Talks, Experiences, Life Coach?

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“Why” is the greatest question you can ask of yourself.  It is where true leadership and growth initiates because “why” questions the root reason behind everything you do.  Today I find myself asking that question of the 21st century church…

Specifically…Why do we do, what we do?

I understand that the church is in the midst of trying to figure out how to communicate the never-changing gospel message with an ever-changing postmodern world.  I fear that in our attempt to be postmodern with our communication we are beginning to become postmodern with our philosophy and are in danger of loosening ourselves from the foundations that hold us secure.

Here are three specific trends that I’ve noticed that spotlight the broader issue I’m questioning.

Talks

I don’t know who the first person was who used the word “Talk”.  Perhaps the first time it was heard, someone thought, “That’s a cool way of saying ‘sermon’.” So they adopted it as part of their own spiritual vocabulary and now have caught on in mass.  Granted “sermon” isn’t a New Testament word, and Jesus did “talk,” but it is still worth asking the question, “Why do we now call it a ‘Talk’?

Is it because we are afraid or offended by the word sermon, preach, or message?  If so, why?  Is it because we are being sensitive to the “seekers” among us who might be put off by these words, or even understand their meaning. If so, what are we communicating?

Side note:  Anytime someone says, “I need to ‘talk’ to you” it is rarely a good thing.  My parents were masters at giving me a “talking” to.  Funny we would think that word is some how more attractive.

My gut tells me that it’s our way of trying to sound different from what we’ve observed in the past and we rationalize it with the previous reasons.

I don’t care if you say talk, sermon, message, word, or preach.  Though I do ask the question, why do you use that word, what does it mean to you, and what does it communicate to those who hear.  It’s thinking through these questions that leave me concerned on two fronts.

First, ‘Talk’ implies the communication of your thoughts and ideas.  ‘Talk’ fits perfectly with postmodern philosophy that encourages dialogue of thoughts and ideas – so long as your thoughts do not have to be my thoughts.

The problem here is that the emphasis can easily be placed on the ‘Talk’er.  I have begun to notice that we seem to be celebrating our communication skills as opposed to the message we communicate.  Our talks are coming from our heads and are wonderful tributes to our ingenuity, creativity and knowledge.  I would remind you that Leonard Ravenhill said, “a sermon born in the head will speak to the head, but a sermon born in the heart will speak to the heart.”  Communicating God’s word is a spiritual business, not a natural one.  Our job as ministers of the gospel is to communicate God’s word, not our word.  We are merely the vehicle for the message and should strive to deemphasize ourselves and emphasize His word.

I don’t doubt that any minister would disagree with me on substance… I just ask what are we communicating?

Second, “Talk” begins to create a new spiritual vocabulary that could taint the message in the future.  If everything that I’ve stated before holds to be true, then what are we communicating now, and what will be communicated later?  If it is about the messenger, if it is about our thoughts, and if these things are falling in line with Postmodern thought are we allowing the absolute word to begin to be lost in postmodern relative thought?

Again, I don’t believe any of us are willfully walking in this direction, though I have to look ahead at where we might possibly be heading.

Experiences

I noticed a new trend where churches are beginning to call their services, “experiences”.  Three Experiences to Choose from Sun @8:30, 10 & 11:30.  Once again there is nothing sacred or NT about the word service, and people certainly need to experience the power of God, but it’s still worth asking the question, “Why are we starting to call them ‘Experiences’?

Is it because postmodern philosophy demands that I have to interact with something, touch it, feel it, taste it to decide what I think about it?  If it is, what does that say about our faith?

Postmoderns demand experiences to define what they personally believe.  This is opposite from the Word because many times we believe something by faith before we experience it within our lives.  The Christian walk is one lead by faith in the word, not in our feelings or experiences.

So what are we asking them to experience?

Once again I observe that what we call an experience is more like a show.  It’s a well-prepared program from beginning to end complete with lights, music, illustrations and well prepared talks.  It’s a wonderful experience with a church, but most likely no experience with Christ.

I’ve also observed that these experiences look more like youth ministries from the 80s and 90s then the churches from those days.  Is it possible that our youth ministries created a new liturgy that a generation continues to expect as they grow up into the church?  We may have been trying buck religion by creating a new religious experience that’s become the experience they demand today.  That’s a valid question and one that we need to pay attention to because the things that we say, and how we say it become what they will continue to expect!

Again, I don’t believe any of us are willfully walking in this direction, though I have to look ahead at where we might possibly be heading.

Titles

One other trend I’ve noticed is the changing the titles we give ourselves in the church.  “Lead Pastor” or “Life Coach” has replaced the title of “Senior Pastor.”  Some churches have dropped them all together and just call each other by name.  Why the change?

Is it because senior pastor sounds like a “mature” individual who is involved with senior citizens?  Is it because pastor is becoming a foreign term?  Is it because postmoderns put little emphasis on titles?

Again, I don’t really care what title you use, I am simply asking Why are you using the title you use?  If it’s because the new title seems cooler than the older title, then once again, who is the focus here?  If it’s because the new title makes more sense or because titles have little value in a postmodern world, then I have a major problem here.

Postmoderns balk at titles because they balk at authority.  Everything is questionable and that goes for all authority.  The problem here is that the kingdom of God is one of authority.  God is the absolute authority, and He uses authority to direct, correct, and mature His children.

If we shy away from proper titles are we in some way diminishing the authority and role of the individual who serves under that title.

Think about this.  Somewhere in our church history we began to deemphasize the title of the, apostle, prophet, and evangelist.  Today these are foreign terms, yet in the early church they were very common. Because we no longer recognize these titles, the church has suffered.  These positions are gifts to the church and we fail to recognize them, we fail to utilize them and the body is not complete.  Larry Stockstill says;

Because we have no Apostles we are unfathered

Because we have no Prophets we are uncorrected

Because we have no Evangelists we are unfruitful

Because we have no Pastors we are unhealed

Because we have no Teachers we are undiscipled

Titles aren’t just a word on a business card, they are an acknowledgement of what that individual has to impart into the church and what authority they carry.  We need these positions within the church today more than our new branded words for a pastor.

The Bottom line

These are just three areas that I’ve chosen to look at that touch the broader issue that I see.  Our postmodern philosophy has caused us to question everything about our faith and we have begun to interact with it and change it.  I feel like we are all competing to do something different, something brand new, something that we can package, brand and market to call our own.

I have to ask, Why?  “Why” gets to the root, and perhaps the root reason behind all our terms, all our ideas, all our programs is really our selves.  Coincidentally the root behind postmodernism is also, our selves.

I remind you that Solmon said, “there is nothing new under the sun”.  Truthfully the pattern we need to employ, the ideas we need to work, the something different we need to be doing is the thing the early church was doing 2000 years ago.

You can write and rewrite an purpose statement for your church, but ultimately it will not surpass the purpose statement God wrote for the church (Col 1:28).  You can write and rewrite a mission statement for your church, but ultimately it will not surpass the mission statement Jesus charged the church with (Mark 16:15).  You can write and rewrite job descriptions for your church, but ultimately it will not surpass the job descriptions and titles Christ gave to the church (Eph 4:11).

If I’m right then maybe we need to get our eyes off ourselves, stop looking for the next New thing and start doing the New Testament thing.

  • Rachel and I heartily agree with your blog; keep ’em coming; we can’t wait til the next one.

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