Category Archives: discipleship

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)

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 2 entitled – “What If the System’s Broken?”:

There’s not really anything wrong with having or not having a cross on your church walls, but for many of us, in retrospect this removal became symbolic of what seemed to be taking place message-wise. (27)

 

A cognitive dissonance can result for those who hear a message all about what they should do to be more successful or victorious or happy…only to hear the proposition that Jesus died for our sins. To hear a lengthy appeal to our abilities, culminating in an appeal to our utter inability, can cause spiritual whiplash. (27)

 

…we may mistake the rising of something for the health or success of the thing. So it’s possible to look big, to look successful, and to not actually be big or successful in the ways that matter. The is not a strike against having a megachurch. It’s only a strike against the idolatry of the megachurch. It’s a strike against a church of any size that is trusting in growth, whether it’s actually experiencing it or not. (40)

 

Sometimes healthy things grow, but the growth continues on in a momentum of its own and ends up obscuring areas of concern or deeper need that are easy to ignore because of the easy justification and visibility of the growth. (41)

 

…the problem is not really one of size but of an unhealthy obsession of size, with a pitting of bigger against smaller, and with the failure of growing churches to compensate for their numeric growth with scalable efforts to maintain pastoral care, community, and discipleship. (43)

 

In too many attractional churches, committed Christians are put to work largely in service of the weekend worship experience…In the beginning of such ministry, enthusiasm is high. But when the lion’s share of one’s discipleship is occupied with weekly efforts toward the worship service, it is not too long before the volunteers begin to feel interchangeable, like cogs in a wheel…if they [weekly efforts] are the sum total of one’s connection to the church, they do not provide the nourishment that growing Christians need. (44)

 

…when it comes to proclaiming the gospel to the lost and feeding the sheep, we have to give great care to the means. And in fact, how we do church will have a direct impact on the quality of the results we get. (46)

A Buoyant Hope

Behind the veneer of much of our discipleship (and honestly, my own weathered and jaded heart), there is something in the depths of my heart that regularly flusters and flummoxes. It is something we all crave but even on our best days, we feel very little of. In our pursuit of it, we have replaced it with falsified versions that aren’t up to spiritual snuff. And thought it’s right under our noses, it’s possible that the reason we may not have much of it is because we are looking in the wrong nooks and crannies for it.

Oh hope, where art thou?

More Like the Mona Lisa

One of the reasons that we overlook hope is because we are wrongheaded in our definition of it. Hope is typically expressed as doubt rather than a deep certitude that what seems impossible is assured. I’ve said it before. “I hope everybody shows up tonight for missional community” or “I hope they remember to show up for this counseling meeting” or “I sure do hope they like this sermon.” But that is not biblical hope. Hope is not just an aspiration for something good but an expectation that it will happen—an assurance that it will happen. An inevitability that the good we anticipate and long for will transpire. In other words, biblical hope is not finger­-crossing. It is a thumbs up kind of hope—a hope that it is embedded, not in skepticism, but in the stalwart faithfulness of God.

My children loves to color our carport sidewalk with chalk. It’s one of their favorite activities. Pinks and greens and blues and yellows all scribbled on gray concrete. I love to watch them as they make the grandest creations with no thought about their lack of permanence. Inevitably, a rain shower eventually rolls in and washes away their artwork. Gone. In a moment. Hope in a faithful God is never like this. It doesn’t wash away with a little rain. There is firmness in it that can’t ever be dissolved because God’s purposes are more like the Mona Lisa—enduring and unfading. Hoping in God and hoping in anything else is the difference between chalk and paint. One fades, the other abides.

Seeing the Unseen

The writer of Hebrews adds a vital component to the idea of hope: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Wherever there is full guarantee of hope, there is faith. Or said another way, faith is the jam-­packed, self­-confidence of hope. I admit that I regularly lack that kind of confidence but that is what real hope brings. It brings spiritual assuredness. I need that kind of inspiration for my flimsy faith. But the writer of Hebrews also says that yes, faith includes hope but it is more than hope.

Charles Spurgeon says it this way, “Though the ‘things’ are only ’hoped for’ and ‘not seen’ at present, the eye of faith can see them, and the hand of faith can grasp them.” See, faith­-shaped hope does the unthinkable and the counterintuitive. It sees what is unseen and clasps on what is intangible. It has vision for what is undetectable. It clutches onto what is indiscernible. That’s good news to me because frankly, my faith tends to be miniature sized. What was Jesus’ proposal to his disciples for their little faith? He told them to grow it to the size of a tiny mustard seed (Mk 4:31). I love that. Jesus, as only he can, gives me hope that I can have a faith that believes and sees what can’t be seen if it’s as big as something that is very small because my faith is small most of the time.

The Bible describes the patriarch Abraham as a man of deep faith who had this kind of hope. He was filled with hope that God was able to do everything that he had promised ­ even though reality raged against God’s promise. “In hope he believed against hope” (Rom. 4:18). Interesting verbiage. Webster’s Dictionary has a separate entry for the phrase “hope against hope.” It is defined as “to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment.” Does this sound like Abraham’s faith? Not even close. Abraham’s hope had a different tone and focus.

Abraham’s “against hope” meant that from a conventional human perspective, there was not an ounce of likelihood that a miracle could happen. Remember, Abraham was old and his wife was barren. Abraham knew that hope is never anchored to what is achievable by man’s effort. Biblical hope gazes to the promise of a miraculous God. Abraham had a Hebrews-like hope. We must point our hearts and the hearts of others to this kind of hope in our discipleship.

Head over to Gospel Centered Discipleship to the last part of this article and read how hope is like a cork for the soul.