Is It Really the Goal of Each Church to Change the World?

“In order to change the world, you have to get your head together first.” Jimi Hendrix


In May, I read the following article from Religion News Services: Willow Creek announces major layoffs amid post-COVID struggle.

Willow Creek Community Church, a Chicago megachurch that was one of the largest and most highly regarded congregations in the nation, will lay off 30% of its staff due to post-COVID-19 declines in attendance and giving.

“Willow is about half of the size we were before COVID, which is right in line with churches across the country,” Dave Dummitt, Willow Creek Community Church senior pastor, told his congregation in a video announcing the cuts. “But as you can see, and as you can imagine, that has fiscal impactions.”

Was WCC a church following Jesus, or was it following something (or someone) else?

I contemplated the following “…(Willow Creek) was one of the largest and most highly regarded congregations in the nation.” The first thing I noted was the word “was.* Obviously, the alleged sex abuse, the abuse of power along with meticulous control by Hybels, changed things. Suddenly, the respect for the church went from “is” to “was” almost overnight.

Then the word “respect” and “large” were used in the same sentence. Being large, having lots of programs, mega attendance at gazillion worship and training services, and an annual star-studded “Global Leadership Summit” led to a supposed national “respect” for the church. And how in the world is “national respect” measured and how does the guy living in Bangor, Maine, know enough to “respect” WCC?

But, folks, the church, and its programs were rotten to the core because WCC’s celebrity pastor was a debauched (IMO) leader with no apparent sense of what constituted a follower of Jesus Christ. Hybels had this glorious idea of learning how to lead the flock by applying standards from the business world. How Willow Creek Is Leading Evangelicals by Learning From the Business World. Who in the world was Hybels choosing for role models? Bernie Madoff? Was this because he didn’t think much about the servant leadership of the humble rabbi from Nazareth? Jesus wasn’t running multinational cooperation that oozed success. He wasn’t the guy who had a vision for Tesla and the conquest of the Red Planet. Musk-now that’s a guy we should emulate. He gets things done. But has anyone checked out his personal life? Don’t get me wrong. I think Musk is a genius, but Musk is not Jesus, and he isn’t building the church.

Did Hybels and his leaders understand what or Who they were serving? I bet you can guess what I’d say. I bet even Elon Muck could answer that question.

Was Hybels emphasizing the people of the leadership?

The RNS article handily answered that.

Before the layoffs, staff costs made up about 72% of the church budget, according to an update released by the church earlier this month. The layoffs will save $6.5 million, bringing staff costs closer to half of the current budget.

IMO, this enterprise was focused on the leaders. What about the members whose money paid for this behemoth? I spoke with several people during the implosion. They called me, looking for someone to listen to them. One lady told me how she was chosen to help with transportation. Can you imagine trying to move all those people to and from the massive parking lot? It was a nightmare, yet she enjoyed helping. Until one day, she was relieved of her duties with no explanation whatsoever. The more she tried to get an answer to her questions, the more she was isolated. She never learned what she did wrong, although she tried. I suggested that maybe she didn’t do anything wrong. Perhaps someone changed up the dynamics and thought someone else should do it. Of course, they didn’t tell her what had happened. This was a vast enterprise, and the system was what was important. No one had time to speak with a brokenhearted woman who faithfully served. They didn’t have time. She was slowing down the important “stuff” that had to be accomplished.

WCC now, as well as under Hybels, plans to change the world.

From the RNS post, we learned that WCC has a new motto.

Last fall, the church announced plans to rally around a theme: Love God, Love People, Change the World.

I believe they used to spend more time loving the leaders than the people. I hope that’s changed. Hybels had this plan to present the Bible pleasantly, nonthreateningly. It didn’t work out so well. In 2007, the Gospel Drive Blog posted Bill Hybels: “We made a mistake.”

“We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

…The article concludes with Greg Hawkins, the Executive Pastor stating,

“Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.”

Notice how quickly the emphasis went from teaching folks how to read their Bible to transforming the planet. Hybels had a nice idea, but he went straight on back to changing the whole wide world. And, may I say, he didn’t.

Is it God’s purpose for each of us to change the world?

