Sorry I’m so late reporting this, but summer is a difficult time of year for me to post on a consistent basis. We have two computers, but my wife uses one for summer school and my kids stay up to all hours on the other one playing games and texting their friends. I can’t wait for fall, frankly.
Anyway, let me give a brief overview of how church services went Sunday. Pastor gave his first message on ‘Creating a Simple Church.’ I held my breath, hoping he didn’t propose a bunch of radical changes couched in corporate lingo to communicate the need to re-focus the church. I was pleasantly surprised, however. The message did not resemble much, if anything I had read of or listened to about ‘Simple Church’. He did center the message around the book’s thesis: We need to focus all the ministries in the church around the bible commission to make disciples of all nations. But it appeared to me he took the central idea of the book and built upon it without relying on the book’s methods to do so. He made the message his own. Here were his three main points:
I. Opportunities must be provided for seeking the Lord.
A: By hearing God’s Word
B: By enjoying God’s people
II. Opportunities must be provided for sharing the Lord.
A: By learning God’s Word
B: By living with God’s people
III. Opportunities must be provided for serving the Lord.
A: By living God’s Word
B: By impacting lives for Jesus in and through the local church
He focused the message around Christ, as any good pastor should do. My fears were allayed somewhat.
Inside the bulletin Pastor listed a set of questions on the topic of creating a Simple Church that we would be discussing that evening in small groups. I had been placed in pastor’s group with about 10 other people. The discussion went well. I’m normally mute in group settings, but the Lord granted me boldness in presenting my view on a host of different topics.
At one point the question was posed ‘What ministries in the church are most dear to your heart?’ I told pastor that I appreciated his gospel preaching most of all because many churches have abandoned it altogether in favor of other relevant approaches. Pastor asked me why churches do that. My response was: numbers. Many pastors today are obsessed with ministerial success. Numbers, they believe, is the perfect gauge of success – so that’s what they focus on -to the neglect of more important things. I went on my spill about the devastation that the ‘seeker sensitive’ movement has wrought in churches around the world. I’m glad I got a chance to express my views. I’m not sure what the group thought. They just kind of stared at me. The funny thing is, I was not at all fazed by their reaction. God’s grace indeed empowered me that evening.
At the conclusion, some people departed, others stayed and chatted. I waited for a chance to speak with pastor and we did talk for awhile on several different topics. Finally, I asked him if he got the idea for Simple Church from a book. He admitted that he did. He surprised me by revealing he had not read the entire thing, but only excerpts from it. Like I suspected from the morning message, he is simply taking the central idea from the book and is attempting to build on it, in large part, I’m sure, from the feedback he is getting from the small group discussions. That reminds me to carefully think through every question and search out the scriptures for the answers. The last thing we as a church need to do is dream up our own ideas on how we do church. We should rely on the holy scriptures to establish our ecclesiology.
I am breathing easier now. I feel somewhat sheepish for ever questioning our church’s commitment to presenting the whole counsel of God. I realize now it will take much more than the latest and greatest bestseller to move us away from biblical teaching. After all, they survived a study through the Purpose Driven Life a couple of years ago. What a stark contrast from my old church! I think as long as our pastor remains in this church, the gospel shall be proclaimed fearlessly.
Pastor, if some reason you ever read this blog, please forgive me for my doubts!
I do think it was profitable to investigate the matter. We should always discern the material that comes into our church and influences our leadership. In the future I will continue to research things out as they are presented to me. I will not shy away from confronting error. It is my Christian duty.
That is all for now. The bottom line is this: My church is doing well. I still don’t know if the ‘Simple Church’ book is a good thing or a bad thing. The thesis is sound, but after that I just don’t know.