Friday, August 24, 2007

Thoughts from Other Thinkers

I was at a meeting this past week at which I heard an interesting comment from a speaker whom I greatly respect. I won’t give his name yet because I cannot give an exact quote at this time. (I have ordered CD recordings of the messages.) His message dealt with dissension in churches, and he stated that he has seen more of it lately than at any time in his ministry. I thoroughly agree with him! He also said that there is no such thing as a strong local church—that all churches are fragile. He stated that many in the audience would disagree with him about church fragility. Some churches obviously have more problems than do others at any particular moment, but I agree with him that all churches are fragile. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to upset the perceived stability that may exist at any given time in a church.

I finally finished reading Ed Stetzer’s wonderful book, Planting Missional Churches (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), and I want to share some interesting quotes from the book.

Stetzer distinguished between seeker-sensitive and seeker-driven churches:

“Much of the criticism directed at the seeker-driven church is a result of the misunderstanding of their strategy. In seeker-driven churches, Sunday morning is not supposed to look like church; it’s designed to be an ongoing evangelistic service. A student who visited Willow Creek with me commented that the service looked like a Young Life meeting, a low-key evangelistic service with an opportunity for those who attend to go deeper at another time. The strategy has worked for Willow Creek, but it’s not one I embrace for theological reasons. Instead of focusing on a seeker-driven worship service, I believe it’s better to ask why the church exists—and then to ask questions about the content of the worship service. Churches should exalt God, edify believers, and evangelize the world. Worship services, first and foremost, should exalt God. This statement underscores the imperative of God-centered worship. Believers should also be built up in the faith. Finally, authentic worship can evangelize unbelievers. . . . Every church is seeker-sensitive to some degree. If we are worshipping in the local language, wearing local clothing, and singing music written in the last one thousand years, we are using a worship style that’s sensitive to those who attend. . . . My main concern is that the actions of the church are understandable to the unchurched, sensitive to their needs, but not changing the message to be sensitive.” (261-263)

I agree with Stetzer here. We should be seeker-sensitive, but not seeker-driven in our churches. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians only attend local church meetings on Sunday mornings, and if they are not fed deep spiritual food on Sunday mornings, they may not attend a Wednesday night meeting to get it. I believe that a preacher can deliver a message that both feeds the Christians and evangelizes the lost.

Stetzer defined vision casting:

“Understand here that by ‘casting the vision,’ I mean what I announced as our goal.” (302)

I'm glad that Stetzer defined the term as he was using it here. I must admit that I am uncomfortable with all the talk these days using the words “vision” and “endvision” in churches and on the mission field. Biblically speaking, the word “vision” refers to a supernatural revelation from God. Prophetic visions described in the Bible always came to pass. In contrast, as the word is used today in churches and on the mission field, it refers to a detailed goal described by a leader that may or may not come to pass. We sometimes refer to visionary leaders and leaders with vision. Many businesses and schools have vision statements. I fear that many of us have been using the secular definition rather than the biblical definition of the word. I prefer to use the word “goal.” It may not have the sense of mystery or authority that the word “vision” has, but I think it is more suitable in the Christian context. Today, if a Christian leader’s vision (goal) doesn’t come to pass, our folks who are using the biblical definition of the word might get a bit concerned. Notice Jeremiah 14:14:

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.’”

F. B. Huey Jr. commented on the passage:

“These words contain a warning for today’s preacher that he must be careful not to cloak his own desires under the guise of being God’s desires. They also warn people to be responsible in discernment when listening to ‘prophetic’ voices.”

Huey, “Jeremiah, Lamentations,” in The New American Commentary, vol. 16, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1993), 154.

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