Are ‘fringe’ building churches such a bad thing? Maybe not…

The problem is not so much with what churches are doing; it’s with what they are not doing. 

Many churches are so focused on growth that the majority of their resources (money, materials and people) are focused on growth initiatives; i.e. building campaigns, community events, etc.  This leaves little left for internal growth initiatives.  In other churches, particularly those overseas, there is precious little resource to invest in either external or internal growth.  Either way, churches are struggling to help people to grow.  We are adding to our numbers, but we’re adding ‘fringe’ and we’re not helping ‘fringe’ move to the core.

BUT, what if there existed a community of ‘core’ believers whose sole purpose was to birth new believers from the ‘world’ and develop baby believers in the ‘fringe’? 

If this community was effective, it would complement churches of all sizes, shapes and styles while filling this all important gap of internal spiritual growth.  It would have to be orthodox and yet inter-denominational.  It would have to be united on the essentials of the Christian faith, but mature enough to give and receive the freedom granted by grace.  It would have to be seemlessly global, not bound to a region or local church body.  It would have to be large in number, but it would have to be more concerned about the maturity of the community than it’s size.  It would have to be simple for community members to communicate with one another; it would have to be accessible, transparent, authentic, and helpful to those outside of the comunity.

If such a community existed, ‘fringe’ building churches could leverage the community to supplement their existing internal growth initiatives, practically free.  If such a community existed, a small town church in west Texas, an isolated body of believers in Zambia or an underground small group in a communist or muslim country would have equal access to the same global support structure as a mega-church in the USA.

Does this sound exciting?  Do you want to engage?  Let me know…

Zero Church Aptly Named?

A few posts ago, I alluded to a mailer I received that provided a pretty good example of a “fringe building” church rather than a “core building” church. 

Note that I have never attended this church nor do I know anything about it or their leadership…I’ve only received the mailer.  Therefore, the only comments I intend to make are about the mailer and the audience it is obviously designed to reach.

A mailer I received from Zero Church
A mailer I received from Zero Church

Here are some observations:

About Zero Church

  • “Most churches are okay, but we think…”.  In other words, if you are unhappy with the church you are currently attending, then come to zero church.  Is this church reaching out to unbelievers or to people who already have a church home but are hoping to find a church that is more entertaining?
  • “We have a talk, but no preaching.”  Can you imagine the apostle Paul or any hero of the faith telling it’s audience, “hey, i’m not here to preach…let’s just have a talk.”  God calls us to teach His Word…why are we ashamed of that?
  • “We have an offering, but not for us…”  Does this mean that 100% of what people give to zero church goes to the poor and oppressed?  If that’s true, wonderful!  But, I wonder where the money comes from to pay salaries, rent space, buy office supplies, etc?
  • “We have a band, but not much worship music”.  If it’s not worship music, then what is the purpose of the music?  Entertainment is all I can think of. 

“Talk” Series

The good thing about how this series is described is that at least the word “biblical” is included.  These topics are wonderful for a Christian counseling session.  And, believe me, I’m all for Christians helping other Christians “learn how to say no”.  But, the mission of the church is to make disciples, right?  How do these topics help us make disciples?  How do they call people to Christ?  Again, my point is not about style of worship/preaching…it’s about what the style is producing.  Series like this educate people on how to live their lives in a western materialistic culture, but they do not educate people as to their sin condition, God’s grace, genuine faith in Christ, and the ultimate importance of obedience.  People become better parents, spouses, friends, and co-workers not primarily by studying how to become a better parent, spouse, friend or co-worker…they do it primarily by learning God’s word, believing is, and obeying it.

At the end of the day, I just don’t understand why churches feel like they cannot be proud of the God we serve and that somehow God is pleased when we hide Him for the sake of “building His kingdom”.  My belief is that God does indeed save people in churches like these, but he does it despite faithless methods and not because of them.  The natural fruit of churches like these is ‘fringe’ which, as I have argued, is actually hurting the Church not building it. 

We ought to be going out into the world, sharing the good news of Christ, and serving them in His name; we should not be not pulling the lost into our communities and calling them part of the Church when God has not made them part of the Church.

