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How to Kill a Church, Part 1

Church in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland Credit: Glen Forde/Flickr/Creative Commons

Church in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland Credit: Glen Forde/Flickr/Creative Commons

In the modern world, we have a culture that is dying. Follow any election news and you know what I mean. Prosperous and democratic societies are severally stressed these days. If you follow political and social commentary, you know, we listen to intelligent comments from comedians. One comedian, Norm MacDonald, tried to get serious with another comedian who made fun of Christians.

But really, we don’t get intelligent comments from comedians, we get entertainment. Sometimes the comedy is intelligent, but it’s only jokes to make us laugh. Many comedians are very good at what they do, but we should be concerned about what they don’t do.

If there is a problem, it’s with us. There seems to be no interest in thinking, teaching, and learning to make things better. Someone told me recently; we have this amazing Internet so we can talk to anyone in the world, about anything, and solve any problem, but we send each other funny pictures of cats behaving badly.

Entertainment rules; comedians sell us what we want to buy, and our problems grow.

If you want to kill a church, bring in the values of a dying culture. In my community I see too many stagnant and dying churches that most people won’t go near, except for weddings and funerals. Churches can’t compete as the world is being entertained to death.

So let’s turn this around and make our churches alive. This is a simple thing; Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep (John 21:17), and He did not mention entertainment. And we are told there will be a terrible famine soon, “a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11)

My life’s work has been mostly in education and curriculum development and because I am a Christian, I probably have a spiritual gift of teaching. I am always pulled in that direction, and for me, feeding the sheep means teaching them. Good teaching also entertains, but the final goal is learning and growing, not laughing and forgetting.

Today, as I was feeling bad about all the bad teaching in our churches, I visited a church that meets in a rented movie theatre, in another city. I went mostly on a whim, but I’m glad I was there.

The pastor stood up and preached a sermon, and he nailed it. He actually taught the people something, and he did it very well. If I made a list of the things that make for good teaching in a church, before listening to him, he would pass the audit. Maybe God put that whim in me. I needed to see that we can do this. I will include a link for that church, and the sermon was for Oct 23 if you want to hear it.

I remember when every Christian was carefully taught. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons would teach us at our doors on Saturday, radio preachers took us through the Bible any day or night, and we had a weekly Christian club at high school. I wasn’t all good, but it was part of the culture and everyone expected it. Churches had Bible classes and Bible studies, and carefully constructed sermons. In my memory, churches were busy growing places then, and they influenced the community around them; and now not so much.

I want to write at least two more articles like this, with my advice on teaching, based on my experience. If you want to start a church, or build up a struggling group, you need to hear this from someone. We have been ordered to feed the sheep, and that will make our churches alive in a dying world.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
(John 21: 15 to 17)

More in this series:


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