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Alright get a load of this:
"After a two-year study, the congregation decided a satellite ministry might work. They also thought about different ways in which to present the gospel and came up with an approach that Hunter refers to as “casual about church; serious about God.”
“We studied our culture: its movement away from church and its movement toward community and the desire to get together at a café or a Starbucks,” says Hunter. “Our goal was to recreate that atmosphere and bring the gospel to it.”
Guess what church body this is? Is it the PC-USA, the SBC, the LCMS, the ElCA, or some Crypto-Baptist, non-denominational, community mega-church?! No, it is none other than the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod - sans the Lutheran bit of course. Yes, they've decided to feed at the trough of "church-growth", and, if they continue, they'll suffer the same fate as many megachurches before them, the fate of mass exodus.
Beside the repulsive "results-oriented" dogma which undergirds the "church growth" movement, (i.e. if the numbers of your congregation do not increase, then your doing something wrong, etc.) what disturbs me is how blindly behind the times these people are. Seriously, this is mid-90's style church-growth here, get with it!
It all the more proves Francis Schaeffer's philosophy of culture influencing the church true. First, usually 50 years or more before the movement connects with the masses, a new idea, a new social, or political, or business science, what have you, is given birth in the bowels of a university. It'll then begin to subtly influence the bohemian crowd, such as: artists, poets, novelists, musicians, and also the powers that be in science, business, etc., etc. Next, as the bohemian crowd, and the power elite soften the blow of this radical paradigm shift in thought and social interaction, thus, in the process making it "hip", the mass media begins to also subtly introduce it in drips and drabs until it becomes regular group-think, or common knowledge. That process can take years. Then, as this now old idea is communally accepted, the parishioners, and pastors, for that matter, introduce it as a new and bold vision of the future for the propagation of the Gospel message that magically works great results. However, by this time in the cycle, the world has already given birth, consumed, and defecated at least three great paradigm shifts since the first one's examination was even given a chance to play out in the church-growth movement.
The result is a culture that scoffs the church when it takes stumbling footsteps in trying to be relevant and hip to a naturally hostile society. We all have known the parent of a teenager who tries, usually feebly, to appear relevant to their kid and their kid's friends. Yet, when the parent is out the room, the embarrassed kid and the friends as well chide the parents actions for how transparent and obvious they are. The parent merely wants first hand insight into their child's lives, but instead of being honest and direct, they attempt to stealthily infiltrate their social circle, and are usually too blind to see that their feeble actions are further alienating their child. So it is with the church. When the church wears a mask of "sunshine and light" and hides the unpopular aspects of Christianity regarding sin, damnation, and man's complete inability to procure salvation for himself outside of Christ, the church undermines it's central message; the Gospel. No one can receive this precious gift of God without first seeing how spiritually impoverished they actually are without it. So here you have a maxim appearing, the more you attempt to make the Gospel relevant to a hostile world, the more hostile the treatment of the Gospel becomes by it's own handlers.
Let's face it, everyone of us, the Gospel is not a popular message, and Christ promised us as much. When St. Paul traveled to a new place, he went to the synagogue first and proclaimed the salvation Jews have in Christ, and then unto the Gentile. In many towns he was scoffed and treated as a fool, even a criminal at times, however, even in the midst of ostracization from a community, people from that very community would approach him, many times in secret, yearning to know more about this Jesus and his saving work done upon a cross to bring about the resurrection of the dead. Whereever he went he either reaped a little harvest, or a great one, but he knew that the Gospel was the power of God unto salvation. It had nothing to do with the impression he gave to the crowd, or how relevant his message was, for he knew that all men are perishing until Christ's return, and, consequently the messages relevance will endure as well until the end of time.
And when the church covers over the true Gospel with "Gospel-lite", it only deceives all the people they brought in the door by that message. For when these people, at least the consistent and honest ones, begin to explore their Bibles, as they should, they'll find all kinds of unflattering things said about them that their pastor and fellow parishioners have intentionally kept from them. It's a "bait-and-switch" scam. Bring'em in the door with something nice and shiny, and try to sell'em something else somewhere down the line, and hopefully they'll bite. Yet, how many are now leaving, and the solution to this problem, at least according to Bill Hybels, is to "appear" more formal, and more traditional. Notice it is in appearance only, but not in substance.
We don't have to re-invent the wheel here folks. Lutherans do not need to lose their identity in order to gain more parishioners. If we preach the Gospel and for now, only a few are reached, then God be praised, and if we preach the Gospel and for now many are reached, then, and in equal measure, God be praised. We mustn't attempt to "help" God with the Gospel. We preach the Word; He does the rest, that's it, plain and simple!
And now, I'll leave you with one thing, and it is well worth the read. It's called "The Celestial Railroad" by Nathaniel Hawthorne: quite apropos to these devil's of modernity that we speak of.
The Celestial Railroad