If you were to tour all the little startup churches that rent storefronts, you would find the following motto oft-repeated on their signage or website. “Changing people and changing the world.” I get exhausted just thinking about it. Many of these churches fail. I live in the shadow of SEBTS, and Raleigh is a pretty nice area in which to settle. Lots of trees, nice weather, and close to mountains and ocean. Many seminary students might choose this area in which to settle and from which to change the world.  But JD Greear already got the corner on the Baptist market.

I like my church. It has a disaster response team to help folks in areas hard hit by hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. There is a group of people who faithfully pick up trash on a designated street. It has a clothes closet, distributes food, and makes lunches for kids out of school. It has a preschool (it’s excellent from what I hear) and has kids make valentines for those in nursing homes. My church isn’t “changing the world” but is making a difference in a non-flashy way to some in our community and areas devastated by weather, etc. People are nice to one another. Everyone seems to enjoy the “Let’s greet one another” and “Let’s share the peace with one another.” Sometimes it’s hard to get people to stop shaking hands. The pastors are so gosh darn nice and seem to learn names so quickly. That is not one of my skills. I forget names all too easily, no matter how hard I try.

We are helping some in our community and some elsewhere in the world. We change a part of the world in a small way. In the meantime, we know Who we serve. We remember what we are about as we say the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed each week. We listen to three readings from Scripture each Sunday, which rarely happened in my Baptist church. We confess our sins and remember that we are sinners and forgiven. We have a sermon that is relevant to the Scriptures we read. And we share in Communion and music.

My goals are to love the Lord with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. I hope to leave grace behind with those I meet along the way. Maybe, I can lend my voice to the abused and help to bring light to some dark corners of the church.I believe I will go home helping in some small ways. But I will not have “changed the world.” I leave that to God.

So, do you think every little church is tasked with “Changing the world,” or is that a meaningless meme?


Comments

Is It Really the Goal of Each Church to Change the World? — 88 Comments

  1. Great question Dee. I always believed churches function best when they minister to and care for their “flock”. That includes visiting the sick, teaching and bearing one another’s burdens. Stuff you have pointed out do not get done by the dudes in skinny jeans. The flock in turn, is to impact and reach others in their “world”, and then the universal church impacts the planet for Christ.

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  2. Thank you for this! The conservative Christian university I attended sent an alumni survey awhile back–one of the questions asked us to report how many people we had led to salvation. I suppose they wanted to be able to report that their alumni were responsible for x-number of souls going to heaven. I wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t spent the last decades measuring my worth by so many expectations to change the world.

    I memorized Galatians 6:2 as a child (Any other Missionettes out there?): Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Today, I am fulfilling the law of Christ (and maybe changing the world) by loving my transgender, neurodivergent teenage daughter. By caring for my elderly parents–one of whom received a diagnosis of lung cancer today while the other is in the hospital undergoing tests for a possible stroke. By walking with friends and colleagues who are carrying the weight of broken relationships and family illnesses. I don’t do all of this very well at times–frankly, I’m tired. Changing the world is overrated. Let’s leave that to God and just try to love–that’s about all I can handle! And thank God for churches, leaders, friends, and communities that support and encourage us along the way!

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  3. George: I always believed churches function best when they minister to and care for their “flock”.

    It hadn’t occurred to me until just now — the modern day church is like a commercial meat factory farm. The “flock” nowadays is just an all-encompassing, single, living-and-breathing entity where individuals are not routinely kept watch over, as a shepherd would historically (and biblically) have kept watch over his small flock to responsibly protect it from danger. With today’s factory farm church, if a small number of the weaker flock requires too much attention, it’s dismissed, abandoned, and pushed aside to face its demise alone, because it can (and will) easily be replaced by the “new meat” being admitted to the factory farm. The replacement new meat must be the primary focus, just to keep the numbers up. (Numbers implying the total monetary value of the flock rather than the quantity and quality of the flock.) One final thought about factory farms, in general — there’s quite a bit of noise, distraction and stench.

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  4. “So, do you think every little church is tasked with “Changing the world,” or is that a meaningless meme?”

    When evangelicalism is constantly messaging youth about being passionate and radical and going out to change the world, is it any wonder the motto of so many churches is to do the same?

    Nations can change the world.
    Some organizations can make changes.
    Some individuals do change the world.

    William Wilberforce probably had the greatest positive impact of anyone in the last 300 years (if not a lot longer).

    Bill Gates has changed the world.

