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I may be the only one who experiences this but our pre-church service routine on Sunday mornings is similar to battlefield scenarios in war situations. There are strategies to do just about everything that needs to get done. One of the following seems to happen to at least one of our children on Sunday mornings:

  • Pop-Tarts are smeared on their clothes
  • One of the girls takes a bow out of their hair (I know…first world issues)
  • Screaming
  • Stomping
  • Yelling
  • Arguing
  • Falling asleep in the three mile stretch from home to church building
  • Forgetting a child at home…just kidding

Church services should at the least be something the family looks forward to. Church services should be something every family needs to start their week. So why do we lose it so much? Why does it seem we drag our kids (and ourselves) to the building only to pretend to be excited to be there but secretly longing for the bed, TV or a combination of the two? There is probably not an easy answer to those difficult questions but I have a few suggestions for you to make the most out of your Sundays…

#1 Start early

This may seem like a no-brainer to most but start early. Wake-up with plenty of time to get things done. For you list-makers, start with the most important thing and then work your way down. It’s hard to start early which leads me to the next suggestion….

#2 Go to bed at a decent time Saturday night

You can’t always do it and I admire those of you who go to sleep at 2am and still come to services. Seriously, go to bed at a decent time to make the most out of Sunday. If you need energy to work, exercise or play you also need energy to worship.

#3 Husbands, help out.

The little things count men. I have been horrible at this and the reason why Sunday mornings are chaotic in our family is that I have not contributed like I should. So I try to get things done on Fridays so I don’t have to go into the office Sunday morning. If I do go into the office on Sunday morning it is at the last minute, only when I have helped get the kiddos dressed, fed and on their way. Help out husbands!

#4 Go out to breakfast as a family once in a while…

That would require you to execute numbers 1-2 but if you wake-up early enough then try to mix things up. Take them to Waffle House, Shoney’s, McDonald’s, Panera Bread or to the local diner. Mix things up and add some flavor into your routine.

#5 Keep things in perspective

Most of our chaos on Sunday mornings are not real problems. They are real in the sense that your teenager does not want to go to services, your hair-dryer broke, that outfit makes you look fat and you forgot to put gas in the tank. Those are real issues but in the grand scheme of things they are not real issues. Most of us get to choose to go to services or to stay home. You can always stay home. Nobody is forcing you to go. If you feel like you “have” to go to services and your family hates it then now is the time to start questioning your motives. Keep things in perspective and try not to let the little problems be “big problems.”


Hidden Agendas

October 24, 2012 — Leave a comment

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

– Acts 8:9-19

I love how Scripture has a way of telling you something in a way that nothing else can. Simon the Sorcerer (not hat’s not his last name) was a character the apostles encountered early in their post-Jesus ministry. No doubt the church started with a bang (see Acts 2) and things were on an exciting level. I notice that when excitement comes there is a tendency to veer off mission and vision in order to keep excitement going. Simon is just an example of many who probably felt the way he did but simply did not voice it. I think Simon struggled with pride and greed and his hidden agenda for the Spirit of God was, like Babel in Genesis 11, an issue of making a name for himself. I love Luke’s language as he says that he told people “he was somebody great.” When true power came (another discussion might be that the apostles never discarded that the magic was fake) he wanted it but perhaps masked his desire to follow Jesus with a hidden agenda. He simply wanted the power. He was selfish. Go figure. In walks every human being to have ever lived. There is a lot to unpack here but for the sake of time and space I want to quickly think about hidden agendas.

Have you ever gone to a meeting thinking you were going to go discuss business matters only to be surprised by a hidden agenda you were not privy to? Or what about relationships where people only talk to you when they need something done or they want to use what you are good at to leverage power, prestige or notoriety in their direction? Hidden agendas creep in relationships which means they creep in churches. Ministers have hidden agendas, elders have hidden agendas, parents in youth ministry have their own agendas. The problem is that when there are all of these hidden agendas it blinds us from keeping our eyes fixed on what is most important: kingdom. A side issue with hidden agendas is that we are not open and honest with people enough to wear we can talk with them in dialogue. Why not disclose your agenda and let people who are wise handle it?

