Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Build it and they will come

Build it and they will come

This line was of course made famous in the movie Field of Dreams. However, it's also been a strategy (perhaps an unconcious one) of the church over the past few decades. It's one of the reasons why I was first attracted to the house church movement. The idea was that instead of trying to get the world to come to the church, we, the church, the missional people of God, would go to the world.

We've been working on a proposal for a church start over the last few months, and this morning I was reminded again of this principle. I first read Jesus For a New Generation, by Kevin Ford, during the summer of 1996. It was the first book that I had read on the subject of Generation X. It had a tremendous impact on me. A little over a year later I was helping to plant a church in Nashville that targeted this generation. This morning I was rereading the proposal that our pastor had written for that new church. In the proposal there is a quote from this book. Here's the quote.

"I have met very few Thirteeners (another term for Generation X) who actually hate God. When I meet someone who has an aversion to church, I sometimes ask why. With the exception of the few satanists I've encountered, no one says, I avoid church because I hate God.' Instead, they say, 'Church is boring.' Or 'Christians are hypocrites.' So I respond. 'Well, gee, I go to church, and that's not my experience. If you could go to a church that was not boring, and where the Christians were not hypocritical, where people talked directly and honestly about life, where you got a chance to see how God intersects with human lives - do you think you might be interested?' Without exception, they all answer, 'Yes.'

The idea at the time was that we had to make church relevant to this generation. They no longer fit in their parents' churches, and they were no longer going to go just because it was the cultural thing to do. So how did we make church more relevant? We replaced choirs and organs with drums and guitars; we encouraged people to take off their masks and be real with one another, believing that authentic lives were key to sharing the gospel; we sought to figure out how Jesus fit into our lives Monday through Saturday; etc. So where has that left us?

All of this is great, but my feeling now is that we didn't take things far enough. The paradigm was shifting, and we made part of the leap, but not all of it. The question was still, "If you could go to a church that was not you think you might be interested." This is not the problem. I think we're going to have to dig deeper as to why people do not come to our churches. I think we're going to have to go back to Scripture, as well as to history. How did the early church make such an impact on society. We won't find the answers until we first learn the right questions to ask.

My prayer is that we will have the courage to discover and then ask these questions.

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