My Concerns

The following observations are based upon my limited experience and knowledge. I certainly do not consider myself as some arbitrator of all things Church of Christ. There are experts among us who study church growth and trends within our fellowship who may or may not support my concerns. I am just writing as one preacher who has been hanging around now for a few years.

I love the Church of Christ. I have lived my entire adult life and spent all of my preaching career being blessed to be a part of this wonderful fellowship. I have always and still continue to find many good things about us. But I am also concerned.

Practically all of the congregations of the Churches of Christ with which I am familiar (and admittedly this is not that large of a sampling and it basically limited to one general geographic part of our country) are now smaller than they once were- some dramatically so- and very few within these churches seem alarmed. This concerns me.

I see the church growing older before my eyes. I love our senior saints and praise God for their faithfulness, but I lament the fact that few among us seem to possess vision to reach the younger generations. Even our own kids are leaving us. I am concerned.

Our fellowship seems very fractured. For a movement born of unity we are failing miserably in maintaining those ideals now. In my community there are well over thirty bodies of believers who identify themselves as a “Church of Christ”, but there is precious little fellowship among us. This is concerning to me.

Our leadership seems distracted. Far too many issues crowd the tables of our church leaders. Entirely too many non-spiritual concerns get in the way of shepherding. Evangelism is on very few agendas. Maintaining status quo seems to rule the day.  Where are the visionaries among Church of Christ leadership willing to take faith risks? Where are those who- in faith- are seeing beyond themselves to reach the lost and plan for the needs of future generations? Where are the prayer warriors on bended knee seeking God’s power and guidance? I am concerned by these questions.

Our Sunday morning worship assembly has taken on an entirely disproportionate importance with our fellowship. Worship wars rage about numerous issues connected to worship style. For some- being faithful means Sunday morning done in accordance to their preferences. For others their only connection to a Church of Christ is Sunday morning worship attendance. I think- from God’s perspective- that the rest of the week counts too. Again, this is concerning.

Before I am to be accused of being a pessimist or a naysayer please hear me out. I have full confidence in the power of God and in the power of the message of the cross. We have a wonderful tradition within Churches of Christ. We have people who love God and honor his Word. And I do know of Churches of Christ who are visionary, evangelistic and growing by preaching and living the message of the cross and becoming involved in their communities daily.

But for the most part I do not see this and I am concerned and I wonder if anyone else is too. The numbers tell the tale and according to our leading church growth experts we are losing ground to our population rapidly. So where is the urgency? Where is the alarm? What will it take for us to wake up?

These are my concerns.

Are they valid?

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31 Responses to My Concerns

  1. You are not alone. This is happening across a denominational spectrum. I was speaking with a great Southern Baptist friend of mine and he was lamenting the fact that his congregation continues to grow older and he’s doing funerals all the time!

    New churches being planted can aid in reaching new people but with the cost of buildings, materials, and such…why not look to resurrect fellowships as you describe? I don’t know all of the answers but I’m seeing the disconnect as well. In just the last decade, many have elected to go to non-denominational fellowships where little is expected and the blood of the cross is forgotten for fear of driving down numbers. The call to salvation is largely left unheeded unless it’s to call people to be “friends” with God and not confess ourselves as a sinner in need of a savior.

    You sir, are not alone!

  2. xybatt says:

    “See you at the fair! ” Dennis Miller

  3. lesjr says:

    I hear you danny! My philosophy is this: evangelism, evangelismn evangelism… I see a church rising up within the church–with God’s direction/ blessing we can create a whole new culture of church and christianty. Like the old song says, “ain’t no stone gonna sing in my place…!

  4. mattdabbs says:

    This is the very reason I have adopted portion of the Emerging Church movement as my own – the desire to understand the surrounding culture and reach out in effective ways. We are so infocused. Look at the budget of any given church and see what % of the budget is spent on fellowship and the Sunday/Wednesday corporate times and what % is spent on reaching the lost. I contend that we spend far more money keeping the lights on in a building that is practically vacant 6.5 days a week than we do in reaching lost souls. That is disturbing, distasteful, and our young people are not going to want anything to do with it.

    So what do we do?

