Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Now It's Getting Personal... (LE4)

(LE = Lifestyle Evangelism)
"An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it." (Sir Isaac Newton)

"A body of believers cannot remain in neutral very long. It will move either towards holiness or harlotry, towards beauty or prostitution." (Lifestyle Evangelism, page 102)
At first, I would have thought that Sir Isaac Newton's quote could be easily applied to some church bodies: they are staunchly immovable, thoroughly entrenched, and highly resistant to change.

But on second thought, Joe Aldrich's quote is more accurate: churches aren't "objects" in the same sense as, say, a car half-buried on a beach. Churches are comprised of people, which means any church is always in motion. The only question, as Aldrich suggests, is motion in what direction?

In Lifestyle Evangelism, Aldrich suggests that the two main options are quite simple: holiness and beauty, or harlotry and prostitution. In order to avoid the undesirable option, the opposite must be carefully and consistently nurtured.

It won't happen by accident. If people are going to mature in Christ, there has to be some intentionality on the part of both the congregation and its leadership.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7)

(Colossians 2:6-7 wordle-ized)
As Aldrich reminds us:
"As a general rule, the 'church gathered' comes together to be 'built up' in the faith. The 'church scattered' is to be involved in evangelism." (page 117)
Ouch. That quote makes me pause uncomfortably. Haven't we done just the opposite for the last couple of decades? Created church services that are so seeker-driven that the congregation is starving to be 'built up in the faith'?

I've been reading through Lifestyle Evangelism from several different angles. Yes, obviously, it's a great book on sharing our faith, but I'm also reading it from the viewpoint of wondering why friends like Jack & Diane (and so many others) gave up on their faith, unable to separate the (church) chaff from the wheat. Is it because neglecting edification (being built up in the faith) results not only in a lack of evangelism, but also a glaring lack of discipleship?

And does this lack of edification/discipleship at least partially account for the number of spiritual casualties that Jack & Diane represent?

Aldrich writes, almost prophetically (his book is over 30 years old, after all):
"In many cases, the church has lost all sight of body function and has made the forms (programs) sacred. Success is often measured on the basis of whether or not a particular program has grown numerically, rather than on its contribution to the free flow of the giftedness of the body." (page 120)
Fortunately, Aldrich also has some strong words of encouragement, exhortation, and challenge for us, as well:
"People may need to be encouraged not to attend the programs and activities of the church so they can spend time with the unsaved. Your church may need, with your firm leadership, to move out into the community and serve it. Neglected widows may need help, injustice in your community may need to be confronted, programs may need to be implemented to care for the poor and needy... with no strings attached. You may need to brainstorm with leadership about where Jesus would go in your community..." (page 177)

"If your church cannot accept the wreckage of broken homes and shattered dreams, it is not a place where Jesus lives. Your church should be the greatest garbage dump in town. A place where the broken, oppressed, misplaced, abandoned, and unloved people can come and find a 'family' where they are accepted and loved - as is." (page 180)
Yep, it's definitely getting personal.

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