Grace to you and Peace

cropped-momentum2.jpgThe original title for my blog was “Enterprise to Movement.” I fully believe the premise behind that title: that today’s American Church urgently needs to abandon its Enterprise mentality and get back to behaving as a movement. But I abandoned that title after just the first two weeks.

Why I Titled the Blog “Enterprise to Movement”

• We need to get serious again about evangelism. That’s not the same thing as marketing. We need to quit wasting our time and money on ad campaigns designed to convince church-hoppers to come our way and shift that energy to sharing the gospel with people wherever we can.

• The Church needs to reclaim unity and community as more than what the country club down the street means by them. Our aim isn’t a crowd of people smiling at a potluck. That’s easy. And keeps people happy. Our aim is deep relationships in which people’s lives are open to one another. That’s more difficult and much more messy. But I believe it’s our calling if we are a part of the great Christian movement and not just another social club.

• We need to call people to holiness. Holiness is our calling and standard. John Wesley called it “religion itself.” Want messy? Identify sin, call it sin, and urge people to repent. By the grace of God, the Christian movement has seen many sinners who were cut to the heart, repented, and (re)turned to a life of holiness in Christ. We’ve also seen several people who were confronted with their sins and decided they wanted nothing more to do with those calling for change.

I believe that graciously, but firmly, confronting people with their sins is an important part of our faith. But it’s often seen as bad business or bad social club policy, as the short-term results may include less money and fewer people. We also shy away from talking about sin when we misunderstand unity — when we think it means that our highest priority is to avoid offending or upsetting anyone.

Why I Changed the Title

• I’ve heard a lot of testimonies lately. In several of those testimonies, I heard about poor decisions people made. I’m regularly seeing that people made those decisions because they either (a) didn’t know any better – they were behaving the way they had learned to behave, or (b) were hurting, acting in crisis, or in some other way weren’t in a good personal situation to make wise decisions.

• I’ve been reflecting on the beatings church leaders take. I’ve seen several good people get verbally pummeled. Sometimes they had made bad decisions. Sometimes they had made unpopular, but good, decisions. Sometimes they had even made good and popular decisions that just happened to upset the wrong person(s). In all the cases I’m recalling, though, the person being assaulted was a good person with good intentions.

Because of these, I decided to move away from the title “Enterprise to Movement.” I worried that it was setting me up to start from a position of criticism. Yes, I believe that the North American Church is missing the mark considerably — and that the Enterprise mentality has a lot to do with that. But I believe that its leaders are mostly good people who mean well.

Where those leaders are running enterprises — giving more attention to how their worship can attract people than to how it can honor God, letting sin go unabated to avoid offending a large donor or key leader, spending lavishly to outdo the church down the street — I suspect that they’re making those decisions either because our world has taught them to think that way, or because they see a church in crisis and are flailing to do something about it. As my good friend Jonathan says, “No worship planner asks, ‘How can we worship poorly this Sunday?'” I think the large majority of us truly want what is best for the church, even if I also believe that much of our current attitude and focus is misguided.

The apostle Paul begins each of his letters in the New Testament with, “Grace to you and peace.” Many of those letters go on to include strong critiques. But Paul’s attitude to the recipients always begins with grace and peace. I’m glad Paul addressed the problems in those churches. They were serious departures from Christianity’s true message and calling. And as I see it appropriate, I plan to keep pointing out our own seeming departures from a more robust form of Christianity. But Paul’s larger goal was to point a way forward. That’s my larger goal, as well.

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