Category Archives: Church

Church is not a junior high dance – part 2

by Nick Barker, College Director

A common theme amongst Christians who attend multiple churches and parachurch ministries is that they do not tend to see the harm they may be causing by not being committed to one body of believers. Here are a few problems that arise when Christians treat church like a junior high dance (see part 1).

Leadership ends up entertaining instead of empowering

It is very difficult to equip people in your Living Room (missional community) if they are 1) not committed to the mission of the church, 2) in different places throughout the week, and 3) have the primary desire to just socialize within the Christian community. Leading people who hover from place to place like a helicopter will take a different form then leading those who are planted and committed. Leadership could look more like babysitting or monitoring a 7th grade study hall because the people who are being led have different motives then the leadership. One cannot lead unless those being led have to desire to go where the leader is trying to take them.

The mission is cramped

There is a damper that is put on the mission of the church when there are people within church that are not committed to its mission.  Having an excess of “church hoppers” in a church will haze up the vision of the mission. Instead of walking out the church doors on mission, they are walking out the church doors one their way to another church. It is hard for a community to be on mission when a large amount of people exiting at the first off ramp they see.

Christians become users instead of contributors

We are called be the body of Christ. God has designed us each differently and has gifted us uniquely. His intention is that we work together, do life together, and serve together (Romans 12:3-8). When a person just attends a church service and does not get involved in community, they are actually working against the body of Christ instead of with the body of Christ. Instead of being a productive part of the body, they become like weights strapped around the ankles that slow the body down.

part 3 – the solution

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Church

Church is not a junior high dance – part 1

by Nick Barker, College Director

Ah, the memories of 7th grade! The hair gel! The baggy pants with oversized pockets!The buckets of cheap cologne and body spray! Oh, and how could one forget the dances! Junior high dances were something else, weren’t they? As a 13-year-old I remember walking into the school cafeteria on a Friday night, searching for my homeboys, and rushing over to the wall in which they were occupying. Looking across the room we could spot the young ladies huddled up. The game plan: wait for the “slow dance” song… then attack! The boys would walk across the vacant dance floor and ask a girl to dance.  I remember dancing with several different girls at each dance. The  slow songs were 3 1/2 minutes of awkwardness, to say the least. Afterward the girl would retreat back to her wall and group of gals, and the boy would do likewise. Wait until the DJ plays another slow song, then repeat. This time, find a different girl.

I share this past experience, which many of us have had, because I’ve noticed a similar trend within the local church today. There is a pattern that is common amongst many Christians. This pattern is in many ways damaging and crippling to the Church’s mission. This pattern is like the one of the junior high boys at a dance. Many church goers, especially those who are college age, like dancing (going along with the analogy) with several different churches or ministries. They will show up to gatherings, services, or even small groups one night and then move on to what the church down the street is doing the next night. I’ve encountered many twenty somethings that attend up to 5 different churches and services a week! This is a major problem within the local church. I’ll address the problems this causes in part 2 of the post.

One of the lingering issues with addressing this problem is that those church goers, who act like 13-year-old boys at a dance, don’t see any problem with what they are doing. Additionally, they will sometimes use Scripture to back up there actions and have little or no conviction.

Here are a few statements I’ve heard people say trying to justify their church hopping antics:

  • “I like being fed.”
  • “I want to learn as much as I can.”
  • “I feel part of the greater body of believers.”
  • “I like the way this place does worship, but I like the way that guy preaches.”
  • “Aren’t we all one body anyway?”
  • “My church doesn’t have anything for college students.”

And those who are really honest…

  • “I’m trying to find a girlfriend/boyfriend.”
  • “I don’t want to commit to one place.”

to be continued…

part 2 – the problems this causes

part 3 – the solution

3 Comments

Filed under Church

Mission Without Evangelism

Engaging culture is cool. It is an appealing cause to partake in especially for Christian college students. Missional communities are formed around reaching certain people groups and are structured to be welcoming and appealing. Many of our Living Rooms spend time meeting new people, hanging out on campus, throwing parties, playing volleyball, paintballing, hiking, hosting game nights, serving the homeless, and even one (freshman) Living Room is known for playing cops are robbers. All of these things have been done within the context of gospel-communties with the intentions of engaging and inviting in people who don’t know Jesus yet.