    Rush Limbaugh changed modern politics into the utter lack of civility we have now through the example he set on the airwaves.

    John Calvin’s impact is still being felt 500 years away.

    The little church on the corner though? Not likely, and yes, it is all very fatiguing. Where are the mentions for those that change diapers, or set up the chairs in the room? For those who faithfully go to work everyday to no fanfare? The truth is that most of us lead lives that are largely filled with the mundane. Hopefully we are making small changes in our small circles.

    That said, there is a handful of bloggers, victims, and victim advocates that, for the present moment anyway, seem to be initiating change in the SBC.

    Thank you Dee and the rest that have pushed to have things change by publicly showing just how awful things are in so many churches.

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  5. “…as you can imagine, that has fiscal impactions.” — dave dummit
    ++++++++++

    i don’t think it means what he thinks it means.

    now why couldn’t he just have said fiscal impact??

    at least they weren’t “performative regenerate fiscal impactions based on a good hermeneutic, and toward a normative apologetic.”

    gah

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  6. “So, do you think every little church is tasked with “Changing the world,” or is that a meaningless meme?”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    my honest take: i think it’s a gimmick for a church to justify itself, to manipulate people to come and give their so-called time, treasure and talents for the purpose of creating jobs for men who choose to wear the pastor hat.

    i want to say I’m sorry for being so cynical. but, it’s truly my honest thinking on the subject. From longtime observation and deep consideration of what I’ve perceived.

    i think most church leaders have good intentions, and just do what everyone else is doing and has been doing for a while, without thinking things through down to the brass tacks.

    this notion of a church “changing the world”: people are manipulated to come and be involved at the church facility or under its auspices as often as possible during the week and throughout the month.

    the net result: the church takes all the time, talent, and treasure for itself and people end up ignoring / abandoning their neighborhoods and community where they live. church takes it all. it’s a hungry machine.

    people end up ignoring and abandoning their dreams and what they were created to do because church demands so much of them. and guilts them if they don’t step up. the gospel is at stake, the world is at stake, doing your best for God is at stake (or so the implicit messages go).

    actually, the church viability, market share, and pastor’s careers are what is at stake.

    and so the church machine keeps running so there are jobs for pastors and the world is not changed.

    i apologize to all the sincere pastors. this is truly my observation of how things work out.

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  7. WCC now, as well as under Hybels, plans to change the world.

    So did the Communists of the last century.

    In his non-fiction The Bridge at Andau, author James Michener chronicles the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and its savage crushing by the USSR. One of the later chapters includes interviews with Hungarian refugees describing what life was like in the Warsaw Pact of the Late Stalin/Early Khrushchev period.

    And it reads just like the testimonies covered on this and other similar blags: a high-commitment abusive Church obsessed with Changing the World. No life allowed, only 24/7 Compulsory Commitment to The One True Way. Every facet of “life” completely within the bubble of the Church, complete with “Communized” knockoffs of the Forbidden Fruits of the terrible horrible Outside.

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  8. I think there’s nothing wrong with hoping that what one does within one’s local community is beneficial and might contribute to a better future in the wider world.

    But the rhetoric and mentality of aiming to “change the world” IMO is an invitation to pride — or maybe it’s evidence of pride in that those who use this rhetoric imagine that they know how to get to a better future for the wider world. It might also be a manipulative rhetorical ploy to exploit people’s desire to be important — “invest your time and money here and you will make a lasting impact on the entire world.”

    Another way of thinking about this is to admit that we don’t actually know (and we have great difficulty agreeing among ourselves — pick practically any topic — what a better future would look like. It’s hubris to try to implement world-scale plans. Incremental local change is wiser and is more achievable.

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  9. Benny S: meat factory

    “Reformed” is what the soggy meat that came in packets used to be called . . .

    While every designer outlet church transforms every city into every designer outlet.

    Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Some people I knew were told by their Gramsci-trained, big name dropping animators that they were going to be “inserted into the Church” (don’t choke on your tea!)

    Real gifts are individually exercised and uniquely nourished.

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  10. elastigirl: my honest take: i think it’s a gimmick for a church to justify itself, to manipulate people to come and give their so-called time, treasure and talents for the purpose of creating jobs for men who choose to wear the pastor hat.

    This is what I think, too. Note the initial comment – the endgame was entirely fiscal.