Hidden agendas affect your vision like cancer affects the body. Slow… methodical… poisonous…and always lethal if untreated. A way to get rid of hidden agendas is to have a leadership buy-in to a vision that is so Christocentric and God-honoring that any issue, qualm or quarrel can be avoided simply by saying, “That is not our vision.” When people adopt a specific vision then their hidden agenda becomes part of the churches overall agenda. They secretly are doing what they can to adopt the vision of the church. This will avoid that diplomatic elder or that pessimistic “money-holder” or that youth minister who is secretive about introducing “new things” without church approval.

Get a vision…

Make it clear…

Make it specific…

Make it accessible…

Make it doable…

Stick to it!

What do you think?

I have rarely read a book that has probed my heart as much this one did. There are two groups who need to read this book: Elders and Ministers. This has to be read if a church wants to move from irrelevancy to relevancy. Yet, he challenges us because typically when we hear the word “relevant” we automatically think “unbiblical” or “conformist.” In this book you will be surprised by and even comforted by Andy’s challenges for us to be relevant AND biblical. Some pros and cons and some of my favorite quotes.


  • Innovative
  • Systems thinking
  • Looks at vision as template instead of programs/models
  • Immensely practical
  • Uses biblical wisdom
  • Tells his background to give you context
  • Seeks for each to look at his model and adapt instead of adopt.


  • He pushes the envelope and for many this is too much for them. I see it as a con only in the sense of how the reader may take this. I also see this as a pro.
  • Preaching method will make purists cringe. He rarely preaches expository sermons and will only use a verse or two if necessary. Keep in mind that this is too accomplish his the church’s vision of being a church for the unchurched.


  • As leaders, we are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup. Our responsibility is to empty ours.
  • I think every church should be a church irreligious people love to attend. Why? Because the church is the local expression of the presence of Jesus. We are his body. And since people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus, people who are nothing like Jesus should like us as well.
  • We don’t grade ourselves on size. We grade ourselves on how attractive we are to our target audience.
  • The tragedy is that what comes to mind when the average person thinks of church is such a far cry from what actually took place in the era in which the church was born. In the beginning, the church was a gloriously messy movement with a laser-focused message and a global mission.
  • It’s a shame that so many churches are married to a designed-by-Christians-for-Christians-only culture. A culture in which they talk about the Great Commission, sing songs about the Great Commission, but refuse to reorganize their churches around the Great Commission. These are often the same churches where members talk about grace, sing about how “amazing” it is, but create graceless cultures where only those who play by the rules feel welcomed.
  • Every innovation has an expiration date. At some point, new isn’t new anymore, regardless of what the package says. Eventually, new ideas feel like yesterday’s news. Bread is not the only thing that gets stale over time. Every new and innovative approach to ministry has an expiration date as well. Every single one. Nothing is irresistible or relevant forever. That should unnerve you a bit.
  • When people start with the, “Don’t preachers only work one day a week?” I have a good comeback. Feel free to use it. I say, “Think for a minute about the most stressful part of your job, the part that is the make-or-break for you financially. Imagine having to do that every week on a stage in front of your family, friends, strangers, and people who don’t particularly like you. Imagine not having the option to call in sick or reschedule because you weren’t quite ready for the presentation.” End of conversation.
  • Some of my favorite messages are the ones where I open up with a statement that makes everybody uncomfortable. Create tension and you’ve created interest. Iron out all the tension and you will eliminate interest.
  • The longer you’ve served where you are and the longer you’ve done what you are currently doing, the more difficult it will be for you to see your environments with the objectivity needed to make the changes that need to be made. The shorter version: Time in erodes awareness of.
  • People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests. As long as you are dishing out truth with no here’s the difference it will make tacked on the end, you will be perceived as irrelevant by most of the people in your church, student ministry, or home Bible study. You may be spot-on theologically, like the teachers of the law in Jesus’ day, but you will not be perceived as one who teaches with authority. Worse, nobody is going to want to listen to you.
  • The church needs leaders who are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we hand it off to the next generation in better shape than we found it.
  • The actual mission of many churches is Pay the Bills. No, you won’t find that written anywhere. But let’s be honest, most local churches don’t feel any urgency about anything until the money starts running out. Then suddenly they are concerned about “reaching people.” That’s when they start talking about how to attract young couples. A church can go for years and baptize nobody but children and no one is concerned. A church can go for a decade without a single profession of faith and nobody calls a special meeting. But miss budget for three or four months running? Suddenly everybody’s concerned. They’re talking about change. But not because they’ve had an encounter with God. Oh no. It was their encounter with an Excel spreadsheet that drove ‘em to their knees. Then, to add divine insult to injury, once the financial crisis passes, everything goes back to the way it was. The tragic truth is, most churches in the United States won’t change until finances force them to.

