“Fixing” the Church with Square Wheels

dontreinventthemap-6ba62b8ba05d4957d2ed772584d7e4cdI have just spent the last several days at an international Baptist history conference on the subject of Baptists and revival. It was great connecting with scholars from around the world. While I do not personally like employing these terms, for lack of a better term or explanation, there was a wide range of scholars holding anywhere from ultra-liberal to conservative evangelical views.

At one of our meal times the questions turned to the state of life of the church in our home regions. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK were all represented at the table. One individual had not liked some of the statistics I had revealed and language I had used about Christianity in Canada, and rightly said that they probably did not capture all of the “fresh expressions” of church. She went on to spell off new creative initiatives, folks who wanted to embrace new cultural norms such as homosexuality, and then frustratingly aired her bewilderment at why “conservative” churches were growing while many of these “fresh expressions” were not. She did not entirely appreciate my answer, though I pray my genuine and gentle response gave her something to think about, however, another chap at the table was very interested in what I had to say. I was grateful that I was at least able to encourage his already existent views.

The first individual thought that the answer to rescuing the state of the church in the West was to reinvent it. Certainly I would agree we need to engage different and developing cultures with the Gospel in different ways. She was trying to reinvent the wheel but trying square wheels, triangular wheels, oval wheels, and even no wheels, in a desperate attempt to sort things out. She was greatly troubled as to why those churches who were continuing with round wheels seemed on the whole to be growing.

The faulty thinking in her reasoning was this. She felt that the “round wheel” was obviously antiquated and was reacting against this to find out what would work. I would contend that she didn’t know what the true round wheel was in the first placed and asked her, “tell me about this round wheel you are reacting against because I probably don’t believe in it either.” Both she and her church were reacting against the failure of nominal and liberal christianity falsely believing it had been the real thing. As a result their church was floundering.

As the Church we do not need to reinvent “church” but only rediscover it, or in other words get an alignment.

We already know what works and that is the Truth. A dependence upon God through prayer and His word, and a belief in orthodox Christianity is the only thing that produces fruit. As a friend of mine often says, “we need to get the Gospel right and we need to get the Gospel out!”

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7 ESV).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

An Indispensable Diet

Some have suggested in these post-Christian times that preaching is a waste of time. “I don’t remember half the sermons I wheathave heard,” proponents declare, “but I remember the people.” Preaching is clearly useless then and people focused ministries are clearly superior. But before we starve the Church of truth let’s back the grain buggy up.

It is when the Bible is preached, studied and revered that we find spiritual revival, nourishment, and vitality. When the Bible is ignored, scoffed at, or downplayed the opposite is true.[1] Charles Hodge reminds us that through Church history authentic Christianity has only flourished “just in proportion to the degree in which the Bible is known, and its truths diffused among the people,” and the people “where the Bible is unknown sit in darkness.”

It should come as no surprise then that this is exactly what the Bible says. Psalm 119:103 (ESV) says, “how sweet are your words to my taste,” and Jesus—the eternal Word and bread of life— said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4 ESV). Clearly God’s word plays a primary role in drawing us to the Lord.

You may have heard the story that goes something like this:

A man complained as to the futility of listening to sermons week by week in church. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,’ he snorted “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastor is wasting his by giving sermons at all.”

Then a wiser brother rebuked the man with this clincher that was an irrefutable reply. He said, “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this… They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not sat under God’s Word for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (Jn 6:35b ESV) and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6 ESV).

Preaching and the study of God’s word are some of the primary means of grace in which the Lord uses to bless His Church. We don’t need less of the Bible we need more. Join with me in giving us a hearty “amen” and let us turn and open our Bibles!

[1] For a parody that touches upon this read one of my friend’s great articles here.