Sooo I got some nice feedback on the last blog...no 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 family...it hurts. I think that is why I get fired up...it hurts...no 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 names...my 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 essential...now 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 over...post modern this...post 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 thing...you are set for the future...experiential with worship...community 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 staging...play a secular song or two just to remind everybody how cool we really are. Two or three screens going...video 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 1988...yep...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 worker...so 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?