Sunday, June 13, 2010

Christian Effectiveness

Over the last two weeks, I have being acquainting/reacquainting myself with new friends and old. The new (courtesy of Otis): Mark Driscoll, Senior Pastor of Mars Hill (Vintage Jesus, Death by Love) and Matt Batterson, Lead Pastor of National Community Church (Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity); the old: Francis Schaeffer (Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, He is There and He is Not Silent). It's not the first time I've read Schaeffer, but it is the first time for the others.

The other two - and at least one other author I've read, Joshua Harris (Stop Dating the Church) are, I would argue, indicative of a movement in Christianity: young (late twenties-mid thirties) pastors starting non-denominational missionary churches, culturally seeking young people in the twenties and thirties who have been "turned off" by traditional mainline denominations, seeking to reinvigorate Christianity. I think there is an argument to made that they are the logical extension of Schaeffer, who believed that the church needed to be involved in the culture around it - and influenced.

Based on what I know these gentlemen through secondhand knowledge and biographies, they are successful in attracting the demographic and have (I think -don't know if anyone has studied this) largely pioneered the use of "campus" locations, where the preaching pastor is broadcast to all locations allowing multiple members to benefit from their teaching.

My question - and this is a question not just for these gentlemen, but for all Christianity (especially in the United States) is: Are you effective?

Christian Effectiveness. There's an oxymoron. "We're Christian. We're dealing in spiritual matters. How can you suggest that we 'measure' how we're doing? It's a work of God, after all. It's not a mechanical thing."

That's true. Matters of God never can be precisely placed into categories or units. At the same time, a great deal of time an energy can be spent on a project, only to discover in the end that the project failed to have any impact or do what it was supposed to. One reason: There were no metrics in place to verify how the project was doing.

Let me be clear: I have enjoyed what I have read of this men. They appear to be orthodox, passionately in love with God, and have a heart for people. In the case of Driscoll and Batterson, they lead large groups of people in some of the most Christ-less cities in the nation.

But are they creating effective Christians?

What is an effective Christian? I ask this question in the context of a nation that more and more is pulling away from God rather than towards it. In the Old Testament, a revival in the Jewish faith and service to God is always followed by a societal impact. Time and time again in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, you see where the King of Israel (David, Solomon) and the Kings of Judah (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash & Uzziah [at least the first part of their lives], Hezekiah and Josiah) turn their hearts and their hearts of their people towards the Lord. Inevitably, pagan idols are thrown down and wicked practices are halted.

Can the same be said of us today?

Fine. If you want to measure effectivity, you need a metric. What is the Christian metric?

That is a good question - one I'm not sure I have a full grasp on. I have some initial thoughts though:

Matthew 28: 19-20 - The Great Commission:
a) Make disciples of all nations (What's a disciple? How do we make one?)
b) Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (What
is baptism? What does it represent? How do we do it in the way that Christ intended?)
c) Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (What things did Christ
command? What does "observe them" mean?)

Matthew 22: 34-40 (also Mark 12: 28-34) - The Greatest Commandment
a) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your
mind/strength (What does it mean to love God with all of these?)
b) You shall love your neighbor as yourself? (Who is my neighbor? How do I love myself?
How should I love them?)

Acts 2: 40-47 - Growth of the Church, especially verse 42
"They continued steadfastly in"
a) The apostles' doctrine (What was the doctrine of the apostles?)
b) Fellowship (How is fellowship used here? What does it mean?)
c) The breaking of bread (How do we do communion? How should we do it?)
d) In prayers (How did they pray? What did they pray? How do we do these two things?)
e) How do we "continue steadfastly in these things?

This is an incomplete list to be sure and I've no idea how we would objectively measure or apply these metrics. I suspect that the book of Acts - as the history of the early church - would give us the greatest guidance in what the early church considered an "effective witness of Christ".

But we have to start somewhere. More is not always better, and the Bible clearly teaches that a change in people's hearts is reflected primarily in their lives and secondarily in their culture. To the degree that nothing has changed in ourselves or in our culture, I submit that the church has lost its effectiveness -its qualities of salt and light, and therefore its witness.

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