    1) Start with our young people to create mission minded people who have their minds made up that showing up for Sunday is not the sum total of our faith. This takes time and a lot of work but is essential to retain and train our young people.
    2) Be honest with our shortcomings and not assume that we have it all right all the time. People need to see us vulnerable if we are going to be effective. This doesn’t mean we have no truth it just means we are humble enough to admit that we don’t have it all together.
    3) Stop giving invitations that don’t work and start training people to be invitational.
    4) Cast a vision from the eldership through the preacher to the supporting ministry roles and deacons. This vision needs to be a recasting of God’s vision for his church – to be a community of difference makers that make every effort to reach those around them and fellowship in a Christian community with fellow believers.
    5) Stop winning battles and start winning wars. We aren’t here to win doctrinal controversies with other Christians. We are here to praise God and seek out those who are seeking God. We spend soooooo much time fighting fights that are dead and basically irrelevant. Maybe we are intimidated to get to know a world we no longer recognize. I highly recommend Dan Kimball’s book and DVD – They Like Jesus but Not the Church. This is a must read and watch for any minister looking to reach young people today.

    I could go on and on and you have obviously touched a nerve with me on this issue. But I want you to know that there are people who care, there are people who are on the front lines trying to make a difference. There are people who are not satisfied with “doing church.” There are people who are leading and equipping a generation of young adults to not settle for what we have settled for in the past. God bless,

    Matt

  5. E. Walker Myer says:

    The growing congregations among us (the C of C)…what are they doing to grow? If we are truly concerned about securing the fellowship of the young adults among us, and have them stay with us, we must understand their culture and accept the fact that we may have to do some things diffferently. Maintaining the status quo may make some of the “oldies” comfortable, but it will not convince the younger ones.

    Secondly, I believe that we older ones had a strong dose of our history as we were growing in the faith. We understood why it was important to be a restorationist and undenominational. Those who taught us were certain that we understood why and how we were different and, I believe, that cemented our loyalty to what we understood as undenominational Christianity. Do we make sure that today our younger ones know our history, know how we differ from others, and why being “Christians Only” is important? Other elements of our doctrine may have been blurred in their eyes.

    If we reduce our appeal to young people to creating activities (which are important) and going bowling together without emphasizing why the cross of Crist is important and why making a comitment to Jesus is important, then can we be surprised when they cross-over to a religious group similar to ours but one that offers more appealing activites and other surface attractions (like bands and music)?

    Like Matt said, there are people who are on the front lines trying to make a difference to young adults. If they do make a difference, I am sure they have quit sweating “the small stuff”, penetrated the culture of the young adults, and pointed them to the cross.

    Eva

  6. I believe that our entire lives day in and day out should be worship to God. Sunday is just the day we meet with the community.

    Look at my blog (thacker.blogspot.com) to read about the awesome worship service we had today at Sycamore View. I pray that I will carry that in my heart and live it in my life every day of the week!

  7. Royce says:

    Danny,

    Of course your concerns are real and valid. The most dangerous thing coC folks can do is pretend everything in our fellowship is just peachy! One of our greatest negatives, and our shame, is not if we are right or wrong on doctrine but rather the lack of it. Most of what we squabble about is not Bible doctrine but personal preferences.

    The methods of the 50’s are not best in 2008 in the construction business, the media, in medicine, or any other discipline, and for sure those stale methods do not reach folks for Christ today. Only a few years ago folks only got their information from preachers, elders, and Christian papers. Today people have a flood of information and know that much of what they have been spoon fed is not true. The gospel message is timeless, methodology must change with the times, and can without compromising the message.

    In the next 12 months, if we (coC congregations) would spend the same time and resources preaching the gospel of Christ as we have preaching the church of Christ and fighting each other about it, in the last 12 months we will see a drastic difference in our churches.

    Across our fellowhip, some men are lifting high the name of Jesus Christ, going after sinners where they are, and their churches are growing. I coiuldn’t disagree with Scott more about his view of community churches. I have never heard of one like he describes. There are several in the Dallas area that are faithful to Christ and His mission and are making solid disciples of Jesus. Some of these churches are led by former coC men who understand that salvation is found only in the person of Jesus Christ, not in being right, keeping man made rules, or in a local church on the corner.

    Two generations from now the face of the coC will be forever changed from what it is today. Few young people are staying in the most legalistic congregations and when their parents and grand parents are gone the churches will be too. It’s too bad that zealots have changed what the fathers of the Restoration Movement foresaw into only a shadow of what local congregations ought to be.