I understand my stance is probably not very popular.  My intent is not to be unpopular…just aligned with the God we serve as best I can be.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and observations.

Choosing Sides in the Unseen War

“When surrounded by war, one must eventually choose sides.”

The opening line to a recent Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode (above) struck me as applicable to our discussion.  In his comments from a couple of posts ago, Bob ended with “At least we’ll all know where we stand!”  One day, we will certainly know where we all stand b/c all will be forced to take up sides at some point.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent considerable time researching and developing small group strategy.  I’ve participated in small groups, led small groups, coached small group leaders, and helped churches start and grow small group ministries.  Through all of this, I’ve tried to keep the focus on the role a small group plays in the spiritual war we are presently engaged in (Eph 6:12).  Unfortunately, the momentum is to think of small groups more as social clubs than army platoons.  Small groups ought to be more than friends being friends; they ought to be a means of mobilizing God’s people in our struggle against the “spiritual forces” Paul speaks of. 

This trend is another driver toward the need to go back to one-on-one discipleship.  If the Church has an effective means to grow people (and the forming consensus is that small groups are not an effective means to grow people spiritually), then small groups can safely be more “communal”.  You would train your small group leaders to identify those in their small groups who are willing to be disciples, then take them aside for deeper training or pair them with someone else who can.

To bring this back to where we started, the point is that we in the Church are indeed “surrounded by war”.  Not a war with flesh and blood, but with the spiritual forces that are trying (and will ultimately fail) to overcome God’s people.  Only the most core of the ‘core’ remember this on a daily basis and live their lives accordingly, yet all of us should. 

What does that mean in a practical sense?  It simply means taking spiritual growth (i.e. knowing God and his Truth more, developing a Christlike character, and obeying God in all things regardless of the potential sacrifice) more seriously than anything else.

Have you chosen a side?  Are you engaging the enemy?  If not, will you?  If you will, keep coming back and we’ll continue to discuss how we can do that together.

And so, our mission is…

… to help willing people move from the fringe to the core (discipleship) and from the world to the core (evangelism).

My observation is that the majority of local churches today, particularly evangelical churches in the west, are focused mostly on the evangelistic portion of this mission using mostly a strategy of “attractive” worship services.  It’s staggering to see how much money is being poured into these ‘attractive’ worship services; it’s even more staggering to observe that many churches are coming to the conclusion that to make the service ‘attractive’ they must minimize the role of God and the Bible in it.

This weekend, I received a flyer in the mail for a new local church in my area.  I don’t have it with me at the moment, but I saved it…maybe I’ll scan it and upload it if I think about it later.  But I noted that it did not have the word “God” anywhere on it.  It also contained a number of comparisons between it’s style and other (obviously, less ‘attractive’) styles of worship. The phrase, “we have a talk, not a sermon” comes to mind. 

Now, I understand the concepts and purposes of the “seeker” church and the “emerging” church, but what kind of a church believes they have to hide God to be effective?  Would God really call us to something that requires us to hide his Name to be successful?  Isn’t the power to save in the gospel itself?  Isn’t the biblical model for evangelsim Christians sharing their faith unashamedly with other Christians, in large group, small group, and one-on-one settings?  Looking at today’s churches, you would think that the power to save is in concerts, dramas, social events, community service, and pop psychology ‘talks’…that it’s more important to go to church, be in a small group, have a good marriage, help people find their parking spots and not be stressed out than it is to have a genuine, personal, saving relationship with the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ which demands that we give up many (not all) elements of comfort to do the right thing and not just the popular thing. 

My purpose in saying these things is to make a very specific point. 

That point is that unless something is done to reverse the trend, we will soon find the visible Church dominated by the fringe…an intermingled group of lukewarm believers and Godless non-believers united not by one faith in God but by one faith in the world’s system.  The core will be reduced in size, influence, and effectiveness.  We will all rejoice in our election of leaders who promise a hope that is of ourselves and not of God.

If the core is going to do anything to reverse the trend, it has to rise up now.  Time is running out …