The following comes from my friend Soicause's (AKA Jonathan Chan) blog. These are ideas he and I have kicked around. I would love to write a book with him. I think this would be chapter 1. He's hit a major HOME RUN! If anyone is insightful about these things it's him. So what do you think: what is the REAL purpose of the church and evangelism? He's going to step on a lot of toes (so you have been warned). Also, this is not edited for grammar, so I'm all errors are his. Don't hold it against him.
Why I'm Not Evangelical: A Deconstruction of a Core Belief
Such a great title. I was talking to Frank the other day. We've been talking about one day writing a book together.. He wants to write one soon.. I'm not too keen on the idea right now, simply because I think I'm a little more realistic.. Who'd read a book by a bunch of no ones? Don't get me wrong, I think it could happen but I don't think the season is completely here yet for me.. Plus I have this blog to write out any of my book ideas..
Here's something that I've been thinking about a lot recently.. If I was to write a book right now, I'd call it: Why I'm not Evangelical: A Deconstruction of a Core Belief. It carries such a shock value and I threw in the word "deconstruction" just to sound PO-MO.. Admittedly, the name is really too the attention of people.. it's suppose to be sorta tongue and cheek.
But a book needs more than just a good title, it's gotta have content. So this is what I've been thinking about:
About 2 weeks ago, I went to a leadership retreat at church.. It was a great retreat and it was very informative.. Basically, this retreat was more of a training retreat for leaders on how to run a cell group. We didn't have a speaker, rather we watched a couple of training videos and listened to a couple of CD's.
At one point of the training the guy said, "The main purpose of cell group is for Evangelism and not to study the Bible." That statement haunted me for the rest of the retreat... I was not sure what to make of that statement.. The next day, we went to Saddleback and I sat through the Youth Service.. The whole purpose of the service was to be "Seeker Friendly." As I observed and looked around the room, it just didn't seem right. Is the purpose of church to reach the Lost?
I'm about to tread in sticky ground right now.. I honestly think that the main purpose for the body of Christ to meet is NOT for the lost and not for evangelism. But this goes completely against the core of modern Evangelicalism.. I was looking at my school's statement of faith and the second to last statement was:
"We believe that soul winning is the most important responsibility of the Church (James 5:20)."
I know I run the risk of getting kicked of my school for not agree with this statement, but I don't.. At the very core of Modern Day Evangelicalism is this idea that the church is all about Evangelizing to the lost..
The Dangers of Making Church About Evangelism
There are several dangers in putting evangelism at the heart of the purpose of the church and making all other things (social justice, discipleship, bible study, etc) secondary..
First, Evangelism and Discipleship get pitted against each other and it becomes a "one or another" battle.. The question could be asked of many evangelical churches who accept this idea, "where does solid Biblical teaching take place, if not in the small groups or on Sunday (as in the case of Saddleback)." the answer most give is, "from Sunday School." The problem with that answer is that it makes having a solid biblical understand OPTIONAL.. During the Co-workers retreat, one of the videos said, "The cell group system is just simply trying to take the model of the early church." But I really don't think the reason that the early church met was for evangelism.. And I really don't believe that the early church saw that solid Biblical teaching was Optional.. (Acts 2:42).
Evangelism and Discipleship should never be pitted against each other... Some might argue that the church's main purpose should be evangelism and they'll sight the great commission. But the Great Commissions reads:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
It does not say to make converts or evangelize to the world.. It says to make disciples... After 19a it gives the how of how to make disciples.. "Baptizing them" indicates that the gospel was shared to them and they received Christ (Evangelism).. but it doesn't stop there.. Vs. 20 says, "Teaching them" that's discipleship... The goal of the great commission is not evangelism, it is to make discipleship. Although the goal of the great commission is making disciples, the great commission is NOT the goal of the church.. heresy.. I know.. But I'll address this a little later on.
The second danger of making evangelism the MAIN purpose of the church is the danger of running into pragmatism.. If the main purpose of the church is evangelism then one way of measuring this purpose, is through numbers.. Gathering a crowd.. To gather a crowd, we simply go after "what works." Churches today are willing to compromise the gospel (water it down) simply in hopes to gather a crowd. Pastor and teachers are no longer oracles of truth but rather they are Public Relations for Jesus.. They try to make Jesus' image better to gather a crowd.. They'll do what ever works.. This mindset has led to spiritually and Biblically bankrupt nation.