    God help us.

    Royce

  8. Labas! Danny;
    You know I have two teenage daughters, so you are right on with this blog! Since you led us to christ back in 1990 we have slowly matured as christians. As you know our children have gone to camp since they were 8 years old.
    The excitement at camp holds their attention all week. But then it’s over! they go back to the weekly grind of school and church attendance. Peer pressure, society, and our instant gratification culture grab them. After all, the prince of this world is not asleep. Our kids fear nothing, not death, nor god. You know danny we can only point them in the right direction and be good examples for them. The rest is in god’s hands….

  9. Sorry, I put the wrong blog address earlier. It’s tammieh.blogspot.com

    And by the way, I totally agree with Allen. I raised my children going to church 3 times a week, going to Bible camp every summer, participating in youth group activities, even mission trips in the US and abroad. Today neither believes in God and it really breaks my heart. I know they know what scripture says…I can only pray that one day, they will find their way back or that God will put someone in their paths who will help them come back. It’s a hard prayer to pray that God do whatever is necessary to bring them back to Him, but I pray it every day and try very hard to leave it in his hand and NOT let it affect my faith. It’s hard sometimes though!

  10. SteveLavin says:

    Danny,

    Many good points have been made here but I particularly like the ‘tone’ of Eva’s response. Combine her thoughts with Mac’s and I think we are on to something. I absolutely believe that people will move from distant, or non-existent, attendee’s to a motivated and engaged discipleship when we meet their needs for ‘purpose’ (God’s purposes) and ‘community’. To place too much emphasis on either one leads to failure of both.

    Examine the comments of Eva and Mac. Both mention activities. Eva references bowling while Mack mentions camp. What is the difference between the two? One is an activity – with ‘community’ as its aim. The other is an activity where the aim is – ‘purpose’ and ‘community’. My two daughters are now old enough to be in the ‘young people who have fallen away’ age group. I thank God that both are currently active in church and both serve as ‘small group leaders’ for high school and jr. high girls. They also serve as ‘camp counselors’ each summer. My son, still in high school, begged to attend no less than 4 week-long church activities this past summer and refuses to miss his small group meetings each week.

    Other than the grace of God what do I think has influenced their choices? All three learned ‘community’ AND ‘purpose’ by our families involvement at church and our families small groups as they were growing up. And, not to toot your horn too much, but to at least as great an extent, they learned the same lessons under you as their camp director. All three of my children have always returned from ‘camp’ sharing their stories and excitement about camp activities, seeing old friends and spiritual lessons learned. Community and Purpose needs are met at camp! They do much the same each week as they share stories about their small group activities. What Mac senses, and sees the need for, is a structure within the weekly church family that meets both the needs of ‘purpose’ and ‘community.’

    Our children – and adults – can find dozens of activities to become involved in throughout our communities. People looking for ‘community’ can find it without ever entering a church building or hearing the name of Christ. ‘Community’ without ‘Purpose.’ People can also hear the name of Jesus preached each week without ever being offered a real chance at ‘community. ‘Purpose’ without ‘Community.’

    I think the church far too often loses sight of the trees for the forest. We look at ‘big’ trends and ‘large’ programs to solve our growth problems. I believe we do this to our demise. Jesus preached boldly to thousands – but he changed the world by inviting twelve to ‘come follow-me.’ In that group, that ranged from tax-collector to zealot, he gave them a sense of ‘community’ and ‘purpose.’ I don’t believe that is something only Jesus could have accomplished. I believe that if we can learn from the example that Jesus left us that the same thing can be accomplished today. I believe that churches will grow when we can switch from saying ‘go, there is much to do” to saying “come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men’.

    I see all of the same trends you do. Each week, I hear from parents of young adults who are choosing to stay away from church. They are asking our daughters to reach out to their children and pull them in. This is a tremendous need within the church and it is the key to growth – no matter the age group. It is a cliché’ but the saying, ‘People don’t care how much you know … until they know how much you care’ is so true. So I believe it is vital to reach out with activities but, first and foremost, activities that also offer purpose. So I say, encourage the young people to go bowling. But let everyone invited know that the evening will begin with a devotional. (As Eva mentions use this time to give them a sense of history and purpose.) Initially, most people will endure the devotional to get to bowling. With God at the core, and over time, you might be amazed that sometimes people will voluntarily give up the bowling for some other ‘activity’ that meets their need for ‘purpose.’

