Quotable…
from The Prodigal Church  by Jared Wilson

I am posting some of the quotes that caught my attention from Jared Wilson’s new book, The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo, chapter by chapter. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and managing editor of the seminary’s website for gospel-centered resources, For the Church. He is a popular author and conference speaker and blogs regularly at The Gospel Driven Church, hosted by The Gospel Coalition.

prodigalchurch

Today, we look at Chapter 3 entitled – “What Works?”:

While we have great freedom in contextualization, we also face a great danger. That the Bible is somewhat vague about specific methodologies does not mean every methodology is fair game. Not every method is neutral. We have to go deeper and test our working assumptions. Beneath the exercise of liberty in methodology is always a functional ideology driving our decisions. (48-49)

 

Pragmatism reasons that God’s ability to use anything means our freedom to use everything. Pragmatism treats church methodology like a vending machine. (53)

 

The pragmatic approach to too many attractional churches aims for quantity in disciple making but suffers in quality. So as the pragmatic spirit drives our methodology, the kind of discipleship culture that results is shallow and frequently artificial…So the most effective way to turn your church into a collection of consumers and customers is to treat them like that’s what they are. (54)

 

In the attractional model, the center of worship is too often the preferences of the children and too rarely the proclamations of the Father. (60)

 

Pragmatism and consumerism also can taint a church’s numeric growth, because even as the place fills up with people, it may actually become less distinctively a church. (60)

 

Truer to the biblical portrait…is the church as a community that certainly values the worship gathering (and even the quality of the experience therein), but not as the central hope of evangelism or life change.(62)

 

What the Bible seems to express is that unbelievers in the service are best served not by having their tastes catered to but by witnessing the gathered church exalting God in the receiving of Christ-centered teaching, the singing of God-centered songs, and the observing of the sacraments. (66)

 

I fear that many evangelical church leaders have not adequately explored the relationship between the dominant youth ministry culture of yesteryear and the production-minded, casually relevant attractional church culture of today. (67)

 

What we do in church shapes us. It doesn’t just inform us or entertain us. It makes us who we are. The worship service, in other words, doesn’t just cater to certain tastes; it develops certain tastes…what we win them with is what we win them to. (67)

 

It is not in the best interest of the very unbelievers we’re trying to reach to appeal to consumerist tastes in the interest of offering them the living water of Christ. They’ve been drawn by the promise of lesser satisfactions. And when we make such a big production out of these lesser satisfactions, we communicate that in actuality they are what really satisfies. (67-68)

 

As the production values begin to dominate our worship, we relay that it is the production that we find really compelling, not so much Christ himself. When the invitation to trust Jesus comes, if it ever does, Jesus feels a little like an awkward guest at someone else’s party. (68)

 

The Bible’s ‘functional ideology’ – contrary to consumerism and pragmatism – is that ‘what works’ is the Holy Spirit through the message of the gospel of Jesus. And neither the Spirit nor the gospel needs help from our production values. (70)

Must Reads for Your Week

“Dismantling the Façade of Authentic Vulnerability” by Chris Martin

Chris has put words to something that has needed to be said for a while now…

…there is a big difference between the person who talks about working out and the person who actually works out. In the same way, there’s a big difference between the person who talks “vulnerably” and lives vulnerably.

If we were truly willing to be vulnerable, authentic, and the rest, we’d actually start doing something about our sin and not just wallow in it with our friends like pigs in the mud.

The Relationally Grounded Pastor: An interview with Eugene Peterson” by J.R. Briggs

Eugene Peterson graciously continues to be a voice calling pastors to prepare the way for the Lord…first, in our hearts…

There’s nothing in the world that is more contextual, more sensitive than a congregation. Wendell Berry elaborates this in terms of the land, the farm. Every farm is different, and the farmer has to learn his land and treat it with dignity. There’s no vocation, I think, that’s as context-specific as the pastor. So you’ve got two contexts—your congregation and the pastor’s. Every pastor is different and should learn to be him- or herself. And every congregation is different and needs to be given dignity in being itself.

“Expositional Imposters (Expanded)” by Mike Gilbart-Smith

Extremely insightful thoughts on the subtle (and not so subtle) ways we can flub in preaching a sermon expositionally…

Mark Dever rightly describes expositional preaching as ‘preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.’
 
However, I have heard (and preached!) sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are a dozen pitfalls: five that don’t make the message of the passage the message of the sermon and thus abuse the text, five that fail to connect the text the congregation, and two that fail to recognise that preaching is ultimately God’s work.

The Guest List of our Lives

invitation

My daughters received an invitation to attend a birthday party for our neighbors recently. If you’ve ever wondered how screams could be collected for energy (see Monsters Inc.), you’ve never been in the same room when young girls receive soul-thrilling news in the form of an invitation. My daughters’ hearts could have burst and their shrieks could have powered a small village—easily.

Ecstatic joy flowed out of my daughters so naturally, I felt like I was being let in on something. We like to be invited to things. It makes us feel loved. It makes us feel like we belong. Jesus once told a parable about an invitation. It was an invitation, not to a birthday, but to a dinner—and at its core, it was a very unusual invitation.

The Parable of the Great Banquet

In Luke 14, Jesus first tells the Pharisees that when you give a banquet or a dinner, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so they will invite you in return. Jesus instead says when you give a feast, invite the typically uninvited—the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

Now, this is counter-intuitive because the Pharisees and scribes felt a sense of supremacy in their separation from those on the fringes. When the Pharisees and scribes would throw a party, they would only invite the people who could invite them back. In other words, the Pharisees manipulated hospitality for their own self-glory and reputation. Parties were about raising your social capital. Only those who could further that agenda were welcomed.

But the marginalized—those on the outside looking into the cultural upper echelon—had no way of doing this. In fact, if they were invited, they wouldn’t accept the gesture because they knew they would be required to repay the courtesy and they knew they couldn’t do that. It would be too humiliating to accept that type of invitation because they did not have the means to reciprocate, so they would refuse.

To further make his point, Jesus launches into a story to illustrate his teaching with the opening line, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.” This was going to be a huge event thrown by a very wealthy man. The Jews would have understood this. To be at this party would be the height of social recognition. In fact, when you were invited to a large dinner like this, you would typically get two invitations. The first invitation acknowledged you as an honored guest. The second invitation would come to alert you that the party was about to officially begin.

Now, when the second invitation comes in this parable, we go from the invitation to excuses. Every single person highlighted in this passage says, “I can’t come.” All of them. The Pharisees would have said, “Nobody would do that. This is disrespectful. This is uncivilized.” But in Jesus’ story, they all decline. So the wealthy man does the unthinkable. He tells his servant to go out and seek another group of people. He tells him to bid the outcasts to come to the banquet—the poor and crippled and blind and lame.

In the minds of the Pharisees, the first group wouldn’t turn down the invitation and the second group would never have been invited. But in this story, the master says go and bring them in. In Greek, the verb bring in highlights that they would have to be taken in because they would resist. So they would have to be forced to come. And they knew the etiquette—they would have to pay the master back with an even greater feast if that happened. And that would be impossible.

Head over to Gospel Centered Discipleship to read the rest of this article and see how Jesus pushes us to go even further missionally in our pursuit of the outcast.