I talked with a friend at the YMCA this morning and he told me about this new project his church is doing. He said that discipleship has been on their minds for some time and they discovered this new effort where David Platt (wrote Radical) and Francis Chan (wrote Crazy Love and Erasing Hell) are collaborating to help churches be better disciples. It’s called Multiply Movement (

Multiply Movement

The tag line is simple:

“A simple, practical, biblical, helpful, and personal tool for disciples of Jesus who want to make disciples of Jesus.”

I think this is something that can be a game-changer for your church and just might be the help you need to get things… moving. Watch one of the videos below.

Francis Chan and David Platt talk discipleship




Last night I had the opportunity to speak at the Old Hickory Church of Christ on the subject, “Crafting Your Personal Vision.” I made the statement that in order to find your personal vision one needs to understand what bothers them in this world. In other words, in their heart of hearts, what do they look at and think to themselves, “This needs to change”? I made the statement that isn’t it ironic that many of the things we are most passionate about hold no eternal weight when it comes to the kingdom.

Enter Alabama Crimson Tide Fans.

I have witnessed a lot of SEC fanatics and the conference has some of the craziest fans in the world. The team that takes-the-cake are Alabama Crimson Tide fans. These people are dedicated and come in masses overtaking the Facebook, Twitter and every other social networking site. It is phenomenal and somewhat impressive. It’s also somewhat comical because these fans (every school has them…BAMA just has more) have real problems differentiating between Tide football just being a game versus the meaning of life. Remember this guy?

BAMA fans I realize you are getting mad right now and probably have websites, pictures and evidence to prove me wrong. I can hear the chorus now, “Robbie, there is a reason why BAMA has 14 national championships and your team doesn’t.” I guess so. I even think it is hilarious when I go to some of the major conferences among some of the youth ministry circles I run around in. Without failure I will see more Tide paraphernalia than any other team combined. It’s hilarious. I wish I saw more VOLS stuff there but we have had little to cheer about. I digress.

My point?

Why are we not that passionate about the gospel? What would it look like to have droves of people lining up to hear, proclaim and share the good news of Jesus Christ? I look at some other settings like The Village Church, The Church at Brook Hills, Mars Hill Church and North Point Community Church and the masses are coming to hear the gospel and I wonder, “Why can’t we do that?” I am not talking about copying models or giving up core doctrines but I think it comes down to something: passion. I wish we had 1/8 the passion for the gospel that BAMA fans have for football.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

What do you think?

Image from

We have attended meetings that made us want to dodge oncoming traffic. You know those meetings where you come out feeling like you have sparred with the New Zealand Rugby team? Since meetings are unavoidable I have compiled a list of some DOs and DONTs for us to think about.