    Why does Northpoint and some of these other “church planting” megas only plant churches in the most affluent areas?

    Why do most of these megas hide their budgets and refuse fiscal accountability to the members who are paying those budgets?

    I’ve watched pastors ask for more and more to “change the world” while living in mansions and golfing several times a week at the best country clubs while the members they are asking to give have single parents tasked to the limit made to feel guilty for not giving above 10% (seen this, in person, from the church I mentioned last week).

    It’s not about changing the world. It’s about pastors making the bucks.

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  11. IMO, the mission established for the Body of Christ in the first century hasn’t changed:

    “Jesus came and spoke these words to them, “All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. You, then, are to go and make disciples of all the nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you and, remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”” (Matthew 28:16-20)

    In order to accomplish that mission, we must be motivated and moved by love. As Jesus said “You shall ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

    With these goals in mind, I might not be able to change ‘the’ world … but I can help change ‘somebody’s’ world.

    Hybels, and so many more like him, did not have this at the core of their ministries. Seeker-friendly, church as entertainment, cheap grace, self-centeredness are not the tools of the Great Commission for the church.

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  12. dee,

    I’m so old that I remember when the church used to be counter-culture to the world … now it’s a subculture of it in many places. I don’t have a problem with trying to be culturally-relevant – after all, Jesus is the eternal contemporary – but we have pushed the boundaries of the church where we shouldn’t go.

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  13. Thomas Hill: but do you know of any Biblical reference that commands Christ followers to change the culture, the world?

    Probably the closest to this would be Acts 17:6 “These men who have upset the world have come here also” (NASB) or “have turned the word upside down…” (KJV). It isn’t a command to do so, but it is the result of their witness and life for Christ. But the mission to “change the world” is a pretty generic statement to which I think Apple Corporation, et.al. could certainly subscribe. Certainly “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matt 28:19) does have worldwide significance. It would seem to me that this is the mission of the Church at large and no individual church is able to pull this off by themselves, it would seem to me.

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  14. I agree with Max – I think we change the world through our actions every day. I realize that’s not what these church statements are talking about, but we affect others by showing kindness, helping someone, raising our kids, even making $ in our “routine” jobs and donating to those more needy than us. These actions aren’t bright and shiny or even visible to others, and only God knows what the full repercussions are of the sum of the small actions we take.
    To me, a simple summary of Christianity comes from the musical Godspell:
    “Day by day; Day by day; Oh, Dear Lord, three things I pray:
    To see the more clearly;
    Love thee more dearly;
    Follow thee more nearly, Day by day”

    If we See Him and Love Him, the rest should follow.

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  15. there was a time when ‘the Church’ made a difference . . .

    it provided 90% of its religious clergy and nuns to nurse plague victims, and the 90% perished in the process . . .

    today, so many of the maga pastors steer people away from getting medical help during pandemic – so many, and we lost a million American lives to covid 19

    it was ‘the Church’ that founded the first universities and centers of learning, this after an abysmal record of ‘dark ages’ illogic;

    today, it seems some powerful folk in ‘the Church’ steer their sheep away from science and from higher education and ‘the media’; and inspire the sheep to ‘only listen to the Annointed One and his news station for ‘fair and balanced’ reporting . . .
    ‘balanced’ ? well maybe on the edge of the cliff into fascism (?) . . . ’24 is coming at us like a freight train

    once ‘the Church’ gave us the great Reformers in the days when ‘pride’ had corrupted the leadership – came to the Church Francis of Assisi, barefoot, and little Therese of Lisieux, teaching of ‘the little way’ and they kept the light from going out

    today, we have some in ‘the Church’ who no longer point to Christ as the ‘lens’ through which the Scriptures are to be interpreted . . . no longer, no
    and instead we see the rise of misogyny, the perversions of ‘leaders’ in power who seek patriarchal control over the lives of their victims, rather than choosing to become ‘servants of the servants of God’ –

    still, some remnant remains from the WITNESS of the ones who chose to serve rather than to ‘rule’

    I wouldn’t worry about ‘the Church’ surviving, no. Not as long as there are those in the Church who ‘witness’ by standing with the persecuted and the ones who have no voice

    it is in the darkest of times that we can best see ‘the Light’ – ’24 is coming
    and may God have mercy on us all

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  16. hi Dee, We lifelong southern baptists have moved to denver and now are in our 2nd little
    Lutheran church. Weekly communion, bible, focused on Christ his life and death: not the pastor, not entertainment. We love God by loving our neighbor. One of our friends got on us because of infant baptism. My wife said the only criteria she had is that it must be a Christian Church in word and deed. These Lutherans certainly qualify.I love the emphasis that God gives us faith thru the word and Lords supper and baptism. It is not our doing.
    We just respond in love.

