Indiana Megachurch Pastor: don't say "saved" ..."born again"

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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I M (not so) H O

Honest initial reaction? This guy likes to hear himself talk.

After re-reading and contemplating some? Initial reaction was correct.

Lee

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Quote: The Indiana pastor

Quote:
The Indiana pastor said he is also concerned about alienating people that are seeking to know God, but encounter a language they do not understand in a church setting.

“A lot of times churches can be a very uncomfortable space for someone who is searching. They feel this need for God, so they show up at church on a Sunday morning and then they just don’t get it because it’s not the world they live in. The language doesn’t make sense, the communication style is weird, the music is strange ... I think language is a big piece of that,” he observed.


I occasionally attend a church that has this statement on their church website:
The unbeliever in our midst will find that our worship services are determined primarily for the glory of our Lord and the edification of the saints. However, we welcome the attendance of all who might come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Surely, the unregenerate soul will find himself greeted warmly by our congregation, and yet, he may not, and really should not find himself 'at home' amongst us. We are a new creation, a changed and peculiar people, and a group passionate about sharing this good news and our glorious Savior with all who will listen.

I'm not sure we should so clearly admit to the unbeliever that they may not understand our worship services, but I can see the point here - that Sunday worship is primarily for the believers, and so the language used is going to different from what the unsaved are used to.

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the suggested alternative is still confusing

Quote:
Stevens likes to substitute the word “saved” and describe committed Christians with phrases like “Christ follower,” “following Jesus,”. . . .

In our twitter world where people can on a whim follow or un-follow someone and "follow" simply means to read brief snippets when it's convenient for the follower, this doesn't seem like a better idea. It reminds me of the Josh Harris http://www.joshharris.com/2010/07/jesus_calls_peter.php ]cartoon .

[img ]http://www.joshharris.com/Jesus%20Calls%20Peter%20Cartoon.JPG[/img ]

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Honesty

Kevin Miller wrote:
Quote:
The Indiana pastor said he is also concerned about alienating people that are seeking to know God, but encounter a language they do not understand in a church setting.

“A lot of times churches can be a very uncomfortable space for someone who is searching. They feel this need for God, so they show up at church on a Sunday morning and then they just don’t get it because it’s not the world they live in. The language doesn’t make sense, the communication style is weird, the music is strange ... I think language is a big piece of that,” he observed.


I occasionally attend a church that has this statement on their church website:
The unbeliever in our midst will find that our worship services are determined primarily for the glory of our Lord and the edification of the saints. However, we welcome the attendance of all who might come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Surely, the unregenerate soul will find himself greeted warmly by our congregation, and yet, he may not, and really should not find himself 'at home' amongst us. We are a new creation, a changed and peculiar people, and a group passionate about sharing this good news and our glorious Savior with all who will listen.

I'm not sure we should so clearly admit to the unbeliever that they may not understand our worship services, but I can see the point here - that Sunday worship is primarily for the believers, and so the language used is going to different from what the unsaved are used to.

The honesty of that statement is shocking. Don't they know we are supposed to lure people in with smiles and comfort and even coffee, and then smack the captive audience over the head with the Gospel? Who does their marketing? Off with their heads! http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-fc/ninja.gif[/img ]

What's the Biblical pattern for how Jesus and the apostles dealt with unbelievers, or a mixed audience? Obviously we don't have the mind/heart reading capabilities that Jesus had, but there are enough sermons to use as a template of sorts. That's IMO where we should begin, and forget our cutesy-quote-on-the-church-sign traditions.

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That pastor prefers referring

That pastor prefers referring to believers as "Christ-followers." While unbeleivers might not at first understand "saved" and "born again," what does the term "Christ-follower" convey? It does not at all communicate any need for conversion. Many may think it only means "one who patterns his or her life after Jesus."

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Should God have changed his

Should God have changed his terminology when God said "Look unto me, and be ye saved..." in Isaiah 45? Should the Philippian jailer have changed his terminoogy when he asked what he must do to be saved?

Pastors sometimes say the dorkiest things.

Yes, we should revive the word "dorky" again.

Biggrin

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P.S. How could America ever

P.S.
How could America ever survive without mega-church pastors?

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“I have similar hesitations

“I have similar hesitations with ‘born again’ probably because it’s also an insider term,” Stevens said. “'Born again' for the world at large is somewhat of a misunderstood term.”

Yeah, using Biblical terms and words as in John 3:3 (literally "from above"), or 1 Peter 1:3 could really get in the way :~

Maybe the church should explain these terms to visitors...oh wait, we do! I personally have hesitations about a pastor who has hesitations with 'born again'.

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It's a two-sided thing...

I get what Pastor Stevens is trying to say but you have to have it both ways--it can't be one or the other. Saying someone is "saved" or that they're close to getting "saved" isn't supposed to convey everything about their commitment to Christ (actually it can and should but since none of us loses our sin nature we don't always do it well). "Saved" is the beginning, the deliverance, the rescue of my soul by the work of Christ. What follows being "saved" is supposed to be a life of commitment. The fact that we don't always live in a committed fashion doesn't negate the saving work of Christ that happened. It just means I'm not walking in the Gospel as I should--I'm not living like I've been "saved."

As far as church terminology, he's right--you shouldn't monkey with it for good reasons. We've worked hard to get to good definitions to explain things so that our teaching makes sense to "saved" people. I doubt that unsaved folks aren't being kept from Christ because of our in-house lingo or terminology. We can't make the outsider's perspective our lowest common denominator when we gather for worship and instruction. We should show them incredible love and respect and answer their questions and point them to Christ, but we can't change the message or its vocabulary just because people who don't yet understand (because they've not yet chosen to understand--1 Cor. 2:14) feel left out. Not that Stevens would advocate doing that in everything but you can easily see how that kind of philosophy would be wrong. It's funny that he acknowledges the difficulties changing the wording would make but still advocates doing it.

What I would take issue with is what appears to be his interpretation of the purpose of the church. Again, it's two-sided and I think he's mixed the two. The purpose of the church, the body, is outreach--Go and make disciples. However, the purpose of the church, the gathered local assembly, is worship, praise, and edification to carry out the mission of the body in evangelism. When we gather it's not for evangelism. We do acknowledge that unsaved folks can be there and Paul tells us to do things in an orderly fashion to honor God and not turn off unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:23) but they are observers to our worship, not participants.

As for Stevens' substitutions... I don't mind calling someone a Christ-follower if they think it's more descriptive of the commitment. However, Christ-follower is still someone who was saved and when a Christ-follower shares the Gospel with an unbeliever he needs to make sure that he makes it clear that the commitment they are making is to accept the deliverance and rescue of Christ because they can't "save" themselves. It's just problematic to substitute an active word that talks about how I follow Christ, for a passive word, that describes what Christ did for me. It's a two-sided thing.

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Nicodemus did not understand "born again"

The fact is when Christ used the term born again, Nicodemus did not understand and it had to be explained. We live in a society of sound bites but the gospel cannot be presented that way. Whatever terminology we use whether it is saved, born again, Christ follower etc. . . we must open the Word of God and expound the gospel. I was at a funeral service where the question was asked do you want to go to heaven and be with so and so when you die. If so pray this prayer after me. The prayer contained words such as believe and repent and others that had never been explained or even mentioned during the "gospel" presentation. The terms born again and saved are good terms, the message is fine. In this case, many times the problem lies with the messenger.

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Right on target...

BToothman is dead on. Unsaved people don't understand in house stuff and we need to be sensitive to the context of the situation and adapt our presentation accordingly. I've done funerals for unsaved families for one of our local funeral homes. In those situations, I use regular every day words in place of some Biblical terminology because I don't expect them to know about "born-again" or "justification" or even "saved." However, in church, it's a different story. We teach our people the meaning of Biblical terms (well, we should be teaching) and theology. That's edifying the saints to the work of the ministry.

I think one thing we can take away from the point of the OP is that we need to teach our people to be careful how they present the Gospel. Jesus used "born again" with Nicodemus to point out that, although he was possibly "the" teacher in Israel, there were things he didn't understand. It was a springboard, but it was purposeful. Each situation is different but I doubt that the Lord always used "born again" so we shouldn't either. A great study is to look at the several witnessing encounters of Christ and see how He varied His approach to people.