    Do I think we need more or bigger church programs to turn the tide? Absolutely not! Do I believe that one passionate leader can use community, and a sense of purpose, to transform a small group of people who will one day be ready to reach out and do the same for others? Absolutely! Isn’t that the lesson our kids learn each year at camp? Isn’t that the example that our Lord left us?

  11. J D says:

    Great post … and could I do better than the comments? No…just sending my amens … great thoughts everyone!

  12. dannydodd says:

    Amen to JD’s amen.

    Your comments are excellent- and demonstrate one of the very best things about blogging.

    Thank you for addressing my concerns. I like the clarity, balance and imagination in your answers. Very encouraging.

    Don’t stop now though!

  13. Hey Danny!

    I guess to address your concerns, and this is going to sound very…uh…quiterresque. But, most of the guys (and its only a handful that I know personally, but it’s still an important indicator) I know who would be considered good young leaders seeking to lead the churches of Christ out of the mire and muck that many of the churches seem to have fallen into, have left.
    Most of us got tired of fighting the uphill battles of nit picking and straining at gnats.
    I personally am dealing with this right now – I’ll answer how off line, if you’re interested, but none the less, the churches of Christ I am aware of also have more interest in infrastructure and keeping folks happy, then sharing the life-changing gospel.
    This is what excites me about church planting – the opportunity not to start another church or gathering of folks that will simply occupy space, but it is the opportunity to be a part of a movement, even begin one, that fills in the gaps and carries on the banner – same focus of those who came before us, but renewed commitment to see it happen minus the red tape.
    It looks differently, but the desired effect is achieved; people being restored to relationship with Jesus and moving towards their own calling of living a life on mission day by day.
    Thanks for letting me share my .02, from a guy who doesn’t have a clue and is probably going about it all wrong.

  14. benoverby says:

    Danny,

    As you know, I share the concerns you’ve effectively described. This isn’t a problem that can be dealt with on a meta level. It’s one that requires a battle over the truth at the level of the congregation. You’ve described a real situation which exists because of a particular worldview. Worldviews silently govern our thought world, controlling our behavior from one year to the next, and from one generation to the next. The worldview that allows for complacent leadership and a non-evangelistic church has to be confronted. There will be those who can be pulled out of the dying heap with effective parables, but there are just as many who will recognize what you’re up to and will get defensive, feel threatened, and destroy you (or else the ministry you steward).

    Worldviews are wineskins. The worldview of the Churches of Christ is stretched and good for little more than holding aging wine. Too much new and it will explode. Some of us have experienced the wrath that comes from trying too hard to find the grace required to move a body from the grave back out into the robust garden of life. The price me and my family paid over the last several years is just too high. I don’t wish it on anyone. But there is no middle ground. The middle only frustrates. Either we will be the body of Christ or we will be a marginalized club of religious bench-warmers. I think Jesus could never preach for the sort of congregations you’ve described. He’d want to, but He’d be despised and rejected. Same with Paul. Same with Peter. Same with James. And even sweet John would be fired so fast it would make our heads spin.

    The restoration ideals have long sense been reshaped and retold in order to maintain a social identity rather than to fulfill Jesus’ plan for unity. You threaten people’s social identity and you will suffer the consequences. Period.

    I know this hasn’t been much help. It’s just a warning. Probably an unnecessary warning. But I think I can prove that it is realistic if there be doubters. Rarely has a congregation turned around without a significant split. And some splits are quite necessary. Unity doesn’t trump the truth. If the truth drives wedges then swing the sledge hammer. Tell the truth.

    Ben

  15. Instead of a response, I wrote a brand new post. God bless you, sir.
    -Jason Goldtrap

    http://www.JasonGoldtrap.com

  16. As the number and quality of these comments suggest, yes, your concerns are valid.

    The Churches of Christ must become more aggressive when it comes to planting new congregations. We have plenty of priests. What we lack are missionaries.

  17. Jim Sexton says:

    The community church movement depends largely on the community. I know of many groups like those that Scott has seen, and I know of groups like those described by Royce. They are out there, to every extreme, and the fact remains that it is about the heart of the group, not the name on the door.

