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Thursday, January 6, 2011

On promoting a simple church

Recently, I ran into a question asked by Louis Burkwhat in North Carolina on The question is a couple of paragraphs long, but it has to do with promoting, as in letting others know about, a simple church. Go to the site to read the whole question.  Here's what I said:
            Maybe what I’m about to say is slightly off track to what you are thinking, but I’ll kick in my thoughts.  As a Christian leader I knew in the Grand Rapids, MI area named Walt Thompson said (many times, usually after someone said something confusing), “Take what’s good and pray about the rest.”
Recently, I saw former British Prime Minister Tony Blair say, “It is hard to have the time and energy to do strategic thought.”  I happen to have been underemployed the last couple of years, and have had some time.  Particularly, I wish that, somehow, I could have been introduced to the ideas that Viola, Simson, Cole, etc. have written about earlier in my life.  I read Banks’ Paul’s Idea of Community, but I don’t think that, if I read it when it came out in 1980, I would have gotten the revolutionary impact of what he was saying.
            Still, I sit here and that know that there are other persons like myself that would appreciate the orthopraxy of HC/SC if only they were aware of the existence and the mere idea that these ideas are more congruent with a more proper understanding of God’s direction.  Maybe, that’s your feeling also, and motivation for wishing to promote the idea of house church.
            In our culture’s understanding of “promotion,” we might think of every advertisement and public service announcement we have seen on tv, heard on radio, and and read in books, magazines, billboards, etc. as promotion.  We should recognize that the history of the professional salesman that does nothing but sell goes back to only the Civil War, long past the days of the writers of scripture.  In those days, even religious tradition was more connected to civic or national unity than it was toward what Francis Schaeffer called “propositional truth.”  This even applied to a large portion of the Jewish people.  Jesus, as the Truth in human form, showed the world something the world had not seen, and, therefore, Satan had had no chance to imitate or pervert.  Upon the sending of the Holy Spirit, the people in the Upper Room could not help but spill out on the street to tell of Jesus.  This speaking, at a very innocent, basic level, is promotion.  Therefore, the command of Mt. 28:18-20 to go into all the world is to do that, but for the pure motive of seeing some come to faith in Jesus and then for believers to grow in faith. 
            We, here in the U. S., are in one of the most difficult cultures in the history of the world to communicate the message of Jesus due to our freedom of speech making it legal to speak the message for all kinds of ulterior motives, and to speak it in such massive quantity as to be tiring to many people, most of which will never come to faith in Jesus, a few who will, and, in all honesty, some of us who are believers.   You nor I can say what people are speaking the message of Jesus to be recognized, have a secure job, or whatever, or whether a person is doing so just because other true believers have taught him/her to do things a certain way, and that way has been accepted and followed.  Let us recognize that a person can be doing those opposite things simultaneously.  Now, how do we promote in spirit and truth?
            Neil Cole, in Organic Church, describes some activities in poor neighborhoods.  My experience is that, in our poorest urban areas, due to lack of income and ability to afford air conditioning, most people spend time on their porch, and, therefore, know their neighbors, much like, to my understanding, most cultures over most of history.  As I live in a middle class neighborhood, and have lived in rural areas, knowing our neighbors there is trickier, particularly if one hasn’t grown up there.  Via school and other groups, many people get to know others, and only the specific others, that are connected to our children of the same age. 
            Due to the degree that most capitalistic businesses in our culture operate close to being cults bowing down to the worship of money, sometimes business relationships are difficult.  I’m not saying this to be anti-capitalist, but many of our business leaders have been taught to care first about the “bottom line,”  and that doesn’t just border on, but, at least in my opinion, crosses the line into worship.  As part of that, they put great restriction upon one speaking to any other employee on spiritual things.  This isn’t much different than the situation in Acts 19 when the idol makers started a riot over Paul’s preaching causing a dip in their sales of idols.
            Therefore, I believe we are called to promote, but to do so in the purity of desiring to honor Jesus.  One thing we need to get out of our heads is the idea prevalent in our culture of attempting to record our efforts to see our success.  Introducing ourselves to our neighbors is cost free in money, but is quite expensive with regard to our time.  In scripture, that seems to be the only way it was done.  The Bible was given to believers, and doesn’t tell unbelievers to do anything except repent; it is not an extended tract. 
            Could other methods, such as a flyer, producing a seminar, or mass media reach people?  I don’t see any reason why not, but my perception is that, to the irritation of my ego, it seems to me that the key element is desiring to serve Jesus in a humble spirit, and, if one develops a method that seems to help unbelievers come to faith in Jesus and/or believers to grow in faith, it is only temporary, and it is a temptation to the person involved with the method’s beginning to hold onto it long after the Holy Spirit stops blessing through it. 
            I have written some more on this on my blog,  Hopefully, I have said something helpful.

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