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  17. There is also nothing in the Bible that says a church should be large or any special blessing inferred because your church is bigger than someone else’s. The only thing it says about church size is two or more. I’m also biased towards impacting the community our church is in instead of the world. And impaction refers to wisdom teeth.

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  18. readingalong,

    Agreed.

    I think there’s a difference between an individual local (small “c”) church and the universal community of believers that’s also called (big “C”) Church. Most local churches can only hope to influence their little corner of the world. But if all of them are working in concert and rowing in the same direction, bigger things can happen (for good or for bad, I suppose).

    Even William Wilberforce didn’t work in a vacuum.

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  19. Max,

    kingdom = heart currency
    That is the jam we need today as well as tomorrow.
    The ordinary “world” doesn’t articulate it like this, but they aren’t stupid, they will rightly reject the fake thing no matter how powerful it is made by painting the name “Jesus” over it

    (I don’t find Dee’s “secular” cases-in-point germane)

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  20. Elastigirl, I have been struggling for years due to what you just wrote: “people end up ignoring and abandoning their dreams and what they were created to do because church demands so much of them. and guilts them if they don’t step up. the gospel is at stake, the world is at stake, doing your best for God is at stake (or so the implicit messages go).”

    Thank you. This has been my experience as well, and like you, I’ve developed a healthy cynicism regarding churches and pastors, much to the chagrin of the young, idealistic seminarians I’ve met. I tend to (unintentionally) make them squirm.

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  21. elastigirl: people end up ignoring and abandoning their dreams and what they were created to do because church demands so much of them. and guilts them if they don’t step up. the gospel is at stake, the world is at stake, doing your best for God is at stake (or so the implicit messages go).

    In the words of the prophet Internet Monk:
    WRETCHED URGENCY – GRACE OF GOD OR HAMSTERS ON A WHEEL?
    24/7/365, with God holding the Whip.

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  22. Thomas Hill,

    Also here are a couple of important points made by the late Dr Michael Green in his book “Evangelism in the Early Church
    – “This must often have been not formal preaching, but informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes.
    – “They made the grace of God credible by a society of love and mutual care which astonished the pagans and was recognized as something entirely new. It lent persuasiveness to their claim that the New Age had dawned in Christ”
    – “This must often have been not formal preaching, but informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes.l
    – “The “connection between belief and behavior runs right through Christian literature. The two cannot be separated without disastrous results, among them the end of effective evangelism.”

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  23. Old Timer,

    i’m sorry. there’s much more i could say. but i want to stay buoyed up at least a little.

    what incenses me is how disingenuous it all is.

    manipulating people to give up their lives for the institution with threats that if they don’t, people will end up going to hell.

    and you will have let God down, and God will be so disappointed in you.

    and God will know you were the weak link that made it happen.

    and you will have that on your conscience for the rest of your life.

    pastors who may be reading, yes, you are correct – none of you have ever, ever said such things.

    it is the implicit message in most of what you do say, and how you say it.

    “well, this is leadership. this just how church is done.”

    to which I reply the lack of critical thinking and self-awareness is… well, sad is the overriding thing.

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  24. elastigirl:
    Headless Unicorn Guy,

    wow – are his writings still available?

    I’m aware of michael spencer, and know he passed away.

    Technically his site was Archived when the blog shut down around New Years 2021, but a couple months later any attempt to access the site ended in a timeout. No 404, just Timed Out without connecting. Just like what happened last weekend on this blog.

    For what it’s worth, the URL is http://www.internetmonk.com .

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  25. I have always taken many of those verses to refer to congregations. What’s the difference between “the church which was in Jerusalem” and a church? Other places are mentioned: Cenchrea, Corinth, “the churches of Asia,” Laodicea, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Crete, “the church in thy house,” etc. There are quite a few more, especially in Revelation. I looked in a KJV concordance:

    https://thekingsbible.com/Concordance/church

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  26. Bridget: The Bible doesn’t talk about ‘a church’ much at all. It talks about ‘the Church’ (of Jesus) in some place or other.

    Nor does it mention denominations, theology, celebrity pastors, gospel-centered coffee, grace-this, grace-that … just the Body of Christ worshiping Jesus and fulfilling the Great Commission together. Yep, we’ve come a long way in 2,000 years … so far, that you can attend a church near you this Sunday and not hear the name of Jesus mentioned much.

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  27. Max: so far, that you can attend a church near you this Sunday and not hear the name of Jesus mentioned much

    MAX, what IS heard instead??? I come from a liturgical Church so we don’t have any lapses in being Christocentric. Was it politics that did this to the ‘churches’ that stopped focusing on Christ? What happened?

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  28. elastigirl: Headless Unicorn Guy,

    wow – are his writings still available?

    I’m aware of michael spencer, and know he passed away.

    Elastigirl, and Headless Unicorn Guy:

    I googled “internet monk” and found this link:
    https://imonk.blog/

    I clicked onto Wretched Urgency, also one of the Coming Evangelical Collapse links, and the links worked fine. It looks like the original imonk address has problems though.

    WORTH A READ. All of Michael’s stuff. I can only imagine what he’d be writing today, it’s been 12 years already since he died.

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  29. Ted,

    I just read through Michael Spencer’s article about Thomas Merton and the Walnut Street Epiphany. I should add that the “monk” in internetmonk was in honor of Thomas Merton. Michael had learned a lot from him. In the comments to the article someone asked Michael for any recommendations of Merton’s works. Michael responded, “Sheesh. All of them. :-)”

    That article was from 2005. I also saw a comment there from some guy named “Ken” who writes very much like HUG, but that’s neither here nor there. Merely nostalgic.

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  30. Friend: If all Christians reject the very idea of congregations, what will become of the faith?

    Just be sure that you pick one where the Main Thing is the main thing. It’s amazing how many are doing church without Jesus! Jesus must be at the center of your faith, not the congregation. If the congregation you choose is a congregation of the Lord – knowing and serving Him, not the teachings and traditions of men – then join yourself to it.

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  31. David: The only thing it says about church size is two or more.

    And 18 GIFTS (free) of the HS given to the Body of Christ for the benefit of all. Each church member has one. Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4.

    We always pray to have all 18 in our network, perhaps something the church in Acts took for granted.

    From time to time, we have a teaching pastor, sometimes a Warren Wiersbe protege, who teaches that most gifts ended after the 1st generation of the Acts church. (But their gifts of pastor or teacher persist, of course.)

    One chooses what and whom one believes.

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  32. Bridget: I agree with Max. I just think these gatherings of the church are difficult to find. There are fewer of them than we might think.

    That might well be true, but a lot of people never bother to look. They assume a place is bad based on hearsay or less.

    When I was in college, I invited a friend to visit the humdrum little church I was attending. His eyes got all big and he said, “No! If I set foot in there, I’m going to Hell!”

    I’m sure it didn’t cross his mind that he was insulting me and consigning me to Hell too. This is just how Christians talk.

    People don’t have to go to church, of course, and there are regions with very few churches. My county has hundreds of congregations. The variety strengthens the faith around here, I think.

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  33. Bridget: There are fewer of them than we might think.

    A remnant is the last yard of fabric after all the other fabric has been sold.

    When it comes to finding ‘the’ Church in the 21st century, you will have to look for the genuine among the counterfeit … a needle in the haystack … a treasure buried in the field. Oh, you can do church in every American community whether it’s ‘the’ Church or not. You can also be ‘the’ Church and not go to church. And you can find a fellowship of real-deal believers embedded in just about every church … they usually represent a small percentage of the total membership, but kindred spirits have a way of finding each other. So, that may be the best you can hope for in attending the 21st century church … to just tolerate the counterfeit and hangout with the genuine until a revival and spiritual awakening occurs in America … but I don’t see much movement in that direction until we cross the 2 Chronicles 7:14 threshold.

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  34. Max,

    “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
    —II Chron 7:13-14

    I don’t believe that God sends natural disasters in order to punish people collectively and cause repentance. You might not be saying this, but we hear it all the time: God sent that hurricane because people did _________.

    In my experience, most people who attend church do have faith. Granted, I have mainly belonged to churches that do not pressure people to attend, offer material benefits in exchange for membership, or make life miserable for those who ask questions or leave.

    Maybe truer faith is found in congregations that choose to gather.

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  35. Ted: WORTH A READ. All of Michael’s stuff. I can only imagine what he’d be writing today, it’s been 12 years already since he died.

    TED, I hadn’t realized that it’s been 12 years since Michael died. . . where does time to? I think Michael had a ‘gift’ to share with the whole Church and strangely, in the way we so often see it happen, his ‘gift’ touched many from the different ‘divisions’ by going deeper into the Christian mystery than the ‘usual’ observations we all share with one another.

    Michael had an insight that opened doors for people to enter into understanding with one another . . . that alone was something ‘blessed’, I think. He was and is much missed. May his memory be a blessing to us all.

    If Michael loved the writings of Thomas Merton, that just cinches his cred with me even more.

    Yes, Merton’s ‘Walnut Street Ephiphany’ was a game-changer . . . another man whose insights crossed boundaries that normally kept us Christians divided . . .

    Michael ‘got it’. That’s why we loved him.

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  36. Friend: I don’t believe that God sends natural disasters in order to punish people collectively and cause repentance. You might not be saying this

    Nor do I … God judges, but does not punish. I was particularly referencing the last half of that passage (verse 14) to point out the “IF:THEN” connection that believers have with God. In whatever state God’s people find themselves in (be it natural disasters, war, famine, counterfeit religion, etc.) it would be worth a shot to humble ourselves, pray, repent, and seek His face … in order to activate “Then Will I” to bring about forgiveness and healing of the land. The slumber and complacency about the things of God … the Christianity Lite which has fallen on the church … church as entertainment … the cheap grace gospel … pulpit abuse in various forms … etc. … are reasons enough for us to seek Him. IMO, we are not able to access the resources of God because we don’t know Him as we should or live as we ought.

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  37. Thomas Hill,

    You hit the nail on the head. There is no Bible command to change the world. There is no command to reform culture. Some Christian communities I’ve been in contact with over the years appear take the old testament theocracy model and apply it to the church. But countries of the world are not Israel, and the church is not made up of Levitical priests tasked with bringing the peoples of the world into submission to a strict set of kosher laws. If each church taught and trained each follower of Jesus how build into another two or three disciples every ten years then we’d see the “radical transformation” these mega churches keep talking about. Until such a time it’s all just hype and grift. Real disciple making is quiet and largely under the radar of anyones glamor meter.

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  38. elastigirl: at least they weren’t “performative regenerate fiscal impactions

    On the “regenerate” front, Mr Ascol was tweetering yesterday again re-commending re-genital church membership. From the linked SBC re-solution:
    “…only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and
    WHEREAS, The Scriptures admonish us to exercise church discipline as we seek to restore any professed brother or sister in Christ who has strayed from the truth and is in sin…”
    From this we see that the only sin or straying they think indicates a “member”is not regurgitate is the sin of failure to “attend”.

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  39. Fisher: There is no Bible command to change the world.

    The biblical commands are to change oneself, while voluntarily following Jesus.

    Furthermore, making disciples is sharing the Gospel Good News so others may voluntarily follow Jesus and change, too.

    The Patriarchy can’t even control themselves to keep their parts in their pants, nor control or influence each other enough so their BFFs keep their privates in their pants. How can they possibly lead others?

    Church Patriarchy is an enormous FAIL by any stretch of the imagination.

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  40. Dee, the kinds of things your church does – I’d say they’re all pastoral work. Valentines very much included.

    Your church is *part of the local community.* It’s not trying to separate itself and exist in one or another of the parallel universes that are so important to most evangelicals and all fundamentalists.

    When I was growing up, my Lutheran church had us make cards and more for people in nursing homes, “shut-ins,” etc. (In Sunday school and in VBS.) One of the big things they’re doing now, as a congregation, is making quilts for young moms who have very little money, here and abroad. Granted, that’s just one thing, but so many folks lack the most basic amenities. And these things are made by people, both by hand and machine.

    I think it’s a great thing.

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  41. when kindness prepares the feast,
    no one goes without

    what is the value of a single act of ‘kindness’ in the world?