    Do we have a heart for God? Have we recognized His Son and (most importantly) followed Him? This makes me think of why I struggled with the church as I grew to become an independent adult. Making this Christianity my own was the key… it had to stop being my parent’s faith, my family’s traditional set of beliefs and had to become deeper than what I did on Sunday. I grew up in a household that served God in how we lived, not by making sure we attended the ‘right’ church.

    When I had bible school homework, it was important that not only did I do it, I had to explain how I understood what it meant for my life. THAT WAS DONE AT HOME… what we did on Sunday backed up what we were taught the other 6 days of the week at home. How many families fit that profile now? Our people now spend more time with their kids chasing sports, academic excellence, and social stuff than anything related to the good news of the Messiah.

    Denominational Protestant groups, and be honest… throw the cofC into that group for the most part, have turned into the institutional house that the Catholic church became. We worship a building, a set of ritualized ways of doing things, and we look to the ‘spiritual educators’ of our generation to tell us how to ‘do church’. Yep, sounds like the first century all right, but not the first century church… more like the first century form of Judaism.

    So many of us care so much about the letter of the law that we have lost touch with the spirit of the law. The church will survive, it always does. Many alive today will not recognize it if they came back to life 50 years from now, but it will survive because it is from God. Man can screw it up big time, for a while, but it will always be there. Who among us doubts that the body of Christ, His own bride, will be able to withstand the worst mankind can do to it? God’s will doesn’t depend on anything as fragile as man’s will… it is the other way around and always has been.

    I only hope that we can have a real Godly rebirth in this country. Once we return to serving God daily, know His desires for our lives by learning what His word says, and find out that whatever else happens, He will still be Lord… then the health of the church will return. This casual church thing is a farce, and frankly an insult to the God we claim to love and obey.

    Jimbo

  18. dannydodd says:

    More good thoughts. thanks Jim and others.

    I really like Frank’s priest and missionary comment.

    I meant to say earlier that it is good to see Steve and Ben commenting again. I have missed them.

  19. odgie says:

    Lots of good comments here, all of them made by knowledgeable folks in response to a thoughtful post. I would add that if the churches of Christ really want to matter, we really need to put some effort into growth beyond the Bible Belt. I often hear of new churches being planted–and we should praise God for that–but most of them are being planted in TN, TX, and other strongholds. Meanwhile, churches in other parts of the country continue to struggle and we continue to have no presence to speak of at public universities. This has to change.

  20. Darren says:

    Danny,
    For many of the reasons you listed is why I left the cOC recently. I am from the upper Midwest and went to Harding’s preacher training. I saw the church down there being too concerned with being different than the Baptists–debating the use of instruments and baptism etc. I never wanted to minister in the “South” due in part because of this.
    However, I found the other churches that I did minister to seemed to want to “fight” along those battle lines also. I got tired of the legalism so I left.
    I am not at all surprised the numbers are down despite the population growing. And I am not surprised the preachers are in short supply and even jumped ship since their training. Most of my class from preaching school are either no longer preaching or preaching for another tradition.
    What to do? Not sure know. I do know it would take a couple of generations before there are changes. I love the Church (universal)

  21. SteveLavin says:

    It seems to me that we are all seeing the same problem but from two different perspectives. Danny’s original post, along with other’s comments, and especially Ben’s, seem to see the problem as a top-down structural issue. Some seem willing to continue to wrestle with the solutions, from this perspective, while others have experienced enough frustration to last a lifetime and have chosen to move on to other traditions.

    Then I see my comments. and especially Jim’s. I believe we view the problem, or at least the solution to the problem, as coming from a bottom-to-top perspective. This approach circumvents ‘the establishment’. Not in a subversive manner, but to a large extent, in an independent manner. This involves, individuals and families, taking personal responsibility for their spiritual growth and Christ like transformation. It also has the benefit of – as Jim mentions – taking the emphasis off of the institutional nature of the church. If a person is focused on discipleship, and ministry, then what happens – or does not happen – in the assembly, becomes much less important – and by nature, much less divisive. As an example, look to the real servants, the ones that are always giving, who keep their heads down and focused on ministry, the ones that are in almost any church body, and you will see by-and-large, these people are not the ones squabbling over elements of the assembly.

