My mom left for Mexico on Saturday. It’s her first mission trip, and with her, our whole family has gone somewhere. She’s 53. I don’t know, that’s just kind of cool to me. It’s never too late. I also get a kick of seeing old Koreans leave for missions. I always wonder for the life of me how the heck they are going to survive.
I am seriously considering starting a new church. This book I’m reading is totally influencing me in a radical way. I’m still reading it so I don’t want to say anything prematurely, but eventually I’ll write about it. But it’s on my mind.
So when I’m home in Houston it’s a good chance to see how church is like here. I like it – I think I learn a lot. I helped out with worship team this morning – played bass, which was a lot of fun, since the leader and the drummer are both outstanding musicians. With praise especially, I’m really into seeing how and what other people do. I’m into seeing how praise is all over the world. I don’t know, it’s just interesting to me.
Someone once told me the most compelling reason I’ve heard for singing hymns during service, which I agree with. Hymns are something that link all Christians. Like, people sing hymns nearly everywhere in the world. And they have sung hymns for hundreds of years. When we stop singing hymns, and people don’t know it, you lose that link, both with Christians in other cultures, and with our past. I don’t know, I just think it’s kind of cool when like Koreans and EM get together. We can’t understand each other while we do it, but we can sing the same songs, we have that common bond through hymns.
It’s not quite the same, but I kind of feel like that with praise music as well. It’s a different level though. But, you know, to me at least, there’s something cool about praising together. It personally just helps me feel the body. And you know, with this whole praise music explosion that’s happening, it kind of links Christians in our generation. So I kind of like to know what’s in, what’s going on in the world of praise. Not to catch the latest trend for trendiness sake, but to kind of know what songs are bringing commonality to the church, if that maks any sense. You may not buy this, but I feel like when we teach our church songs that other churches are singing, we’re doing our little part in unity. So that when / if we all get together, we have more to share, another way in which we can worship together. I don’t know, this is not well stated, but I’m into knowing what’s going on in the praise world.
So I went to a house church meeting yesterday and it just flooded me with a bunch of different thoughts. I don’t know, a large part of the time I was thinking about all the logistical things regarding that structure. I don’t know if Henry would believe me, but it’s something I’ve been thinking out a lot: how it would all work logistically.
But there were other issues too. I guess an issue that came up was the tradeoffs in being “seeker-sensitive.” And whether that’s a good thing, or whether evangelism can mean something else. I don’t know. I’ve just come to believe that if a group is not outreaching, it’s dead. It runs on inertia, not life. You know, FiCS never emphasized evangelism as much as it could, but somehow, by the grace of God, people were saved through it. I’m not sure why I wrote that, but I really do think that being “seeker-sensitive” in the sense of being deliberate about being reaching to the lost is not a compromise, but a necessity.
Of course, there are different ideas of what “seeker-sensitive” is, and I don’t think that necessitates something that is less meaningful for those already saved.
I don’t know. It just came up that for a lot of us, we don’t have the opportunity to really witness to people. That it’s not really possible or feasible to do it at work, given the churches we go to, and since the only other people we know are church people, that leaves no one left.
And that just seems very wrong to me. I don’t know. I can’t reconcile though that God commands us to corporately reach out to the lost, and yet put us in a position that it’s not possible for a group of us. I heard a great sermon on prayer before, that just revolutionized my thinking. You know, we often wonder how to pray. But often, we know exactly what to pray. The Bible tells us specifically what God’s will is. So, we know that if we pray that, it’s God’s will, so it will happen, if we are people of faith.
I’ve talked about it before, and this story seems trivial, but it just impacted me in a profound way. I was just having trouble with a brother, and was finding it really difficult in my heart to forgive him, to come to peace with him. But for whatever reason, I must have heard a sermon on it or something, but I was convicted to, knowing that God desires peace and forgiveness among His people, pray that I could be at peace with this brother. Even though I didn’t know if I could.
What happened is, the very next day, that very brother came to me to talk about things. Like I said, it seems trivial, but it revolutionized my life. Not that I’ve been a super prayer since. Far from it. But it did impact me.
Anyway, I really think if we trust in God’s promises like we say, that if we pray for opportunities corporately to reach to the lost in a meaningful way, that it will happen, since it’s clearly His will. I don’t know, I’ll have to try it. So I’m a big believer that outreach is critical. By the way, all these thoughts relate to the church that might start, in one way or another.
So another thing on my mind was jumpstarted by this article in Christianity Today. I don’t know if you guys read this magazine, but I highly recommend it. Seriously, every single issue has some insightful, encouraging article that’s just amazing. Get rid of your pretender Christian magazines, whatever that might be. Get the real deal. Christianity Today.
