Posted tagged ‘movements’

The Method or The Essence”

January 20, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             January 19, 2012

In looking at the past one hundred years or so of the church there are several emphases, or movements, that have been trumpeted, and “seminared.” I remember in the 70’s and early 80’s that there would be a “Sunday School Convention” held each year in the Detroit area that was huge. The virtues of Sunday Schools and the different tools and curriculum to make them dynamic were featured, and thousands of pastors, teachers, and church leaders flocked to the convention center to hear the latest methods of successful Christian education.

In the 80’s there was also the Church Growth movement which told us, myself included, secrets and guidelines for growing our churches. We ate it up, and started creating strategies to attract people who looked like we did, or was it that we looked like them. Either way we looked alike!

Our region’s Executive Minister (in other words, the head guy, the Baptist bishop), Steve Van Ostran, was talking about these movements to a group of us recently.

As I thought more about it, it dawned on me that we seem to buy into the method, but not the essence. The essence of the Gospel is Jesus, but we sometimes seem to think he isn’t enough. We need some tricks or clever gimmicks to make him more relevant, or more urban, or more suburban, or rural, or wherever it is that we live. A relevant Jesus, we seem to say, needs our polishing and waxing.

And so we look for the next method. What might it be? A Starbucks Coffee kiosk in the foyer? (Anyone who knows me knows that I would go for this!) A celebrity in our pulpit that will attract a huge crowd? A free ice cream day for Senior Citizen’s? The latest and greatest social networking tool?

The method isn’t bad…unless it scoots Jesus out of the picture. We are good at scooting!

I’ve “scooted” down that road a few times! In my library and file cabinets are remnants of a multitude of “method” conferences I’ve attended over the years. Being a User-friendly Church! How to Grow Your Church Through Small Groups. Effective Marketing for the Church! Servant Evangelism! Effective Community Events to Grow Your Church. Worship that Attracts!

I’m “method-proficient”!

I’m like an old Chevy, however, when it comes to being Jesus-dependent. I do a lot of sputtering, stalling, and making noise as I inch down the road.

I believe that Jesus is the essence. I just need to live the way I believe. I don’t believe that would be simply another method. I believe that would be a walk. It seems that it would go right along with something Jesus said. “I am the Way and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I don’t believe we need a seminar on that statement, but someone will probably create one.