    I believe it is possible to affect change within the CoC, or almost any body of believers, but I believe this is best accomplished apart from ‘the establishment’. As Ben stated, this wineskin is all-too-often, already stretched to the point of breaking. How many times has a preacher tried to introduce a new idea into the assembly only to be shot down by one or two naysayers? Hearts and minds are best changed one at a time. I think that is what I am seeing Ben explain by starting anew in a new area. I also believe that sometimes the most effective work a local preacher could do would be to seek out the individuals that have the desire and maturity to disciple others and empower them for the task. That is the ‘come, follow me’ part that is so important. I believe we grow strong, and then large, by growing small. (Whether that is in the camp setting, small groups or families.) Preachers, or anyone else, can only be so many places at any one time. Jesus focused on 12, and especially 3. Trying to changing the establishment, in Jesus day, lead to death. It appears to be the same today. By focusing on the individual, the church thrived and exploded! Do we expect this approach would have any less effect today?

  22. Teresa says:

    Darren,
    You are in good company. Jesus got tired of legalism too!

  23. ben overby says:

    This is an interesting and helpful discussion, Danny. Steve pointed out that some see the solution as top down and others as bottom up. I think our situation is not unlike the one we read about in the gospels wherein leadership is broken and misguided; and those under the influence of the leaders can be lead into escapism in the desert with the Essenes or into legalism with the Pharisees where nationalism trumps religion and faithfulness to the tradition means a rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah Himself.

    I’m not sure we address the problem from either the bottom up or top down. I think if the issue is the truth of the gospel and the hope of humanity, then we may simply have to reject a group bent on maintaining social identity (like the Pharisees of old), and plant the seed in fertile soil.

    The mistake I foolishly made earlier in the year before bailing out of ministry for good was to attempt to plant the seed of the kingdom in the polite ground of maintaining unity with those who’ve long sense made it clear that they elevate group identity over the real sort of unity that God preordained (all things in Him, things in heaven and earth).

    One quick illustration. In an effort to offend no one and to provide opportunity for two groups to mutually help each other in the kingdom, I attempted to begin spreading the gospel with and through a tiny group in the northeast, meeting at a time and place that could not compete with established churches of Christ, making no effort to pull people with me, etc. A young lady, 18 years old, wanted to come worship with us one afternoon. A family meeting with us stopped to pick her up only to find her in a battle, physically, with her mother (and member of the coc). The mother had her daughter by the throat, screaming that she would not allow her to visit with us. As they continued to struggle, the embarrassed family who stopped to provide a lift, skulked out of the driveway.

    The fear of losing social or religious identity is deep in the psyche of most members of the churches of Christ, so much so that many see the legitimizing any other group as a direct threat to their whole worldview. And fear causes people to act in ways that simply don’t fit with the picture of redemed humans.

    That’s what you’re up against and it’s why people crucify others, stone others, lie about others, and hold in contempt all those who don’t accept the sacred and invisible creed of the Churches of Christ.

    I simply don’t think bursting wine skins is for polite people. Either you just walk away from the tradition as I have and seek fresh air, or you, like Paul, attempt to rescue your brothers from the clutches of externalism and pride. But you’d better have the iron constitution of a Paul and be prepared to be rejected (i.e., get fired if you’re in paid ministry, lose your financial stability, risk having terrible things said about you, and all the rest).

    Ben

  24. jim miller says:

    Greater men than I have tried to “reform”,”restore” and “rehabilitate” the church. take it from a simple layperson that the “church” doesn’t want to be reinvented. The early church thrived in a stressful environment because they had NOTHING but faith to rely on. Yhen Constantine legalized Christianity and moved the masses into a “box”(building). Now, 1700 years later, ministers cannot get the people into or out of the building in a way that GOD intended. But, some of the “church” are out feeding, visiting and encouraging. Support those who are attempting to mature also.

  25. SteveLavin says:

    Ben,

    I would like to say I was shocked by your experience … but I cannot. I am not sure how you are using the term ‘worldview’ (just a dumb old country boy here) but I do believe the fears of the establishment are deeper than just their ‘fear of losing social or religious identity.’ I believe opposing their belief system is a salvation issue for them … literally, a ‘heaven or hell’ issue! That is why they can fight so viciously. To try to reach someone with this mindset is like trying to pull someone out of a cult. From the few post above, it appears that, more than just a few ministers have run into this culture.

