How To Reach a Lost Generation 2: Who Are We Winning them To?

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In the previous post I mentioned the need to win people to Jesus rather than trying to win them to this church or that church. If you listen to what people are saying the tendency is to win them to church attendance rather than winning them to salvation. I don’t think anyone would outright say that but you still here things like, “They quit coming to church” or “I sure hope Johnny will come back to church.” Jesus didn’t say if you are weary and burdened come to church for rest. He said, “Come to me and rest.” When Jesus commissioned the apostles to go and make disciples he didn’t say to do it in the name of the Church of Christ or this church or that church. He said to do it in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not saying the congregating of God’s people is unimportant or that we should scrap Sunday’s corporate assembly. I am saying we have to get first things first and understand we aren’t winning them to church attendance. We are trying to bring them to Jesus. We get so wrapped up in our identity as a congregation but I don’t think it was like that in the early church. I think they loved spending so much time together because of their common bond in Christ.

Let our actions and attitudes reflect the priority of Jesus Christ. May our invitation be to Jesus first. My prayer is that congregational life is vibrant and full and centered on the common identity we find in Christ and that we are drawing people first and foremost to a who and not to a what. Only when we start seeing the issue of a missing generation through that lens will we be able to find the answers we are looking for. The answer is not to elevate the institution higher, which is the knee-jerk reaction of some. The answer is to elevate Christ. When we do that they will come, not because the congregation is so holy and perfect and flawless but because they find real, authentic connection with Christ in our midst. Young people aren’t looking for the perfect congregation. They are smart enough to know it doesn’t exist. They are looking for a Savior. Will we help them find Jesus? How are the things where you are currently worshipping or ministering lifting up Christ in visible and obvious ways? What are some ways we fill our time and ministry with distractions instead?

0 Responses

  1. Amen and Amen!

    For too long we have preached the church more than we’ve preached Jesus. All of “The Man vs. The Plan” debate was totally driven by this sad fact: we preach the church instead of Jesus. More is said about the organization and worship of the church from our pulpits (at least those that I have heard most of in my 72 years) that we say about the Savior who bought the church with His own blood.

    Leonard Allen pointed out his book The Cruciform Church that a popular book called The Gospel Plan of Salvation scarcely mentioned the cross as the book went through multiple printings. In many circles to preach Jesus makes one suspect of being “one of those liberals.”

    But until we get back to preaching the Christ and Him crucified, we will continue down the path of our deserved OBLIVION we have been on for lo these many years. Did Jesus not threaten some with God removing the kingdom from them and giving it to another people who will bring forth its fruits?

    1. Personally, I have been a Christian for 27 years and have attended some VERY “conservative” congregations and have never experienced “us” preaching about the church to the exclusion of Lord. I disagree with the statement that “in many circles to preach Jesus makes one suspect of being one of those liberals”. I have never experienced anything like that. That would be like saying that in many circles to preach about the church makes one suspect of being “one of those legalists”.

    2. Too, I think the problem with most of “our” sermons today is NOT that they are overly focused on the church to the exclusion of Jesus, but that they aren’t even focused on either Jesus or the church!

      I think that we need to preach more Bible expositions and less topical sermons aimed at having “better” lives. Too many sermons with a passing text and then a bunch of stories and ideas.

      But, if anyone is going to preach the whole counsel of God, he is going to have to preach about Jesus as well as a whole lot about his church, the body of the saved. To preach one without the other is absurd.

      Which makes me wonder how much of the New Testament is about Jesus and how much is about the church?

  2. As I think about making disciples, I think about the beliefs and values that shaped both the way Jesus lived and the message he proclaimed. As I do, I have come to the conclusion that in order to make disciples the task of spiritual formation must be to teach people to think and live by the same beliefs and values that Jesus held.

    But is that what we do? All of the evangelism tracts I have come across seem to be focused on two things. First, getting the person saved. To put it more crassly, the tract is occupied with helping the individual get their ticket to heaven. Secondly, evangelism tracts have been occupied with indoctrinating the individual to the particular church denomination belief (and that includes the Churches of Christ). The result seems to be the making of a disciple of the church denomination rather than a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  3. This is a good and interesting topic. I think a major problem is due to a lack of understanding of the relationship between Jesus and his church.

    I was at a county fair last month and a group of Baptist had a large display containing doors behind which were “three things that don’t save you”, and here were their answers:

    1. Good works
    2. Being baptized
    3. Being a member of a church

    Now I know what they meant about #3, but it does demonstrate the fact that they are at least forgetting that the church IS the body of the saved. And I bet that there are thousands upon thousands of people who consider themselves Christians and yet not actual members of ANY church. Come to think of it, they need some more teaching abo

    1. …about the church. Of course, not apart from what the relation of Jesus is and means to it.

    2. I think there is a problem of direction here. In years gone by and to some extent today there are people who are trying to win people to this church over or against that church. I am not talking just Churches of Christ here but Baptists or whoever as well. We win people to Jesus and we fellowship together in united identity in congregational life. Both are essential but the direction needs to be right. We win them to Jesus and church life flows out of that. That is how I would differentiate it. It is not saying congregational life is not important but that it is not, in and of itself the means of salvation, rather the expression and practice of those who are saved assembling together. Make sense?

  4. Matt, you mentioned that 60% of our children end up leaving the church. But, I wonder how many of those sheep “who leave” remain in the same spiritual state as when they were “still with the rest”?

    IOW, I wonder how many of those who leave were never saved in the first place. How many just “went” or “were baptized” merely to keep the peace at home?

    1. I have had the same question – how many did we really “have” in the first place if they so easily wonder off? No way to really know that but it can inform our approach to get more serious about disciple-making.

  5. Java Journey is listed as a “church” in a denominational directory. Every year, the HQ sends a statistical report for us to fill out. Each year we enter a goose-egg in the “Attendance” and “Membership” fields because we don’t tally either. We believe that Jesus was not speaking figuratively about the undetectable character of the expansion of God’s Kingdom when he used the yeast in the batch metaphor.

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