Friday, May 10, 2013

Seeker Sensitive...hmmmm

Sooo I got some nice feedback on the last bad stuff. I have been thinking a bit more about where we are as an association of churches. One of the things I would like to say as I begin here is as I see things I do not understand and disagree with these are really good people I disagree with. I tend to get frustrated and when I get frustrated I can just kind of let it out. I am frustrated right now...with my tribe...and with large segments of the church that seems to me are panicking big time. But back to what I was just saying...these are really good people...motivated primarily by compassion and mercy. Feeling like there is a whole segment of the population that rejects the church and even more important to them...the church seems to reject these people. So I believe in my heart there is a pure motive behind their struggle...I disagree but I love and respect them. When there is a fracture in the hurts. I think that is why I get fired winner here. 

As I think more about this I am going to throw out a really hot potato...this one may get me placed in a looney bin but here goes. I wonder, as I watch this all unravel, I wonder how much the “seeker sensitive” aspect of church growth in our tribe contributes to this dilemma? As in many places, some of our largest churches, not all but many of them have gone to the seeker format...maybe even beyond seeker sensitive...seeker driven. Now from my 30 plus years in the Vineyard...oops I named belief was John taught us to be seeker sensitive in the way we talked...dressed...if something happened during the service we took time to explain what was going on, prophecy, tongue, healing...just tell the people what is happening. We were a presence movement. 

Worship was in some places ten or twelve minutes no more. Room for the Holy Spirit...not in a 60 minute service...get them in and get them out. Ministry time...again no room in the inn. So many things that were trademarks of my tribe gone. John wrote books like “Power Evangelism” and taught seminars, “SIgns and Wonders and Church Growth.”  I heard him say on DVD that he never wanted the church to be a safe place...not safe from God! Now I know John was extremely gifted...he was a charismatic leader who moved in great power...he tried to give it to us but some things he was just blessed with. Now again before I go to far we have churches still doing the stuff, as we used to say. Penny and Danny Meyer...Happy and Di Lehman...Robby Dawkins...Christy Wimber...many others. But lots of churches with no interest in being “empowered evangelicals” maybe just evangelical...or maybe not even that. 

My questions is has the church growth movement, centered on seekers, moved us away from the main and the plain? I remember our second National Director, after John and how he talked about Gen X until it came out of our ears and noses, then moved to post modernism. Over and modern modern that. We have got to change...we have got to get ready. At one of our National meetings he had the guru of post modern gurus in to talk with us. You know what he told us? Don’t change a are set for the future...experiential with with small groups...on and on he went...and we did not listen. We got smoother and more acceptable...and less emphasis on Holy Spirit...and grew...numerically. 

Has the idea of church being for the seeker moved us away from what church really is...aren’t we the church? You know the people...aren’t we the church. I remember sitting in a work shop where the leader was talking about him planting a church and how he was not sure “the Sunday morning product” was ready. The "product"? Really? I am sure that was what Peter was thinking in Acts 2...”Boy I hope nothing happens today...I don’t think our Sunday morning product is quite ready yet.” Yep...can’t you hear that? Me neither. So we have more lights and better a secular song or two just to remind everybody how cool we really are. Two or three screens clips...commercials during the message...hip, relevant message. Then send them home to do it all again. Don’t use too much scripture...they will get lost...they don’t have to carry a Bible because we can put it up on the big screens. 

I am not saying a lot of this stuff is bad...but is it a distraction? Does it cause us to water things down to not offend? Do we stay away from certain topics or do we approach them like Oprah and Dr. Phil...leaving the scriptures on the cutting floor? I know we are doing this to win the lost but I continue to wonder what are we winning them to? The body of Christ, where Jesus is the Head, and the Holy Spirit leads, guides and directs. Or a performance based setting that points to a building and says...that is the church...that building right there is where it all happens. 

I don’t have the answer but I wonder how history will look back on this season of seeker sensitive church growth activity. We have mega mega churches all over...not just my tribe...and statistically the Church is shrinking. Little influence on culture...not many lives changing. Massive campuses...multi campuses...and yet our numbers are shrinking. Churches closing...I wonder what the verdict will be. I wonder how a group of empowered evangelicals will respond...for me this is personal I suppose. Barb and I helped plant a Vineyard here in Toledo starting in the 80’s. Five years into it, the guy, who came from one of our biggest seeker churches said he did not believe in the things of the Spirit anymore...he was kind of excited about his discovery. Well, we went around and around for a while...he talked to the Reginal leader who told him that was fine but he could not lead in the Vineyard so he pulled the church out. Five years we invested in something we loved...gone on 60 seconds...seemed that way. Sooo we began over...with us as leaders...Rich Nathan gave us the go ahead and I mention his name because I am extremely grateful he took a chance on me...he did not have to but he did. I will always be thankful for a tribe who took a chance on a reluctant leader...a factory you can see all of this Holy Spirit stuff means a lot to us. What we saw when we came into the Vineyard is still what is important to us...worship...scripture...kingdom of God...the poor...healing the sick...all of this and so much more. I saw the Church in action...and that is what I wanted. I am not against seeker driven I just wonder how it has affected our movement...don’t you ever wonder? 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

OK...I am back....on my own I can say what I want...right? So I thought I would write a letter to the Association of churches I belong association of churches is another way of saying denomination without using the “D” word. Really it is so 80’ is much cooler. So anyway when you are part of a family you say things to them you might not say to others outside the family...and you can brag on them if you want. I love to brag about my kids and grandkids...awesome. I have been in my family of churches for 25 years! Now I am aware again of how old I am. 

