Monday, December 30, 2013

People Are Desperate for Something Real

It is hard to believe that this will be my last post of 2013. This year has been the fastest of my life and the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind that has left my head spinning. Most of my readers and followers know that the last two years my family has been on a church planting journey in S. Asia. We, ourselves, did not plant a single church, but God used me to equip a number of men to plant reproducing in churches in areas where there were none and have never been any. Leaving these men and the work was surprisingly one of the most difficult tasks that I have ever done.

The last two weeks have been full of reunions with family and friends back in the US and while it has been a blast it has also numbed some of the emotions of returning to life here. All of the holiday cheer and gatherings are temporary and ending very soon. In one way this has been a great time to return to this context, but at the same time it has made it difficult to see the reality in front of me and to receive any clarity of what is exactly ahead.

A few things have sharply stuck out to me in observing the culture as a third culture adult and in conversations with those around me. First, I have a growing burden for the US population to know and worship Jesus. I know what you are thinking, "Of course you are supposed to say that, you are a returning overseas missionary." But regardless of your thoughts, the burden I have is from the Lord and it is to see people encounter Jesus in a real way.

Second, many people, including those within the church culture, are desperate for something more meaningful. I am not knocking on any one church, but what I have heard people express is the desire for true biblical community. And quite frankly, most US churches don't actually have that within their DNA. Sure, most claim that they do, but merely having a Sunday school class or even a small group will not suffice for true biblical community. What I hear people saying they want is what we see in Acts 2:42-47. 

Third, I think that in order to see the US context reached that we need more churches planted. I am sure that this too will come as no surprise to anyone, but I believe this with all my heart. The church is God's plan a to reach cities and communities and there is no plan b. What saddens me is the lack of churches that are actively planting reproducing churches. Just yesterday in conversation with a friend who I respect from my own sending church said that they recommend a new church plant within three to five years. That sounds great, but waiting three to five years to me is unhealthy and leads way to never planting at all.

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you yesterday!

    Regarding your second point, I just read an article at SBC Voices that I think addresses this in part.

    Regarding your third point, I know that many churches outside of the so-called Bible Belt need to be planted. Many towns and cities lack enough churches.

    Inside the Bible Belt it's a different problem. You know that the density of existing churches is astonishing. In Statesville, for example, there are at least 5 other SBC churches within a 3-mile radius from Western Avenue. That doesn't mention the many Independent Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, etc. Many of these are dead and dying churches.

    The issue with planting a new and healthy church is that while you give these people hopefully healthy alternatives to their dead churches, you end up being a black sheep for draining the other churches of their congregations, some of which bring the problems of their former churches with them. So there are a complex set of political dynamics you have to navigate to address the spiritual ills of a post-Christian society. Meanwhile, the increasingly un-churched population remains unchurched while they sit back and witness their Christian friends and coworkers hop from church to church without once sharing the gospel with them. It's a big mess. Steven Furtick did this in Charlotte. He's successful in growing churches full of people, but he's leaving behind a wake of animosity from fellow Christians while publicly thumbing his proverbial nose at them.

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