  • DO have an agenda… and stick to it. No doubt you have traversed the incessant peak of rabbit chasing where one idea is thrown out after another. If you have a meeting pay attention to the rabbit chasers and kindly steer the meeting towards the agenda. (HINT: Rabbit chasers start questions with, “What about,” or, “What do you think…”). If it is a brainstorming meeting then questioning is important but still needs to be steered towards a purpose. I cringe when I attend a meeting and there is no plan and no agenda. My response is, “Why did we meet in the first place?”
  • DO understand the atmosphere. How are chairs and tables set up? If you are using AV equipment can everyone see or hear properly? What about coffee or food? Is it too cold or too hot in the room? Is this meeting going to be distracted with other activities occurring in proximity to your meeting location? 
  • DO understand your watch. This means planning the meeting in advance and understanding how the meeting is playing out. Some people may have families so setting the meeting too early or too late may affect your attendance. Also, something to keep in mind, if a meeting goes too long then the odds of the group meeting again will be reduced for people do not like to meet just for meeting’s sake. Try to practice balance and if it is going to be a long meeting then let the attendees know in advance.
  • DON’T make meetings too impersonal. Maybe throw a game in there or something else to lighten the mood. Keeping an agenda is fine but don’t go all Robert’s Rules of Orders on the group. That freaks people out a little.
  • DON’T give handouts during the meeting. If you do then make it absolutely brief with only major points and spaces for them to take notes. Why? If I get a huge handout then I will read it while the meeting occurs and so I will ignore people to read the document. Every… single… time. You do the same thing so if you are handing something out then do it afterwards so they can take it home.
  • DON’T answer, play or text with your phone. Turn the blasted thing off. I have noticed that adults are just as guilty as students are and every meeting I have attended there has been people on their phones either answering, texting or checking scores. Unless it is emergency turn the thing off. When you are on your device it says, “This meeting is not important enough for me to garner my attention and respect.” Don’t do that. 

What are some suggestions you have?

Today marks my 8th year living and working in Springfield. My first Sunday was August 1, 2004 but I consider starting the day I arrived which was July 31st. Let’s break it down (Using

  • 2,923 days or,
  • 252,547,200 seconds or,
  • 4,209,120 minutes or,
  • 70,152 hours or,
  • 417 weeks (rounded down)

All that to say that it has been a long time at one church. I love the reactions I get from people when I tell them I have been working for the same church for 8 years and that it has been my only ministry gig. Part of the reason is that there is a high turnover rate for those in ministry but also people just tend to move from church to church. I have a few youth minister friends who have been in ministry less than I have yet have worked in 3 or 4 churches. That exhausts me. There is something to be said about longevity in ministry in one context that allows a minister to be effective more than someone else.

Maybe I will post next week about some lessons a young youth minister can learn from my 8 years but I wanted to take this time to get a little personal and share a little what’s on my heart. I wanted to share some lessons from working at Main Street that are simply true of my experience. I hope these will bless a lot of people but I hope these really bless those at Main Street. Disclaimer…try not to read into this.

Ministry is tough…

I wish they would have told me this at Freed but most of those guys are not in full-time local church ministry and it is tough. There is not a day that goes by where I feel completely and utterly inadequate and incapable of doing the job assigned to me. From teenagers coming up to me telling me they have been abused to parents who would rather me raise their child I must admit that this job is difficult. Couple all of this with the hidden (I might add unrealistic) expectations people place on you and your family it is almost too much for folks to bear.

Teenagers are great catalysts… but they are still just teenagers…

I love working with teenagers because they want to do something new and exciting and if they buy-in to something they will jump two feet in. Yet, they are so frustrating because of their innate inconsistency in how they deal with God and life. They are mad, they are sad, they are happy, they don’t care, they are passionate and they are apathetic, they are bored and they are busy. And that’s only on a trip to Gatlinburg! I have to remind myself that after it is all said and done they are still teenagers and growth does not happen overnight.

