All churches struggle with what is the best way to grow membership and take the gospel to a world that is full of distractions and competition for the hearts and minds of people. We should note that even among church membership there lies the things of this world that limit commitment and stifles spiritual growth. This post is not about traditional or contemporary, hymnals, large screens, or any of the issues that spawn countless board, trustees, deacons and members meetings and conversations. To make things even more difficult is the annoying habit of our society to label people and put them in different groups and requiring that we deal with each differently. There is some merit to this line of thought but within the church it can become a tool of separation. I don’t have the answer to this very compelling and confusing dilemma many churches face every day. I do believe that at the heart of it all lies “Process and Content”. Process being the tools we use to reach others in and outside the church. Content being what it is we are attempting to share. I may not be saying this well, my point being that I believe the “Process” has become more important than the “Content”
During last Tuesday mornings Bible Study we read and discussed Paul’s leaving Athens, traveling to Corinth and perhaps looking back at his time in Athens during that time of travel. It is very possible that he had a few regrets
and second thoughts about how to best share the word, the good news! I wish to share with you a few thoughts about this time and how the church might learn from it. Our scripture focus today will be 1st Corinthians 2 Chapter.
I believe Paul was struggling with the events that took place in Athens and the fifty miles he traveled to Corinth gave him time to review in his mind what had happened there. They never tried to make it difficult for him to speak and as they did in previous places they made no attempt to run him out of town, he just simply left out of frustration. Truth is there were some who sought him out, eager to debate or question the Apostle. They found him interesting and the only thing they really asked was “what is this babble from this strange man about this foreign god?” I feel sure that many churches today, particularly the smaller ones face some amount of frustration in the lack of growth and the struggle to remain relevant in today’s society.
It is worth the read to see how Paul reacted to a very real situation, one that should be familiar to many of us. There is also the possibility that ego, yes ego was also at work here. the devil comes at us in many ways. Paul studied under Gamaliel and had built a sterling reputation among the upper Jewish class as a protector of the faith due to his relentless persecution of the people of the “way”. Sometimes the egos within the church stifle learning and growth by subjugating them to personal agendas. Paul determined otherwise and resolved to put first the story of the cross, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. I think there might be a certain amount of fear; the prospect of not putting his excellent vocabulary or wisdom to use leaves him a bit uneasy. Paul has come to the realization that it is not human wisdom or persuasion that gives power to the message; it is the Holy Spirit. We as the church today must come to the realization that the power of the message lies in the cross, the resurrection and the power of God to save. It is not the size of the buildings, the amenities or the size of the crowd, it is the saving grace of Christ on the cross, that is the story that must be told.
As individuals we may well be at different points in our faith walk but God in his wisdom has given us the Holy Spirit through which the truth of his word will be revealed and God has prepared for his redeemed people. The Spirit works in the hearts of people to reveal their sins and their need for the gospel of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection. It is not my intent to marginalize the efforts of those who seek new ways to share the Good News. My concern lies in the possibility that in doing so we have allowed ourselves to overdo “Process” at the expense of “Content”. As I said earlier I don’t have an answer but I find in the words of an old hymn a way that might make the path forward a little clearer.
Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus, Going on before.
We are at war with the seemingly innocent excuse of changing to meet the demands of society today. Change is good I suppose but not at the expense of the intent of God’s word. We have only to look to Paul and learn from his example. “Christ on the cross, Paul had come to the realization that it is not human wisdom or persuasion that gives power to the message; it is the Holy Spirit. We as the church today must come to the realization that the power of the message lies in the cross, the resurrection and the power of God to save.”…….AMEN
Reference Material: The Bible Panorama