Thursday, January 19, 2006

Making the church attractive to the world

As I was reading a blog entry here I was struck by the statement about making the church attractive to the man outside. I have heard this statement again and again in present times. In fact this seems to be the mantra of those who teach on how the church is to grow. However, as I read that comment in relation to the discussion on the beatitudes, it hit me, why do we even think this way? Jesus taught us, "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:20) By its very nature, the church is different from and unacceptable to a world under sin. The constant testimony of the Scriptures is that those who follow Jesus will be rejects, outcast, and persecuted. As Christians who take the Word of God seriously, as not just some human opinion, but as the very word of God written, we must realize that by its very nature the Church is not attractive to the world. To make it attractive to the world is not merely a matter of changing what we do, but would require either downplaying or changing of the message we are charged to proclaim. This still begs ths question, "Why do we seem to think we need to make the church attractive to the world?" There are several possible answers I can see. We could want to do this because we want people to come to embrace Christ in a true and living faith as their Lord and Saviour. This is an a very proper goal. We are called to be salt and light in this world of decay and darkness. Yet, just before that teaching by Jesus he pronounced a blessing on those who are persecuted saying, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12) So it seems that proclaiming Christ to people is not a matter of making the Church attractive, but proclaiming Christ even if that means we are rejected by many. The other reason that came to my mind why we may have the seemingly overwhelming desire to make the church attractive to the world is related to the above one. We want to win people to Christ, but we realize how attractive the world is to us in comparison to the church, and want to compete with it. The problem with this is that behind it lies something very troubling. The fact that we find the world so very attractive. In essence what we are saying is, "Yes, the world is great and fun and satisfying, but here we can make the church like that too." I say this is troubling because behind it lies not a full orbed satisfaction in Christ, but a seeming dissatisfaction with Christ, as if coming to him is not truly satisfying, but only coming to him along with all the fun of the world. Now I want to be careful here, because I do realize that often what we do as the church is not what it should be. We often have practices and traditions that are not commanded by scripture which may be what makes a particular congregation unattractive to a person. I am not by this saying that one type of song is better than another, be it traditional or contemporary. Nor am I commenting on musical instruments should be used in worship. Rather, I am trying to say that we need to realize that we do not attract people to Christ or the Church by making it attractive, but rather by proclaiming Christ in all his glory and worshiping him, whatever our worship style, with all our heart. These thoughts are just in their formative point, but where they are going is troubling.


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