Friday, February 20, 2009

Reaching the heavily "churched"

I have now been called to a place of ministry that is very familiar to me, and yet a completely new experience. In my years of college ministry I spent most of my time carefully walking through and explaining the gospel to people that had only been to church sporadically if at all. Now I'm faced with reaching a generation that has grown-up "in" church. Meaning they have more or less been inside the four walls of a church 2-3 times per week for most of their life. But they have never truly been in the Church. This generation was either sent to church by parents that didn't care to attend, but thought it was a good thing for their kids to be there. Or, they were brought to church by parents who forced their kids participation with only the reasoning of "because it's what you're supposed to do." This has created people that know lots of information about the Bible and it's main theme, Jesus, but do not have a faithful and redeeming relationship with Him through the gospel. My repeated question to myself has been "how do you reach a people with the gospel, that already 'know' it and have somewhat of a disdain for the church." After time in prayer and reading, here are some answers that I have come up with.

1) This population needs to see sin as a heart issue. 
They have had "rules" placed upon them that were to only effect their outward behavior. They quickly found that they couldn't keep these rules, and that has left them with loads of guilt. Now they have resorted to abandoning the church rather than continuing in an endeavor that they see as futile. We need to see that Jesus always brought the laws back to the root issue of the heart, and that even if we were able to diligently keep those outward laws we would still be sinning in our heart. We need to understand that we will never be good enough to earn forgiveness.  

2) This population needs to see that Jesus gives true LIFE now, not just fire insurance for the after-life. 
All that most of this population has heard in church is "keep these laws and when you die you get to go to heaven." They do not know or see that Jesus has come not just to punch our ticket to heaven, which is an awesome thing, but that He came to give life now. John 17:3 says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." This tells us that our eternal life begins the moment we come to a full and true understanding of Jesus, and that this life is learning and knowing Jesus personally. Our relationship with Christ provides purpose in life, lasting joy, true peace, and so much more.

3) This population needs to see the body of Christ (manifested as the local church) as a true community of people who love their God and the people around them.
Quite often the church, whether purposefully with one big decision or unintentionally through a series of small decisions, removes themselves from their culture. The body of Christ then begins to look more like a gated country club than the open gathering of God's people for the purpose of worship and teaching. This communicates that, "you must be one of us before you can come in." This is very different from the way Jesus conducted himself during his time of ministry. Jesus crossed societal, racial, cultural, and gender lines, and he definitely crossed the line between the "righteous" pharisees and the unrighteous people He came to save.  He was not concerned with what the "churched" pharisees thought of His actions.  His concern was with the lost soul that did not know Him.  That is why He was despised by the church at the time.  He did the unthinkable and spent time with the sinners - so should we - on their terms and not ours.  We should go to them and not expect them to come to us (at church).

The dire need for the mission field that I find myself in is to see Jesus and His gospel in a new light. To see the gospel as it truly is, the "power of God unto salvation," not a list of Do's and Don't's. We need to see that Christ put on human flesh, was born, lived the perfect life that we should have lived, and died the death that we deserved, not to then return to heaven just to pound us on the heads when we break a law. He did those things out of love for us, and to make a way for us to reconcile our relationship with out heavenly Father. This reconciliation to the Father is what gives us our purpose, joy, peace, and fulfillment in life, along with countless other blessing that our sin had taken from us. 

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