The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Friday, June 24, 2011

Building Churches

The following is a quote I read a while back that really encouraged me. I hope it inspires you to pray for your local church. Pray for your pastors to have this vision and desire. If they already do, pray they remain steadfast in it, and rejoice in their leadership! For it puts ultimate things before extraneous ones, theology before methodology.

"I think we have enough churches being planted by means of music, drama, creative scheduling, sprightly narrative, and marketing savvy. And there are too few that are God-centered, truth-treasured, Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting, cross-focused, Spirit-dependent, prayer-soaked, soul-winning, justice-pursuing congregations with a wartime mindset ready to lay down their lives for the salvation of the nations and the neighborhoods. There is a blood-earnest joy that sustains a church like this, and it comes only by embracing Christ-crucified as our righteousness." – John Piper, Counted Righteous In Christ (33-34)

For those who might conclude from reading this quote that I don't think there's a need for what's in the first sentence, you misunderstand why I've posted it, as well as Piper's point. He's speaking to the ultimate priorities and passions that ought to drive a local church. He's not discrediting the means and methodology of building one.

Another pastor - who, ironically, considers John Piper as a mentor - built his church with a technological and cultural savvy that's now a model for many church planters and pastors around the country. Yet, the following sentence, in a book that tells the story of the hard lessons he learned while doing so, jumped out at me more than any other:  "There is enough power in the preaching of God's Word alone to build a church from nothing." – Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (p. 78)

When we plant a church and place more time focusing on methods and marketing than on the preaching of the Word, we show where our trust is for “success.” That’s because we’ve defined “success” by numbers. And numbers will inevitably show up where there is top notch music, drama, creative programming, seamless transitions, and the general wow-factor. But are they coming back for more of the gospel or more religious entertainment? Do they look forward to church because it’s akin to a weekly motivational seminar – with free child-care thrown in – or to gaze upon the Son with the gathered saints? The former is only temporarily therapeutic. The latter changes you on the spot.

I heard it said in seminary, “What we win them with, we win them to.” Are our churches winning people to Christ-crucified as our righteousness? If we really believe Jesus’ own words that Scripture is about Him from cover to cover (Matt. 5.17; Luke 24.25-27; 44-45; John 5.39) and that exalting His atoning death is the key to drawing men to salvation (John 12.32-33), then our primary focus as churches (both planted and established) will be the gospel – not gadgets, preaching – not programs, Christ-crucified – not contemporary Christian music.

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