David Wayne at Jollyblogger has written a couple of great posts this week. Post DaVinci Code America is about the challenge of witnessing to today's culture when the Bible is not seen as authoritative. The other is The Myth of the Sinless Sinner, where David talks about the need to recognize and identify sin instead of simply sweeping it under the rug. Here's the quote that set my mind to spinning:
That's the simplest form I have ever seen for that question. It's an important thing to consider. When I turn to Scripture, I see Jesus meeting needs. First of all, He met physical needs. But interestingly when Jesus was meeting physical needs, He pretty much let the petitioner call the shots.
How do I reconcile my desire to tailor a church to the needs and values of a particular community when in fact the essence of idolatry is to have a church which is tailored to meet my needs.
"What do you want me to do for you?"
I can't think of a time when Jesus was asked in faith for something that Jesus didn't grant that request as asked. At Gethsemene, Malchus didn't even ask and Jesus restored his ear. It seemed to please Jesus to heal, to drive out demons, to raise the dead.
But at the same time, Jesus met spiritual needs. However in this venue, Jesus called the shots. Spiritual healing was non-negotiable. If you wanted to come to Jesus it was on His terms.
So what does this mean to the local church? Perhaps the best lesson we can pull from Jesus' ministry is that we are to meet physical needs and spiritual needs, but Jesus still calls the shots on doctrinal issues. Which sounds nice and everything, but how in the world can we apply this?
In matters of cultural preferences, is it good to cater to a person's comfort? Cushy chairs, theatre seats, contemporary music... things like that? Personally I don't see a problem provided we remember that the spiritual content is not to be watered down. But even the liturgy of a worship service becomes so routine that folks can be seen mentally checking off the items on the order of service.
The church's outreach should be designed to be ready to meet both physical and spiritual needs. Neither should be ignored. As Jesus showed, our physical need outreach should be dictated by the needs of the people around us. Don't open a food pantry for folks in the rich side of town. But meeting spiritual needs must be afraid to confront sin. An outreach to homosexuals should not in any way infer approval of lifestyle, but at the same time should show love. Love sinners. Hmmm... where have I heard that before?
Still, I cannot hope to bring a new family into our local church if we cannot meet that family's spiritual needs. I cannot invent a youth group out of thin air for that one teenager. I cannot start a praise band in a congregation without musicians simply to give that father a chance to play. And that's where things start to get a little confusing. As a pastor trying to meet that family's spiritual needs, I am to direct them to a place where their needs can be met. In short, I'm supposed to send them to another church. That goes against the grain, especially in a church like ours which stuggles for every gifted, mature Christian we can get. And so the temptation is to tailor our ministries to attract people instead of working toward attracting people with the Gospel and a worshiping, loving community of believers.
Perhaps the reason why I blog on this topic so often is that I have so many frustrations, so many beliefs, and so many ideas, but none of them seem to make a dent in the situation. The concepts are there, but the resources -- physical and spiritual -- to make them happen are sometimes next-to-impossible to find.