I have been extremely encouraged by the ways our Living Rooms have been able to center themselves around specific people groups and welcome those people into our communities. Our Living Rooms are filled with students who are getting smashed by the gospel of Jesus and have been seeking ways to demonstrate the gospel to those who don’t know Christ. My concern, however, is the lurking lack of proclamation of the gospel. Overall, we’ve been fruitful through demonstrating the gospel, but have fallen short in many ways of declaring the gospel.

It is important to understand that at the forefront of God’s mission is his spoken Word. We see in Scripture that God spoke creation into existence. In the Old Testament he spoke through the prophets. In the gospels he spoke through his Son. And now in the age of the church he speaks through his people.  The nature of mission is evangelistic because God moves through spoken word. Missional communities cannot be missional without being evangelical. Mission is not solely engaging through action, but through word as well.

God is not forming communities to be nice people who are socially active. He is creating a people to complete the work that he has started. ( Matthew 28: 16-20; John 20: 19-23; Philippians 1:6)

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us to “let our lights shine so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.” As outsiders are viewing a Living Room what do you think their response will be? “Wow, these people are really great!” or “Wow, God is really great!”? I would contend that they initial response would be to give glory to the community instead of the Father. In order for them to see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven they will need to be directed to the Father through our spoken word. The only way this will happen is if the gospel is demonstrated and declared at the same time. We need to declare the why.

As missionaries we build relationships and invite outsiders into community, but not for the sake of community itself. We build relationships and invite others into our community so that they may hear the gospel of Christ. The sole reason why we have Living Rooms is so that people who hear the gospel and be transformed.

Reflection:

  • How have I been able to declare the gospel?
  • What fears do I have with declaring the gospel?
  • How can we (Living Room) proclaim the gospel to the people group we’re engaging?
  • Do I pray for God to open doors and give me words to speak? (Col 4:3-4)
  • Do I seek ways to share the gospel with people God has put in my life?

Nick

1 Comment

Filed under Church, Culture, Gospel, Mission

What’d he say?

I’ve been asked recently by several people outside of VI why we do dialogue teaching instead of the traditional monologue sermon. I’ll lovingly smile and then give them an answer far longer then they expected…

“For years we have been exposing Christians to scattered, random bits of biblical knowledge through our church services and Christian education classes. They hear a principle here and read a truth there, then nod their head in approval and feel momentarily satisfied over receiving this new insight into their faith. But within the space of just a few hours that principle or truth is lost in the busyness and complexity of their lives. They could not capture that insight and own it because they had never been given a sufficient context and method that would enable them to analyze, categorize, and utilize the principle or truth. This inability to systematically apply Scriptural truth produces a spiritual superficiality or immaturity that is reflected in behavior.”
-George Barna

A main problem many of us have been facing over the last several months is the facilitating of our Living Room discussion. Many members of our communities seem to be unengaged, timid, or unwilling to participate. I believe the primary reason for this is the way we (leadership) have approached the discussion. Many of us have taken the route of studying the passage, preparing a 3-point sermon, teaching it, and then asking the Living Room questions based off of your teaching. A concern for that approach is that many people, especially college students, in our society are not receptive to facts presented in monologue form. The majority of people are much more receptive to absorbing, retaining, and repeating content that is in dialogue and story form.

“The word commonly translated ‘preach’ means to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. It should be no surprise that Jesus taught through dialogue and questions. Studies by IBM and the UK Post Office show that people who learn by hearing alone retain just 10% of what they have learned after three months. People who learn by hearing and being shown experience retain 65%. It means the only person experiencing good learning in a sermon is the preacher!” (Total Church, pages 112-113).

A culture that needs to be engaged

– 42% of college students don’t read books
– 80% of US families did not buy or read a book in 2007
– 50% of books bought are not read to completion
– The average reader will read only 18 pages of a book
– Each day people in the US spend 4 hours watching TV and 3 hours listening to music
– The average American spends 80% of their non-working time in front of a screen

Reasons for story form teaching

• We are captivated by good stories. Why do you follow certain TV shows (The Office, Prison Break, The OC)?

