Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Out of Focus

There is a very interesting movement in the church world. It began percolating about 20-25 years ago. In summary, it goes like this. People who are not Christians will likely be turned off, or at the least, put off by traditional church trappings. Rituals, paraments, crosses, pews and altars were all deemed to be out of line when trying to reach "unchurched" people.

Following the purging of church buildings, worship services quickly followed. No longer would there be hymns, hymn books, clerical collars and robes or choirs. Anything that looked traditional (read, old-fashioned) was cast aside so that a church could be seeker-focused.

Before I go any further, let me assure you that I am all about reaching new people. I feel like I am personally seeker-focused. I am always looking to build relationships with people who do not yet know Jesus. However, often what happens in the seeker-focused world is that we dilute the Christian content to an extent that what is left looks like a motivational seminar in a shopping center.

Here are some philosophies of ministry that are attracting a lot of attention, and a lot of people, these days.
  • Seeker Focused. The seeker-focused model directs all its attentions and efforts to reaching those who do not know Christ. Contemporary forms and methods are used to speak to the unchurched in a relevant, non-threatening way. My main criticism is that this system forgets the importance of worship, nurture, spiritual growth, tradition and the historical reality of Christianity in the USA and around the world.
  • Believer Focused. This model is either a precursor to the seeker-focused church, or a reaction to it. Believer-focused churches are not opposed to evangelism, but they are supremely interested in building up the "body of Christ." The belief is that all Christians should be spiritually "fed" and so the comfort of non-believers is diminished in importance and consideration.
  • Jesus Focused. A Jesus focused approach to ministry is not necessarily opposed to either of the other models. However, the emphasis is always on finding and following the will and the way of Jesus. The comfort of seekers is less important than exaltation of Jesus. The acceptance and support of believers is submitted to the work of Jesus. Jesus first. Jesus last. Jesus all.
Ministry is an amazing and difficult attempt to spin several plates at once. We try to keep the old-timers happy. We try to encourage the young people. All the while we are hoping to attract newcomers. But while keeping all those going, we must never let the plate of focusing on Jesus fall.

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