    WHY do we contrast ‘kindness’ with ‘justice’? Why?
    is it so that we can ‘justify’ our unkindness to ‘the others’? and, if so, how does the ‘Chesed’ of God act in this world to teach us another way???

    questions

    ‘do no harm’ seems the least a Christian person can summon and still be ‘of Christ’
    and at times, even that seems beyond our human ability to achieve in ‘this world’

    ? what ‘matters’
    what is it that ‘makes a difference’

    or did we just no know how much we already had of God’s blessings???

    questions for all of us who would sit in judgement on ‘the others’ and look down on them from a ‘higher’ place, we who are blind to our own sinfulness

    ?

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  42. Ted: I clicked onto Wretched Urgency, also one of the Coming Evangelical Collapse links, and the links worked fine. It looks like the original imonk address has problems though.

    WORTH A READ. All of Michael’s stuff. I can only imagine what he’d be writing today, it’s been 12 years already since he died.

    Yeah. I found the new site and started searching for my favorite IMonk entries to cite and link to. They’re still there, but there are a few holes in the archive:
    * None of the pictures transferred over from the old site.
    * The comment threads are simple lists (like here but without the who’s-replying-to-what links) instead of the indented heirarchy of replies, making the comment threads confusing.
    * The internal links in the posts and comments are still to the old site, making them effectively dead links. External links, however…

    I found one of my Holy Grails I’d been looking for since it disappeared into 404 Land some eight years ago, a link to the most INSANE parody of a Jack Chick tract I’ve ever encountered online. The Sodom & Gomorrah story from Genesis, using show-accurate G4 My Little Pony characters and settings. If Jack Chick drew My Little Pony, it would have looked like this.

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  43. Favorite Internet Monk articles/postings besides “Wretched Urgency”. All are subjects I’m very passionate about:
    * “The Disneyfication of Faith” (First warning of Ken Ham’s Ark Experience Theme Park; comment thread exploded)
    * “A Match Made in Hell” (Rapture Ready Christians For Nuclear War and how they go synergistic with Jihadi Islam)
    * “Hell House: An Evangelicalism Ready to Leave” (More on the Rapture Ready Crowd; Don’t be Left Behind!)
    * “Selling Jesus By The Pound” (Jesus Junk Merch and Christanese Parallel-Reality Subculture Bubble) and “Surprise! God Does Art” (a rebuttal to the first), best read in that order.
    * “The Limbaughization of Evangelicals” (the first rumblings of something that really bore fruit around the time Internet Monk shut down).
    * And the classic three-part “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”.

    Except for The Coming Evangelical Collapse, all the others will need to be title-searched on the sites Search function (lower right corner of the main page).

    And I may as well inflict on everyone the Jack Chick tract parody I mentioned above, my Holy Grail:
    BEHOLD THE UNNATURAL SPAWN OF JACK CHICK AND LAUREN FAUST!
    https://derpibooru.org/8716?scope=scpe10c3e0647170fbd587b1a02c18fc1cc68826b8e5
    (Click on the thumbnail for the full-size tract)
    (It was the Lightbulb-headed Princess Celestia enthroned in the cloud that really got me…)

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  44. Sounds a whole lot like the megachurch we just left. The congregation has recently seceded from the United Methodists…and then things got really weird. The senior pastor (cue Living Color’s “Cult of Personality”) announced that this move would make it easier for the church to fellowship with other “like-minded” and “like-SIZED” churches (emphasis mine). From day one, he’s made it clear he has no time for small churches, making comments like “I refuse to pastor a dying church!”
    Over time, it seems the biggest tragedy that’s ever happened to him (worse even than his daughter’s divorce) was the fact that the church didn’t see any numerical growth in 2020, the only year the church hadn’t grown since his arrival. His sermons tend to center on three topics:
    1. Did I mention I was a superjock in high school?
    2. His cabin in the country that he owns.
    3. More sports references.
    I would guess if you asked him what “his pronouns” were, he’d answer “Me, myself, and I”.

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  45. Mike: His sermons tend to center on three topics:
    1. Did I mention I was a superjock in high school?

    “I WAS A FOOTBALL STAR IN HIGH SCHOOL. ONCE I SCORED THREE TOUCHDOWNS IN ONE GAME!”
    — Forty-something loser on Married with Children

    How big a loser do you have to be where My High School Football Career is the Absolute High Point of your entire life?

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