    After thinking about your comments concerning the top-down/bottom-up theory I see you have added a new approach to the discussion, the ‘outside’ approach. I also see more than a few minister’s comments agreeing that this may be the best path. At the very least, I believe it can be more freeing, and less frustrating, than either of the other two approaches. I guess each approach has its own share of strengths and weaknesses. It will likely take all three to turn around the negative and stagnant trends that led Danny to begin this blog.

    Ben, I absolutely love, and completely agree with your final paragraph. Isn’t it absolutely liberating to preach, or teach, without being encumbered by ‘the establishment’ or be threatened with fear of financial instability! I think tent making made it a lot easier for Paul to preach truth. Whether we choose to stay or leave, that is a benefit that we all can share! And isn’t it comforting to also know that whichever path we choose, whether trying to free the legalist or reach the lost, that God can use us all. As for ‘iron constitutions’, yes, you better have one. But I prefer to use the analogy of a ‘thick skin’ … and, as you already know, scars make a pretty tough hide. lol

  26. TCS says:

    lots to say, but I’ll resist the urge.

  27. oh, I didn’t mean that to sound bad, just that I sometimes need to keep my thoughts to myself and just listen. So the urge wasn’t an urge to be negative, just an urge to speak. But did want to say in answer to your question Danny, Of course your concerns are valid. in any healthy relationship concerns are always valid.

  28. Darin says:

    I would also add that the CoC is not alone in this. Many groups have a different set of core beliefs that they defend and don’t want to look beyond to be the church.

  29. Royce says:

    Perhaps part of our problem is that we, along with other denominations, have a warped view of how evangelism is to be done. I often hear phrases like “we need to get our people out of the building and out into our communities”. The concept is true but isn’t it a bit odd that for some reason we don’t recognize that the “church” is out in the community except for a few hours each week when they are in the “building”?

    Precious few of those who fill pews on Sunday can give a reason for the hope they have. God’s plan is that believers spread the good news by talking and living out who they are. It is one thing to know some Bible passages and be able to recite some of the related stories. It is quite another to be mature in Christ, always ready to share the good news as God provides opportunities in the work place, sporting events, and every where we find ourselves in daily living.

    A little over 3,000 people turned the world up-side-down for Jesus in short order. Take a look at them and what they had to work with. 3,000 who did not know each other, spoke different languages, had no Bibles or gospel tracts, no communications except word of mouth, no transportation other than walking or riding an animal, no church experience, no evangelism training, and no church buildings.

    How did they do it? They met together daily, they ate together, they took the bread and cup to remember the Lord, they shared what they had with others, they believed and acted on what the apostles had said, and they prayed together.

    Jesus had been crucified and He was alive! They had likely been told that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lived in them. Jesus had said “I have all power in heaven and in earth so because I do you go make disciples, baptise them, teach them, and I’ll be with you every step of the way”. That’s it!

    The element we lack most in my view is praying “together”. My experience has been that you can get folks to volunteer for any nasty task, they will work, cook, teach a class, give money, go on mission trips, and on and on. But, when you try to get a group together to pray, and only to pray, you are out of luck. This has been true over my several decades of being a Christian and several different churches. The only two places where we did meet together to pray as a group, we had wonderful answers to prayer, believers matured and grew rapidly,and souls were saved as a result.

    The weakness in our churches is genuine discipleship. Discipleship is not teaching people how to behave like Christians, but rather how to “live” like Christians. It should be as natural as breathing for those who claim Christ as Lord to love their neighbors, co-workers, and friends in tangible, unslefesh ways. If a group of people in any community give their lives to unconditionally loving their community and loving each other, they can ‘t keep folks out.

    We are people who are just ok at making disciples, great at baptising them, but poor at teaching them to do all Christ commanded.

    Royce

  30. Becka says:

    Danny
    Great Post!
    I have been excited in church attendance more in the past 5 years than I had since my camp days! Getting muddled down in the red tape and arguments over some trivial matters, feeling like I was a rope in a tug of war game! I feel blessed at the peace I feel at Lake Harbour Drive. We are a growing church with a diverse face. When other people are talking about race relations and segregation in the church and other denomations. I know I have not been a voice for this always see above tug of war comment. There is nothing new under the sun but there is learining from mistakes.
    The key to peoples hearts will never be a wagging pointing finger saying WRONG!!!
    but a look read and learn approach. The important thing is the word, !
    thanks
    Becka

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