There are two things that will destroy this church and every other church…

Fear and complacency. Is it just me or does the church of Christ tend to be 10-15 years behind when it comes to creativity? I am not talking about technology I am talking about new ways of thinking and being. I have watched the way our church and other churches do things and when something new and exciting comes up there are always two questions that follow…

  1. What will so-and-so think? FEAR
  2. What is wrong with the way we have always done it? COMPLACENCY

It might be just the way God wired me but at what point do you say, “I am tired of being afraid and being complacent?” At what point do we just have the brass to say, “This is a God-thing and it since it is not a Scriptural issue then it really does not matter”?

Main Street is full of people who work really hard for the Lord

We have some serious workers. We only have a membership of about 300 but I would say that a majority of those people are involved in the church work. We work in the pantry, clothing room, visiting shut-ins, volunteering at a soup kitchen, women’s studies, men’s programs, bible studies, mission trips, service projects. When judgment comes I believe the Lord will be impressed with all the work Main Street is doing for the kingdom.

Potential energy is just that…

Have you ever heard about an athlete who never made it and someone who is telling their story says, “They had so much potential…”? We have so much potential in the church and in our community but potential energy is just that…potential. Oscar Wilde is famous for saying, “Youth is wasted on the young” and I believe in that quote. Those who are given an amazing gift are stewards of that gift yet so often we do not maximize our gifts to give God the glory.

It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it. (Sören Kierkegaard)

Too often our gift is wasted. Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48).

Ministry is not a concealer of my sin rather it is a magnifier of it…

They say that if you have a small issue of sin while dating someone that when you marry them your problems will not be concealed but magnified. If ever ministry has done anything to me it has revealed to me this one fact: I am broken and in need of God’s forgiveness through the atoning blood of Jesus just like everybody else. I would also add to this that works-based righteousness will fail a person every single time. We can do nothing to obtain favor with God for we are saved by faith alone through grace alone because of Christ alone. Period. Until I live in that grace and accept that my life is not about impressing God then everything I do for God is about me and not him.

A church, and any other organization, lives and dies by its leadership…

Helen Keller said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.”  For every great organization that is built to last I have noticed these things: humility, competence, vision, teamwork, persistence, failing forward (Maxwell term), creativity and teachability. Notice I did not say personality, dictatorship, charisma and other things one might expect. I have noticed that the church is either going to live by its leadership or die by it because sheep do one of two things: 1) Leave and find something else to follow or, 2) Follow their shepherd wherever the shepherd takes them (good OR bad).

“When your people see that you are not only competent to lead but also have a track record of successes, they will have confidence in following you, even when they don’t understand all the details” (John Maxwell).

Well that’s it. Below are some pictures for your enjoyment. I am blessed to have worked with some of the best people in the kingdom. We have laughed, cried, loved and lived. Thank you Main Street for believing in an incompetent rookie from college and turning him into… well… a semi-incompetent veteran. May God bless you and keep you.

I had a discussion with a youth minister friend of mine about some struggles I was having in which I felt like I was on an island. Let me explain. My youth group and college students love to sing. Many members in the church love to sing. They get together and they sing and sing and sing. Many of the members seem to be “lost in worship” and the desire is to sing more and more and more. I had a discussion with a lady one time that I think illustrates what I struggle with:

Lady:  “Let’s keep singing and singing, this is wonderful.”

Me: “Why don’t we sit down and read Scripture for a while.”

Lady: “Where’s the fun in that?”

So I talked with the youth minister about my struggles with this and he made a profound statement. He said, “I think what’s going on is our generation at church is over-devotionalized.”


I struggle with this because singing is an act of worship that brings me closer to God yet I think the church, youth ministries, college ministries (insert Passion Conference comment here) and other ministries places too much stock in the worship event. We have become over-devotionalized and under-discipled. I asked the church last night, “What is the most important mandate for a follower of Christ?” (From Robert Lupton’s book, Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life). 3 or 4 people answered and every one else was dead silent.