• After hearing a story, it is easy to repeat

• People love hearing stories

• Everyone was raised and shaped by stories

• Stories have the power to get attention

• Community promotes story telling

• Story telling promotes community

• Storying is transferable

• Story telling invites other’s to tell their stories

• Story telling is welcoming

Nick

2 Comments

Filed under Church, Stories, Uncategorized

Defined: Missionary

On Thursday VI will be defining what it means to be missionaries sent by God into our culture.

We’ll be discussing how mission isn’t just something we do, but it’s also who we are. The goal is that we’re living missionaly, which means living out the gospel in the ordinary rhythms of life.

Here are 5 rhythms we’ll be looking over Thursday (adopted by Tim Chester and The Edge Network):

  1. Bless – We strive to bless others through word and deed.
  2. Listen – We take time to listen to people stories to understand them better and learn.
  3. Eat – We pursue time to share a meal with others.
  4. Speak – We look for opportunities to speak the gospel in all areas and circumstances.
  5. Sabbath – We celebrate and party what God has done/is doing.

The hope is that we’re doing all of these things together as a gospel-family and are in turn  going out B.L.E.S.S.ing others.

Which of the 5 rhythms are you already living out?

Which ones are you not?

What does it look like to practically live out these missional rhythms in your context (school, work, roommates, etc.)?

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Culture, Gospel, Mission

Gearing Up

I woke up this morning and realized that I haven’t posted (with the exception of videos) on the blog for a while now. It has been a packed last few weeks as we’re preparing for the fall. The count down is 15 days until we kick off our Thursday night gathering!

Our leadership team sat down in the beginning of the summer to discuss and dream of what we hope God would accomplish through us this upcoming school year. Here are a few goals we went over:

  • To lead people to Christ. This seems like an obvious one but is sadly a missing factor for some ministries and churches. Will VI be committed to seeking to lost?
  • Become a city on a hill to ASU and Tempe
  • Saturate the area with Jesus followers
  • Create a reproducible structure of ministry
  • Equip and empower college students to live gospel-centered and mission-focused
  • Create communities that are living and loving each other like family

I’m praying that we would be open to what God has planned for us.

Here is a sneak peak at our first series starting July 23rd-

Picture 1Nick

Leave a comment

Filed under ASU, Church, Mission, Tempe

Why do we need community?

We were made to be in relationship. In Genesis 2 God created Adam and puts him in charge of the earth. He soon realized that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So God made Eve to be in relationship with Adam. Relationship and community are not just nice aids to life, but the essence of life itself. The culture we live in today, including the Christian culture, puts a large emphasis on the individual. It’s all about you. The ideology is that everything is about you, even the community you are a part of. In a lot of ways community has lost it’s true meaning and purpose. Especially in a society that focuses so much on me. staff
The main thing to understand about biblical community is that God desires to create to himself “a people.” He wants us to be in fellowship with each other with him. In Exodus 6: 7 God says, “ I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.”  Paul writes, “Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2: 13b-14).

God does not merely want create isolated individuals who believe in him, go to church twice a week, and then spend the rest of their week with no Christian fellowship. “The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is to call out of the world a people for his own glory”  (The Living Church. Pages 19-20).

“The prevailing view of life today is that of an individual standing on his or her own, heroically ‘juggling’ various responsibilities: family, friendships, career, leisure, chores, decisions, and money. We could also add social responsibilities.”
“From time to time the pressures overwhelm us and we drop one or more of the balls. All too often church becomes one of the balls. We juggles our responsibilities for church just as we do our responsibilities for work and leisure.”

“An alternative model is to view our various activities and responsibilities as spokes of a wheel. At the center or hub of life is not me as an individual, but us as members of the Christian community. Church is not another ball for me to juggle, but that which defines who I am and gives Christlike shape to my life.” (Total Church. Pages 42-43).

What if instead of having church be another thing to juggle on our list of commitment and activities, it became the focal point of our activities and commitments?

Nick

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Spiritual Living