I love this family...most of the time...a lot of the time for sure. This is one of those moments when I think I want to brag on them a bit.(In a facetious way) I cannot believe how quickly we have moved on a certain quickly we are discussing this controversial subject...and how quickly we have gotten to...nowhere. I have studied has taken them hundreds of years...and really they are not sure yet. Some of the Lutherans..again hundreds of years before they decided to slip over the fence. Anglicans... Episcopalians...hundreds and hundreds of years...and then some of them broke up with the others. You know what I am talking about right? do. Well, it is the whole gay marriage....the LGBT issue. The leadership you ordain or not? Do we marry of not? I am so amazed we are even having discussions about this really. I wonder as I write this you think we could get Rob Bell an audience with the Pope so he could explain to the Pope, “Dude you have to adapt...really you have to adapt.” I would like to see that....

(Really it is not a LGBT or marriage amendment is a biblical issue. How do we read the Bible? How do we look at the it to be trusted? Is it a story book? Is it the Word of God...or not? I find that the amazing speed we have gotten to the point of turning scripture into a big story book has been amazing.)   

See we are supposed to be “Empowered Evangelicals” taking the best of two worlds. The best of Pentecostalism and the best of Evangelicalism and we are running with it. BOOM! That is us! We love the Bible and digging into it and we love the Holy Spirit...and moves of the Spirit. Yes we do...well we did. Thing is I don’t think many evangelicals are having debates over this...they seem to think the scriptures have said enough. And I am pretty sure those old Pentecostals are not voting on anything...and yet...we are...well not voting...discussing. Well, someone is...I have heard we have some V_______d Scholars doing a lot of talking. That is not me....25 years in a factory and dropping out of VLI with just a summer session to go does not qualify you to be a V______D Scholar. No siree Bob. So we are talking about it...and it seems like it is a difficult talk. I have a friend nearby that as I tell him our leaders are almost ready to make a statement he says, every time, “So what Paul had to say was not good enough?” I have to shake my head and say, “Jim, Jim, Jim....haven’t you heard? There are many new ways to read the Bible. It is not simple.” He does not get it...well neither do I but I pretend like I do to try to make him feel bad. I mean you have to know the “original language” and what it means...but then you have to know what the original language meant before the 1850s. Because after that we got it wrong. You have to realize that most of the Bible is stories...not real stuff...stories to make a point. I know Jesus seemed to think the stories were real...but what can I say. is helping us understand the Bible now...really helpful guys, those scientist. I suppose we could look at science through a biblical lens...but it makes others happier if you look at the Bible though a scientific lens. Got it? 

So then here we are...empowered evangelicals...waiting for our leaders to tell us how this all works. I have to admit...we obviously are much smarter than the average Den...Association of churches. How else could you explain us being here now? We are just quick learners....sorry you Lutherans and Episcopalians...I know it took you a loooong time to get what some would least have liberal discussions. Not us....BOOM...we are there! The other day I got the word from headquarters...not yet out there for all our guys and gals. The paper I was waiting for to put this to lay down guidelines for our future. To slam it down in the table like a trump card and say, “Bam, there it get with the program!” Got it. Wow! Disappointed. To say the least. Oh we did not completely disappoint...but kind of close...real close. You know I write this blog talking about my struggles with being a leader...I get it when you don’t want to lose friends by saying the wrong thing. I know what it means to be a people I know it when I see it too. I also know, after many hard and painful lessons, that is you don’t lead someone else will. If you don’t clarify and make a clear statement, someone will. (Now let me stop here a moment and say I truly believe the large majority of my tribe are still pretty conservative. I do not think we are a liberal group over all. But for us to be having these type of discussions over scripture is really, really strange on many levels.) 

A really good friend of mine was in the Lutheran wing that decided to license and ordain LGBT. He and the leadership pulled his church out...simple really...he said the denomination had changed...he didn’t. They walked away from Biblical truth to play it safer and be more popular. He couldn’t....and neither would his church body. It was really simple in his eyes. And this guy was not a factory worker...he is a seminary trained guy who loves Jesus. I talked with him today...even he admits...we are really speedy learners. 

Now I will get whacked here a little bit...the only thing I have going for me is not a lot of people read my blog. Unless you guys who do read it pass it around...then I might be in hot water. How did we get here? John Wimber and others got this thing going by allowing God to mess things move. By staying true to the “main and the plain” as I just heard recently. You know we used to get a lot of “hate mail” as a movement. The Bible Answer guy did not like all! And mostly over things the Holy Spirit was doing....making a mess. John, well, Lonnie Frisbee, taught us to say, “Come Holy Spirit.” and He came. Now we are kind of liked...accepted. Scientist like people love us...scholars enjoy us. Yeah we are really main stream...but no longer in the stream we were in. The stream now is mess...just drifting along...enjoying being liked. Except...where is the power?  The Presence? Is using the right light bulbs going to save the drug addict down the street? If I agree with the scientist that our earth is really old, will he now like Jesus? Doubt it. 

Soooo yes we have moved along at a fast pace. Personally I am like my friend Jim...I think Paul said it quite did Moses. I think rather than looking at the original language maybe we should look at original intent and design. Just seems wise to me...and faith filled. 

Oh well...Jesus still sits at the right hand of the Father....well...unless being on the right side makes Him a conservative...then maybe He is on the that can’t be...Is He sitting on the Fathers lap? Do we still believe in heaven or did Rob Bell do away with that too. Oh man...I am too old for this. Come Holy Spirit...