Thursday, August 17, 2006

Missional Church and Mass Marketing

Church marketing is a debated topic. I have to confess that some of the church marketing I've seen has not been helpful in sharing the gospel with some of the skeptics that I talk to. In fact, they either ignore it, make fun of it, or are antagonistic toward it. My question is, can marketing be an effective tool of a missional church?

Eddie Gibbs in his book Church Next talks about how we need to make a shift from being market-driven to mission oriented. Does that mean we should not use marketing as a tool if we are missional? I think Eddie raises a good point stating "Our post-Christian, neopagan, pluralistic North American context presents crosscultural missionary challenges every bit as daunting as those we would face on any other continent."

He suggests that there are some faulty assumptions inherent in the marketing mentality of the North American church. He goes on to say "Most pastors and church leaders have no missiological training. Consequently they resort to marketing strategies in place of missionary insights in their attempts to reach out to a population that is becoming increasingly distanced from the church.

Eddie doesn't totally dismiss marketing; however, he suggests that most of our church marketing is rooted in a weak ecclesiology. He continues saying "marketing insights and tools will prove increasingly inadequate as North America moves still further into its postmodern, post-Christian and neopagan phase." What do you think?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Gospel: United in His Resurrection

The gospel is about being united with Christ in His resurrection - but what does that mean? For me, in the past it has meant that I will experience life after death, I will see my loved ones in Christ, and I probably have power available to me that goes beyond any human power. But in the book Stormfront, the authors said "The resurrection is all about whether God can be trusted, even though God's faithfulness and justice may not always appear in this life, and God's sovereignty may seem utterly absent."

The resurrection of Jesus is our ground for hope and confidence. The resurrection affirms that God is faithful to all His covenant promises. It affirms that there will be justice in the end because He has power over death - it demonstrates His sovereignty.

In light of this, we as a community of faith must be faithful to one another and to our Lord. We should not fear death nor be anxious about its reality. We can also stand with confidence in the face of opposing powers, whether they be human or spiritual. To me, to be united with Him in His resurrection is to live with confidence, peace, and hope.

I should be celebrating Easter everyday! Whenever I'm down emotionally, I live as if the resurrection never happened. To be united with Him inHis resurrection is to live with a confidence and security that transcends normal humanity. I think I'm just beginning to understand the gospel.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

An Invitation Into Communion - "Fellowship of His Suffering"

The gospel is an invitation to participate in God's kingdom activity, but it is more. It is also an invitation into communion with Him (Ph. 3:10). Specifically, it is an invitation to unite with Jesus in His way of life - particularly His death and resurrection. This has always been a hard concept for me to grasp. Participation in God's kingdom activity is much more than joining a religious organization. We are invited to unite with Him in His death; but what does that mean?

Jesus' experience of death was probably the most humiliating and torturous means of death known to man. The methodology of the cross was offensive and repulsive, yet it speaks powerfully of radical love and radical trust. It is the example of sacrifice that Jesus calls us to - "take up your cross and follow me."

When I reflect on passages like this I feel uncomfortable. What do I have to give up? What will I lose? In my humanness I will never get beyond these hang-ups. However, this is where the promise and help of the Holy Spirit become reality in my life. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms me and forms Jesus in me. I would have no hope of this kind of identification or communion apart from the Holy Spirit. It is so not-human!

When I sacrifice things that I humanly desire (and could have) for the sake of others, I am participating in His death. And no matter how great my sacrifice might be, it will never be greater than His! I want my life to be increasingly characterized by this "fellowship of His suffering" (Ph. 3:10).