in prayer then changed my worship in song. I was the regular “song leader” at our church but I realized that my focus was simply trying to help people sing well. If I was going to lead, I wanted to be a “worship leader”.  However, as I was losing my selfishness in my prayers, I could feel God tugging on me that I needed to lose my selfishness in worship as well. This meant I needed to stop leading and simply learn to worship with my heart in song.

Like my prayers, this was pretty tough at first. I decided one day to close my eyes in worship as I was singing. I know everyone is different but closing my eyes really helped my focus on God. I couldn’t see anyone else and though my eyes were closed, I could see myself sitting at the throne of God. Songs that I had sung all my life took on a new meaning as I was now singing them before the throne of God. As I lifted my hands in worship, it was now because I was reaching out to God and not because it was a standard act of worship.

My father-in-law described his worship in a way that really impacted me. He called it his “love fest” with God. That’s the best definition of worship I had ever heard. Worship has nothing to do with showing up to church to sing. Worship is about having an intimate connection with God and expressing our love, adoration, and praise in whatever way the Spirit leads you. I just wished it hadn’t taken me 28 years to figure this out.

So here’s the question for us now. How do we teach/train our younger generations to have an intimacy with God through worship? The main way they learn is by observing other Christians – not just in corporate worship settings but also in day-to-day life. Are these younger Christians observing a “love fest” with God through song, prayer, and mediation from us?


I appreciate all of the comments from the last post as many of them resonated with me. I also had many comments from people who came up to me personally and thanked me. These posts are not about me though as it is about people who want more intimacy in church and have struggled finding that intimacy. One of my parents came up to me and said, “I appreciated your blog but this is not just a college and young adult thing. I am struggling too!” People long for something greater, something more genuine, something that ties them to the creator and allows them to be honest, open and accountable. In the last post a gentleman discussed technology as a cause of our lack of intimacy. People are more concerned with iPhones, iPads, computers, and the latest gizmo rather than open and honest communication. I agree at least in part because I am not sure if technology is the cause or the result of a lack of intimacy. After all, technology is neutral right? It does not tell you what to do or where to go or who not to listen to.

At any rate I have enrolled some friends of mine to blog. We are joining in on this conversation and look to do more with it in the coming months as we think about what we need to do to help churches all over. These guys are not only friends but they are deep thinkers that approach issues better than I do. So here is the line-up and who is doing what…

  • Monday April 2nd – Intimacy in Worship (Rob Hatchett)
  • Wednesday April 4th – Intimacy in Service (Kevin Turbeville)
  • Thursday April 5th – Intimacy in Evangelism (Dave Miller)
  • Friday April 6th – Intimacy in Discipleship (Jonathan Pettus)
  • Monday April 9th – Intimacy in Relationships (Nathan Lewis)
  • Tuesday April 10th – Intimacy in Scripture (Robbie Mackenzie)

I am afraid we have missed the boat on a lot of key things and as a result, our young people (teens and twenty-somethings) have become disenchanted with organized religion. Keep in mind that this is not indicative of every church context (I know…your church is always the exception right?) but ever since I became a member of the Church of Christ I have seen some growing tension between organized church activities (including worship) and participation from younger generations. I do not have any hard data to prove this within the Churches of Christ (if there is such please comment below) nor do I think there is any specific causative reasons but what I do find fascinating is that there seems to be this trend among other Christian wings like the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me shows the trend of younger generations who are leaving organized religion. They are not leaving the faith as they still hold a high value on personal spirituality but they simply do not accept many of the different things their organized church stood for (Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus but not the Church is important here). But I wish there were data for the Churches of Christ to show the downward trending as all I have is experience which is limited in geography, theological leaning and other factors. 

So what I say cannot be authoritative because the Churches of Christ have no headquarters unless you count the various universities and preaching schools as different headquarters for different theological leanings (I digress).  I wonder what twenty-somethings long for in a church? Whatever it is I am not sure we are offering that to them. We think that we can have announcements, a few songs, a prayer, a quiet Lord’s Supper where nobody talks, a sermon, an invitation and a closing prayer and somehow that is supposed to spiritually feed them. Well you say, “Robbie, it is not our job to feed them as they are supposed to grow spiritually themselves.” That’s my issue!!! I think where we are failing can be summed-up in a few words: LACK OF INTIMACY.  

Somehow we feel that the teenagers and twenty-somethings are just supposed to “get it” by listening to sermons, attending a bible class and maybe the odd retreat thrown in there. Listen carefully: we need to get away from thinking that spiritual formation happens, or is even formed, from the church building. I have spent almost 8 years in youth ministry and the twenty somethings who were in my youth group would quickly tell you that they serve God not because of an event, sermon or bible class that happened inside the church building but it was the intentional, intimate relationships geared towards accountability, service and discipleship OUTSIDE OF THE BUILDING that changed their lives. 

That does not mean they are anti-church services or anti-preaching but it does mean that we have become too personal-salvation oriented to the neglect of inviting others to join in the conversation of spiritual formation. To illustrate this I wonder how many of your churches have poor, broken, drug and alcohol addicted people in your midst. Now church is not all about reaching poor people or those in the inner-city but nor does it mean churches are all about middle to upper-class people either. Why can’t we have both in the same building (some do…I know…but not many)? I think the issue is a lack of intimacy. We do not want to share their brokenness with them because it is ugly. Instead, we offer them to come to the building, hear a sermon, walk down forward and confess their sins and then we will pray for them. Good intentions but not enough. 

So here it is. Me and some friends of mine got together a few weekends ago to talk about this generation and what the church needs to do and what we came up with was nothing short of the Holy Spirit. We all admitted that we have failed to be intimate. Our marriages, our relationships with other men and women, our discipleship, our evangelism, our worship and our service. 

Here’s the problem…I don’t know how to solve it. How do you ask a church to become more intimate and change the way they do church in order to reach this generation? Also, how do you reach a church with intimacy issues who are in denial and say that they are ok? 

I don’t know but I am going to blog about it. These blogs are pro-Church and they are pro-Jesus (as if the two can be separated). I think we are just missing the boat somewhere and people are leaving and going elsewhere. So will the real church please stand up?    

***If you are from another denomination feel free to comment as I think the experience is normative across the evangelical board.