I ask questions in bible class about what God demands from them and how to begin a relationship with him and I get blank stares. We know how to close our eyes to “How Great is Our God” and sit in a circle holding a candle professing our faith yet when it comes to leading others to Christ and talking to people about our relationship with him we struggle. Why? We have placed too much stock in the event (i.e, the “moment”) rather than the process.

I am all for singing and for devotionals but there is something wrong with our focus when we have singing days, singing nights, singing this and singing that and we do not have a yearning for our brother down the street. With all things balance must be normative but I feel like the New Testament agrees with my thought process as you can only find a handful of Scriptures about corporate worship yet you find scores addressing discipleship. Think about how much money is spent on the worship auditorium, worship media, worship ministers, worship training, worship bulletins, etc.

I think I can back it up…

We are over-devotionalized (event/program based) and under-discipled (process).

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. 

Image is from the Political Carnival website.

I am hesitant to write this post namely because I cannot control how people will respond to it.  I also want to admit there is a host of history I am aware of but am not trained in that precludes the issues we will address in this post. However, I am struggling with the ramifications of first century Christianity and how we have done Christianity or, in my particular context, how we have tried to “restore” New Testament Christianity. So for the scholars who read this please know there is a lot I am skipping and I ask your forgiveness for that but I am merely trying to scratch the surface in this discussion.

Question: Why do we have many black churches, white churches, hispanic churches (enter other ethnic group here) but few mixed churches?

The answer is obvious to many as the history in America, unfortunately, has paved the mindset of the church and that we are products of our segregated history. The church should have been the leader in integration years before it occurred (in some places it probably was) but unfortunately whites (predominately in the south) developed an anglocentric view of God’s people and believed anything else was not God’s provision. The Stone-Campbell movement was not unscathed by this as many white churches dodged integration (while still making their conscience stay clean) by starting black churches of Christ in the same city (partially funded, in some cases, by the white church) as the white church.

Fast forward decades and we still have black churches and white churches with few exceptions. Why? Perhaps there is some reconciliation issues that exist between the churches in the town. Perhaps that is just the way some people believe it should be. I talked with a gentleman some time ago about the need for our church to reach someone in the inner-city community and his response spoke volumes to me: “I wonder if this is something the ________ church should do.” In another conversation I had with a person about inviting people from the poor community into our worship I was blown away by their response: “Robbie, I am not sure we should invite ‘those people’ because they do not act right in bible class.” My jaw dropped.

Certainly this is not the way Paul would envision the church. A church that was racially integrated (Jew and Gentile issue in Acts 15) in a racially unstable climate? You had Jews, Romans, Samaritans, women (remember they had no rights), slaves and all sorts of different people learning to be a church together. Yet, we still have churches meeting the needs of each person or, should I say, each race.

But here is a question I have as well: Should integration be the goal of our churches? In other words, is it ok to have rich churches, poor churches, black churches, white churches, if they are at least addressing a certain type of people?

I struggled with this one. Really I did. I believe churches should be integrated so far as communication can be accomplished. There are language barriers in our community that would make Hispanics feel uncomfortable since English is not their primary language. But…it can still be done. I believe that the church should be a warm fellowship filled with different races, socioeconomic levels, nationalities and even people with different beliefs (how can discipleship happen if we all believe the same thing?).

I think there are dangers to integrating churches. One danger a church should avoid is the bigger white church looking like a dominating take over of the smaller black, Hispanic or other church. Perhaps new leadership should be installed represented from both churches and even shared pulpit and ministerial duties. Another danger from this is the immediate confrontation of racism within the body. A move like this would only bring the ugliness of some people in the light which is good though because at least you can see an issue that is in the light.

Again, there is a lot more behind this post that I am unqualified to address but I believe strongly that a church should be integrated based on Scriptures like…well…the whole story! Just think about this: What would it say to a community to see one church uniting rich, poor, black, white, green or purple (gothic too!) under the same name? Do you think it might change the community? Do you think it might unite a community?

What do you think?