By Jonathan Allen, Friday 12th July 2019 at 12:59pm
Francis Chan visualises a major disfunction in what ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ looks like and the blueprint he sees the Bible mandating. He likens this to ordering a steak in a restaurant, then being served a plate of spaghetti, with the claim that this is the best spaghetti. He then relates an exercise he goes through with church leaders:
First, I have them list all the things that people expect from their church. They usually list obvious things like a really good service, strong age-specific ministries, a certain style/volume/length of singing, a well-communicated sermon, conveniences such as parking, a clean church building, coffee, childcare, etc. Then I have them list the commands God gave the church in Scripture. Usually they mention commands like “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12), “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27), “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), etc. I then ask them what would upset their people more – if the church didn’t provide the things from the first list or if the church didn’t obey the commands in the second list.
Ouch! Are the things that we have made and designed more important that the requirements God has laid down? Now you may say that a good congregation can do both – can have cracking services and preaching and be great at visiting the sick and the social justice stuff – that the two sets of criteria aren’t mutually exclusive. I agree that Chan does seem to be polarising this a little too far, but it is worth asking the question where our people stand: in which list – ours or God’s – do our priorities fall?
There is a temptation for any congregation or church leader to ask the question, “What works?”. With the motive to see more people becoming interested in Yeshua and becoming disciples, that often translates into getting more people in through the door and that, in turn, means catering to their desires, rather that helping them desire God’s desires. As an Australian church leader, Alan Hirsch explains: “If you have to use marketing and the lures of entertainment to attract people, then you will have to keep them there on the same principle because that is what people buy in to …“
We don’t fall into that trap, do we?