Scattered Thoughts on “Jesus Wants To Save Christians”

Twice last week, I posted selections from Rob Bell‘s new book. The gist of it is that the American church has some negatives associated with it…

…and the authors decided to point us in the right direction and encourage us to come up with solutions. It’s a more provocative read than anything else. In a good way.

So, I’ve been doing some thinking on the questions I posited earlier: The idea of “engagement.” In other words, how does the Church, and the individuals who comprise it, become more effective in our culture?

My initial thoughts, in no particular order:

I agree that the American church has positives associated with it…as well as negatives. The blessings we have are generally good and can be used in ways that are honoring to God and show love. For example, many churches send members to build houses for the poor over spring breaks or summer vacation or long weekends or such. It’s nice to have the resources to do that, in time, people and money.

I also agree that there are negatives if those resources are allocated selfishly and/or poorly. I don’t think I need to list them here.

I’m seeing an awful lot of pulpit teaching these days where the words innovative and creative and “passion” and multimedia are being used. Now, don’t get me wrong. Those are all postives. I mean, I don’t want to bore people with the Word. I strive to be excellent at my craft. I want to be emotionally honest with myself and the audience I teach, too. I think film clips and book quotes and song lyrics can all illustrate points and be used to generate thinking and reflection. But when we overemphasize those things it might be entertaining and moving and such, but we usually wind up with entertained and “moved” hearers who immediately focus on what’s for lunch 10 minutes after hearing from the pulpit.

It seems to me that so much of Rob’s intent (which is good) is really asking the question of “How does the Church best LOVE the world?”

Because the reality to me is that Scripture’s pretty clear on “the goal of our instruction” being “love.” And that love should come from “a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” No question that Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:5, was wanting folks to live faithfully and walk worthy. Oddly, much of what I hear on podcasts seems to direct the “goal” of instruction as either behavior management or straight-up knowledge…and when these are enhanced by multimedia or stories, well, let’s just say that pastors hit their targets.

See, I think that we need to be focusing on “love” as the end-game. To me, it doesn’t matter how we get to that (I like/use multimedia, for example) as far as I’m concerened. But when we “sell” behavior management then we’ll get it. People may tithe more or stop drinking/gossiping/adultering or start having sex every day for a week, but will they LOVE more? Again, those are all good things in some ways, but motivation matters.

So, me & Rob are on the same page on the big idea: That we need to hear the cries of the world around us, and LOVE them. Whether or not they love us back. Whether or not they ever “accept our God.” We should always being doing the most loving thing. Sometimes that will look like a “pro-life” marcher helping an unwed mother with medical bills. Sometimes that will look like a student getting training for ministry from seminary or Bible college. Sometimes that will look like a dad dropping the golf game for breakfast with the kids. Sometimes that will look like raising money for a well in a village in the Congo. Sometimes it will raise awareness for the homeless by sleeping outside. Sometimes it’s going on a church retreat to gain a better understanding of marriage/finances/parenting/the book of Timothy. Sometimes it’s a mom ignoring her daily devotional to dump out a tub of Legos. Sometimes it’s…

…I could go on.

But that’s enough for today.

And tomorrow I want to touch on how we encourage love: By grace and truth.