Saturday, July 14, 2007

Did God call the world to come to church?

A couple of weeks ago, a former pastor came back and gave the sermon. He made the point there that "God did not call the world to come to church; he called the church to go out into the world."

So today a bunch of us -- maybe a couple dozen -- went out to clear weeds and junk from a vacant lot in a less-wealthy part of town, in cooperation with a church in that neighborhood. Gas-powered string trimmers and human-powered pruning shears were in evidence, as well as spades, and rakes to make "small" piles of the stuff. Monday some sort of machinery will be out there to remove said piles and make the lot less of a fire hazard and also less of an eyesore.

That was great, but what is our church's primary plan to get the good news into the world? We have a celebrity preacher who explains the good news very convincingly. There's a reason he's a celebrity preacher: he's a brilliant speaker. It doesn't hurt that he's a brilliant guy either. We plan to "scale" this thing by having the sermon piped to two other locations with live worship leaders, etc.

So what am I worried about? A few things. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says he doesn't speak elegantly or eloquently or persuasively; he wants their faith to be based upon the power of God rather than on the wisdom of men. If people come to a worship-and-teaching service and meet God there, then faith will be based upon the eloquence/whatever of the preacher. How is the power of God demonstrated? I'm about to exaggerate to make a point, but I think it's in, as Scott (our former pastor) said, it's by Christians serving our friends and neighbors and families in the name of Jesus -- much more so than by brilliant (truly brilliant) presentations in a worship service.

A corollary of that "worry" is that the strategy depends upon one or a few key individuals.

The other thing, and I've got to stop right about now, is that the model of having people come to a gathering of hundreds on a Sunday morning -- that seems to be a 20th-century model for how people appropriate truth. Can it work now, on the San Francisco peninsula?

I guess we'll see.

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