Anyway, this article was talking about the modern evangelical church, and how it’s incredibly rich, and the implications of all of that. I don’t know, but riches scare me. I should explain why. It’s just that, I think the reason the curch is in many ways impotent in America is because it’s just too rich. That’s not bad in itself. It’s just that with too many resources, it becomes harder to trust in God, and that’s just critical for the church to be dynamic. It’s not impossible, obviously. It’s just that it’s easier when there’s nothing else, as in some other places.
Anyway, it was talking about the history of the Protestant church in America, and some splits it went through, in particular North-South splits in the wake of the Civil War, and the split between the liberal mainline churches and the evangelial churches. The interesting thing is the second one. The mainline churches tended to have all the rich people; the evangelicals were at first really poor, in general, and particularly in the south (especially Southern Baptists). The mainline denominations kept not only most of the money, but the large portion of influence and prestige.
So it’s really interesting what happened. Despite all the money and societal prestige, mainline denominations shrank (and continue to do so) while the evangelical denominations grew tremendously. And there are many factors to this, I’m sure. But the most compelling one to me, one alluded to in the article, was that, with the money the mainline denominations had, they planned for everything excluding God. They left nothing to faith or chance, but depended completely on their own planning and resources. There’s actually a quote by someone or other where he says something like, we want to leave nothing to God. And they certainly had the resources to do so. And yet they shrank.
Evangelicals, on the other hand, having nothing, trusted in God for everything. And these articles tell all these stories of how many many organizations, many of which you may know, were started on pure faith and trust, in an almost reckless way. Like a missions organization that had nothing left, and yet the got together for breakfast, trusting that somehow God would provide. And then the delivery of food by a donor arrives. There’s lots of stories like that – tons of groups were formed with that kind of attitude. And you know, it seems reckless. But it worked.
Like I said, there are lots of reasons why mainline denominations shrank and evangelicals grew. Lots. But I do believe in my heart that a large factor was the trust in God, in a way that’s reckless. Evangelicals had no choice. But the mainline denominations planned in their own resources, and that won’t work.
Here’s why. Another thing that’s changed my life was the Experiencing God study I did a while back. One thing I learned, that I really do believe, is that often works of God involve things we literally cannot do on our own, with our own resources. I know this bothers some people, when churches do things that seem reckless and trust in God to provide, like building buildings without having first the necessary funds. And that’s justified sometimes, to be cynical about it. But I think it’s absolutely wrong to go to the opposite extreme and only plan for what your own power or resources allow. In fact, I think that’s sin.
There is a time, I believe, when doing God’s will involves pursuing something that seems a little bit reckless, a little bit irresponsible. I really think there’s a time when following God requires this. Meaning, it has to happen to all groups at some time, or that group is not following God. So this seeming recklessness is a necessity.
Is that bold? I don’t know, it’s just that what Experiencing God showed me, in a way I found very compelling is that God when He tells people to do something, often does this, tell them to do something that seems impossible. And the reason He does this is so that He will get the glory. If we only do things we can do, that we have the resources to do, we can give God the glory. But not everyone will. That is, other people. But when something seemingly impossible happens, people who see have no other choice but to attribute it to God.
The reason I found it so compelling is because it’s a model that’s repeated multiple times in both the Old and New Testament. Like with the Exodus, God did a bunch of things to make it clear to Israelite and Egyptian alike that it was Him who was doing everything. In the New, when the Apostles speak, even though they have no training, the people are amazed, and they come to believe. I don’t know, there are just too many examples where the peoples’ reactions are one of astonishment, where it leads them to believe, that I can’t ignore it. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It is not revealed as being God’s work so clearly any other way, but that’s the way it should be.
The other thing also is, I can’t think of any example of a long-lasting dynamic Christian group in which there’s no testimony to something like this happening. Unless you want to be a dying church, I think this is the way it needs to be. At some time.
Anyway, like I said, the cynicism towards the reckless faith attitude is deserved sometimes. When it’s really not the will of God. And pretty much the lesson of Experiencing God I think is that everything comes down to relationship. You’ll know the will of God if and only if your culivated relationship with God is a good one. And/or if it’s directly stated in the Bible. But the point is, you’ll reach a time when you have to follow recklessly if you want to follow at all, and to never do that, to always be safe and plan within one’s power and means forever is wrong. At least that’s what I believe.
Sorry for all the boring holy talk, but get used to it. For whatever reason, church is just really on my mi