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Posts Tagged ‘biblical mandates’


The third part of Organic Outreach for Churches by Kevin Harney is called The Hands of Your Congregation. It is only two chapters long.

“As our hearts grow healthy, we can engage our minds and think deeply about ways that a church can take the good news of Jesus to the world. … Once our hearts and minds have connected with the outreach vision of God, it’s now time for our hands to get active.”

He begins the section with the “The Two-Degree Rule” or The Power of Vectoring. He points out that most churches, if left to themselves, will focus on themselves. The resources of time, money, gifts and abilities will be invested in those who are already part of the congregation. People want their needs met. I don’t blame them. The problem is that people often confuse wants with needs. American Christians struggle with consumerism. They shop for churches that meet their needs rather than being concerned with faithfulness to the Scriptures in teaching (orthodoxy) and practice (orthopraxy) as well as love. Since we are still sinners, we will struggle with selfishness.

The Two-Degree Rule comes into play in light of this.

“The Two-Degree Rule involves identifying what we are already doing for those who are a part of the church and then finding creative ways to vector this activity into our community to engage unbelievers. It’s taking what we are already doing to care for, equip, and minister to our church family and giving it an evangelistic focus.”

Fellow RTS grad Ken Priddy advocated for something similar in his Turn Around Churches material for revitalization. For him it was making sure the gospel is a part of everything you do. If your church has a marriage seminar, you invite non-Christians. You don’t have to dumb it down, but you need to acknowledge that not everyone present may believe. They now have an opportunity to engage and be engaged by Christianity.

This means that not only should each ministry have an outward focus, but all activities should have an outward focus. You aren’t necessarily adding activities, but you are seeing them as part of the outreach strategy. But sometimes this means taking our activities outside of our space, our facilities.

Harney gives an example of a church expanding its meals ministry to people outside the church. They began to serve the people they knew who had health issues, or new babies etc. They brought meals to unchurched people as signs of the love of Christ for sinners.

“It is not about starting new ministries with new volunteers and additional resources. It’s simply taking what you’re already doing, something that is natural and normal, organic to the life of your church, and extending it to the people in your community.”

He encourages churches to think bigger, promote more widely and take action. This can be challenging for churches of 100 or under people. But it is worth considering or you will stay stuck.

The second chapter is the Value of Innovation. I was not as wild about this chapter. It seemed to prize (exalt?) innovation. I guess the question is, what is innovation? If it is a new way to fulfill a biblical mandate, I am good with it. We can get set in our ways. But sometimes we can also make an idol of being on the cutting edge and feel the need to “fit in” or keep up with culture.

This is a hard balance. We are to be different than the culture around us. I’m of the opinion that our worship services shouldn’t be confused with rock concerts. That’s actually not innovation but mimicry.

One of his examples was interrupting the worship service for time to mingle and grab coffee, and extended form of “Greet the family” or “pass the peace”. This church loved it. I’ve spoken to others who visited churches that did this and hated it. This innovation helped them grow numerically, but does that alone make it a good innovation? The standard isn’t “does it work?” which is pragmatism. We have a responsibility to measure things by the Scriptures, particularly if we embrace the Regulative Principle of Worship. Harney mentions biblical norms earlier in the book, but it would be great if he brought that back to have appropriate boundaries for innovation.

“Innovation involves trying things. It also means there are times for certain programs, events, and activities to end.”

There is some wisdom here. Some programs, events or activities have a shelf life. That same church ended up ending their extended break during worship to have a continental breakfast before worship each week. Programs, events and activities can become ineffective in fulfilling biblical mandates. Perhaps they are an inefficient use of resources (which can change over time). Churches do tend to stick with things that are perceived to be successful. They become “tradition”. And traditions die hard. A helpful question he didn’t ask was “how can we fulfill this biblical mandate better?” This helps us to see what we should be doing, and finding the best legitimate way for us to do it. Too often the conversation becomes “what do we want to do.”

Bottom line is that this was another mixed section. There were some helpful thoughts and some that needed clarification and qualification at the bare minimum.

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