Granger Community Church is the 6th most influencial church in America.. They've adopted the Seeker-sensative method.. To them, evangelism is at the heart of what they do.. The idea is to make church a place for seekers to come and eventually get saved.. They attract seekers by PRACTICAL sermons that center around how Jesus can make your life better.. Their message is geared not so much to teaching the Word of God, but rather in attracting the seekers.. So preaching about a bloody cross and the wrath of God probably would not make the top 10 list of sermons preached at Granger. Although this is what Paul preached in 1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified."
Granger Community Church is a perfect example of the Evangelical Church in America who has place evangelism as the MAIN purpose and everything else as secondary... They recently did an in house survey of the Church and the result were shocking (for some)..
47% of those attending Granger DO NOT believe in salvation by grace.
57% of those attending Granger DO NOT believe in the authority of the Bible.
56% of those attending Granger DO NOT believe Jesus is the only way to eternal life.
This is the result of pitting evangelism against discipleship..
The third danger of placing Evangelism as the MAIN purpose of the church is that leaders can trick themselves into thinking that Character does not matter.. The famous quote from the God-Father is, "It's not personal, It's just business." A leader can simply buy into a method of attraction or a great business model.. This does not require character.. As long as the church is big and the numbers are high, character become secondary.. I'm speaking from experience here.. I've led Flint for about 2 years now and in those two years we've gone from 5 people to over 50 people.. By all appearance, I had decieved myself into thinking that I had arrived and that I was someone.. Ministry was seemingly SUCESSFUL but I was arrogant (and still am), pig headed, argumentative, proud, easily tempered..
Finally, the danger of placing evangelism at the center is that other aspects of the church get neglected.. Feeding the poor, caring for the orphans, teaching the bible, and so on all become MEANS to the goal, evangelism.. That might sound ok, but think about it.. It's so disingenious.. During the Tsunami two years ago, there were some reports about ministries that would refuse to give aid to people unless they "gave their life to Christ." That's social justice as a means of evangelism.. Something is totally wrong with that.. Or how many of us Christians tried to start up a conversation and become someones friend not because we were interested in the person but because we wanted to EVANGELIZE to that person.. Doesn't that feel fake? That's what happens when evangelism gets placed at the heart of the purpose of the Church..
The Heart of the Issue:
So if evangelism is not at the heart of the purpose of the church, what is? What is the main purpose of the church and for that matter the main purpose of the believer? I actually asked this questions a couple of entries ago.. I only had 3 responses (really 2.5 responses).. First, off I appreciate everyone who answered.. I'm going to give Joe the prize because I liked his answer the best.. SO THERE YOU GO JOE.
I believe the main purpose of the church is to glorify God.. It is to reflect His glory.. I think that's why I resonate so well with John Piper because he's all about the supremecy of Christ. I believe the ultimate goal of the church is to reflect the glory of God and to give glory to God
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31..
Earlier I said that the great commission is not the goal of the church.. let me further explain in this section.. Philippians 2:10-11 "So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, TO THE GLORY OF GOD"
Evangelism is a means and not the end.. Evangelism and proclaiming the gospel is a means to give glory to God..
In fact, everything the church does should be a means to giving glory to God.. Teaching His word honestly and truthfully, is to His Glory because it is wonderful.. Raising up disciples, is for God's glory.. Missions is so that the nations would proclaim the glory of God.. Social justice is to the Glory of our merciful God.. CHARACTER is to the glory of God.
When we trade the Glory of God (the Main thing) for other things, we've just commited idolatry. Romans 1:23, "and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." It is in that exchanging of the glory of God for something else that is idolatry..
When we exalt evangelism above the glory of God we fall into the place of simply worshipping methods and sucess.. We can even deceive ourselves into thinking that we're worshipping God, when in reality we are worshipping the "seekers."
This goes for any other practice of the church.. There are churches that exchange the glory of God for the studying of His Word.. It's is all academic and the goal is not to know God (eternal life.. John 17:3).. But the goal is to simply be smart and proud.. They are worshipping themselves..
Right now, we're also seeing the exchanging of God's glory for SOCIAL JUSTICE.. This is by far the social gospel at work.. It's not about the glory of God, it's about embracing humanity.. OR huggin a tree for that matter.. God himself becomes a means to justice and not the reason FOR justice.. Jesus become a servant and not the King..
The question that we must ask ourselves personally is, "Is Jesus a means or is He the End?" Is the goal to know Christ and Glorify Him or is the goal something else and Jesus is just away of accomplishing that something.. Is he a means of building a church or is He the reason we build a church.. Is He a way of bring about social justice or is he the reason we do social justice.. For his glory.. At the end of the day, unless we keep the main thing (Jesus) the main thing, we run the risk of idolatry..
Philippians 4:20 "To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen."