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Continued from Part 1
Rules of Engagement
Toward the end of the book, Andy Stanley gets into the subject of preaching and engaging people and finally how a church can become “Deep and Wide.”
As in all things, purpose should determine approach. At the end of the day, it’s what we do, not what we purposed to do that defines our lives and reputations…if your stated purpose is at odds with your approach, you will never accomplish what you have purposed to accomplish. So one of the first things a service programming team must do is clarify the purpose of the weekend experience. (Loc. 2207 & Loc. 2215)
Andy talks about what the weekend win is at Northpoint… It’s when an un-churched person liked the service so much that he returns and brings a friend. The purpose of their church is to be a church that un-churched people love to attend, so that defines what their “weekend experience” is all about. I agree with the basic principle in the above quote, but disagree with what Northpoint’s purpose is. I disagree with it because it’s not what the first church did. In fact, they had the opposite effect on the general unchurched population around Jerusalem when Ananias and Sapphira pulled their shenanigan at church:
Acts 5:12-14 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.
Amazing. It was believers that were added. Sounds like the Holy Spirit was building a church for saved people and the rest wouldn’t even come close. Yet, they were held in high esteem. Why? Because they were holy, not because they were cool.
Does that mean we tailor the content to non-Christians? Nope. We tailor the experience to non-Christians. There’s a big difference…The long term win is life change. The long term win is when individuals who attend our services on a regular basis shift their thinking and their behavior in a divine direction….Your current template is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently getting…If you want me to follow you on your journey, you have to come get me. The journey begins where I am not where you are or where you think I should be. (Loc. 2258, 2300, 2314)
What he means by this is that you invite people to church and make the church experience similar to where these people already are—the bar, the nightclub, the rock concert, the movie theater, the whore house…well, maybe not that far. I get the concept of starting with people where they are, but where they are is not in church and the difference between being missional and attractional is that you get out there to where they are and bring them along on the journey. That will mean getting into some places and rubbing shoulders with some pretty rough people long before they will ever step into a church. I think Andy Stanley’s template is the easy road of least resistance. It’s easy to make the church look like a biker bar than it is to leave the church and to go to a real biker bar on mission. This kind of attractional church offers the easy evangelism for the lazy Christian…just invite ‘em to church, we’ll do the rest. Everybody will think they’re being faithful and successful.
Andy gives us their experience template which consists of:
a. Pre-service experience
c. Special music
a. Video and Message
The point is supposed to be the way to bring the visitor along to the point of making a decision. It’s classic Finneyesque revivalism with modern hipster cool. If you really want to know what it’s like, check out this video that the North Point team put together as a satire of what they do on Sunday Morning. It’s so honest, it looks like someone else made it to mock and ridicule them.
Although I don’t particularly care for Andy Stanley’s preaching—I really do think it’s too scripture-lite—he does say some good things that are helpful to remember when preaching to unbelievers in a mixed audience such as: acknowledging their doubts and suspicions, defining terms, and not assuming that they understand who Melchizedek was and so forth. But over all, this is his concern:
The key to successfully engaging un-churched people in a weekend message has to do with your approach and your presentation more than your content. (Loc. 2673)
That’s how Paul approached the Corinthians, right?
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:23-24 But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I don’t think I need to say much after that. Paul didn’t seem to be as concerned with presentation as much as with content. Paul relied on the “Power of God” and not the power of presentation. Stanley never once mentions the preacher’s need for the power of God. He must assume that too.
Becoming a deep and wide church
Finally at the end, the last section is the challenge to get off our rear ends and stop settling for the status quo.
What feels irrelevant now was cutting edge once upon a time…your best idea, the one that other churches emulate and take cred it for, will eventually go the way of handbells and bus ministries. (Loc. 3122, 3136)
So, first come to grips with the fact that what you’re doing now may be what was really working a long time ago and you were hired to maintain it. Most likely, it isn’t working anymore and you need to change. How do you go about that?
I’m more convinced than ever that shared vision is the key to bringing about change. And once initial changes have been made, vision is the key to maintaining organizational focus and momentum…vision is the place to begin every discussion pertaining to change. Start the discussion anywhere else and you will experience resistance…in 100%of the cases, the leaders who can’t get their people to change can’t articulate their visions either…you should never begin a conversation about change by addressing where you are now. you should always begin with where you want to be…once I got a clear picture of of a preferred future, my behavior changed. That’s what vision does. (Loc. 3179, 3194)
This is true. You don’t just throw out your hymnbooks one Sunday and start using projectors! People need to buy in. So, it’s going to take a Biblically literate people to discern whether or not their pastor’s new vision is something that should be followed.
As long as you keep it biblical and intangible, you’ll be fine. But once Nelly McCloud finds out that your new vision requires her to give up her Sunday School Classroom, well..that’s when the fun begins doesn’t it? (Loc .3246)
I laughed so hard when I read that! We experienced this when we went to plurality of elders. I taught about it and everyone “Amen’d” and nodded in agreement until it came time to actually do it. Then we had several families leave. New ideas are good ideas as long as they don’t require anyone to actually do anything new.
The vision must include a model that supports the church’s mission. If the current model is not accomplishing the mission, it’s time for a new one.
One of the primary reasons churches are empty is because church leaders love their models more than they love people…let’s be honest, local churches don’t feel any urgency about anything until the money starts running out. Then suddenly they are concerned about ‘reaching people’..The tragic truth is, most churches in the US won’t change until their finances force them to…Marry your mission, date your model, fall in love with your vision, stay mildly infatuated with your approach. (Loc. 3284, 3298, 4202)
All this is good leadership sense that will work for a Biblical church or an entertainment church.
In the very last part of the book, Andy puts his finger on the source of the problem in churches - bad leadership. Not all pastors are good leaders, they’re good managers. Romans 12:8 tells us that leadership is a gift and that only those with this gift should be the ones casting vision and doing the leading.
You are better off managing what’s been handed to you and praying that God will raise up a leader who will challenge the status quo and introduce change. Your observations about what needs to change may be spot on, you just may not be the one to drive the process. (Loc. 3526)
While Andy Stanley basically calls for pastors who are managers to step aside and call on a guy who’s a leader (presumably like him) to take over, I want to suggest that the Bible has a solution for this - a plurality of elders! One of them should be the guy with the gift of leadership and the others are there to shepherd, teach, counsel and do what they do best. Any one of us as pastors should be willing to lay our lives down for the church and give our pulpit to the more able elder.
This book was pretty much what I thought it was going to be - a case for Andy Stanley’s version of being seeker sensitive. Yet, there was quite a bit of leadership savvy that I found valuable. Yet again, reading this kind of book has reconfirmed in my mind that the attractional church has its days numbered. It will soon become irrelevant. The only true church is a missional church that doesn’t rely on culturally relevant services to grow the church, but relies on Spirit-empowered people who go into the world bringing the church to people rather than bringing people to church.
About the author
Andy Stanley is the founder of North Point Ministries, Inc. (NPM). Each Sunday, more than 33,000 people attend one of NPM’s seven Atlanta-area churches. In addition, NPM has planted over 25 churches outside the metro Atlanta area with a combined weekly attendance of more than 15,000. Over one million of Andy’s messages are accessed from our North Point websites monthly, including both leadership and sermon content. Learn more at www.northpointministries.org.
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