Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking? - Part 1: A Left-Brained Fellowship in a Right-Brained World

Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking? - Part 1: A Left-Brained Fellowship in a Right-Brained World

For followers of this blog, you know that most all of my posts deal with larger kingdom and cultural issues. The Missional Outreach Network has readers from all different denominational backgrounds, and I want to bring people together through Christ and his mission.

However, if my non-Church of Christ readers can indulge me, I want to post a series dealing with some issues in my fellowship (Churches of Christ). Specifically, I want to seek to address the issue as to why Churches of Christ are shrinking--seeking both your thoughts and to provide some analysis and insights. 

First, just an acknowledgment of the fact that we are shrinking is a huge step. For years, somehow we took solace in the fact that our numbers in the US were constant--despite the fact that, as a percentage of the US population, we were already in rapid decline. The US population was growing, and we were not. 

In more recent years, the Christian Chronicle (our non-official official newspaper for Churches of Christ) has woken us up to cold reality. Not only are we declining as a percentage of the US population; we are shrinking numerically as well. We are a fellowship in decline. Maybe not declining as quickly as the mainline denominations that we have pointed towards, but still, like them, declining.

As long as we were "holding our own," we could just keep doing what we had always been doing, "holding to our principals"--not changing anything--and waiting for the world to change and come around to our point of view. If you are staying about the same, well, that is not good, but it does not put you in a crisis mode that prompts organizations to change or die. But now, as we slowly, painfully, begin to acknowledge that we are dying, we now are perhaps more willing to look at the causes of our death, with the hope perhaps that a cure can be found.

There are numerous reasons for our fellowship's decline which I hope to discuss in this blog post series. But the reason that I want to put forward today is this: we are a left-brained fellowship in a right-brained world. 

Churches of Christ in their current, visible form were birthed in the 1800s during the height of the "modern" worldview. This was the age of Reason. We were skeptical of emotion, which could lead us astray. All that stuff at Cane Ridge, where people were looking for expressions of the Spirit as confirmation of their faith, which could include barking like dogs and the like, led nearly half of our fellowship to disbelieve that the Spirit of God worked at all outside of the written word and that there was no indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Shocking to deny, for without the Spirit, we have no eternal life.

But it was a print medium world, so this fit into the times. This print medium world allows one to take the word of God off on one's own to read and study outside of a community--which leads to individualism. It was a world that worshiped the scientific method, and we began to apply this method to Scripture, believing that if we just all used the same method (hermeneutic), we would all come to the same result every time. Reason and scientific study of the Bible and knowledge would lead us to all come to agreement and thus unity. (I was reminded recently by a preacher friend that our motto for decades was "Come, let us reason together.")

(Notice that unity was not based upon Christ and the Spirit or the seven "ones" of Eph. 4, but upon agreement on all of the issues. This is an impossible task, proven to be impossible for flawed humans by our history. But I digress.)

So our worship services and Bible classes were designed to give out information and prove points. We wanted to educate people--not shape them spiritually or transform them or disciple them. We did not have Spiritual Formation or Discipleship ministers. We had "Adult Education" ministers. We had preachers who dispensed information and proved their points. It was assumed that education equals transformation. 

Fast forward two hundred years to today. We are now in an Apple based, image and icon based world. A world of pictures and videos. A world of music and surround sound. A world of 75" plasma screens in homes and jumbo trons half the size of football fields. I live in Dallas and took the Cowboys stadium tour. There I found out that the owners of the Phoenix Suns came out to the stadium to play video games at $500/minute on the humongous video screen there. Apple is now the highest valued company in the world, beating out Microsoft. This is not just symbolism. It is reality. We are in an Apple based, image based, icon based, experienced based world. This is the world that those 35 and under in particular grew up in, though it extends up through Gen X (and even partially into the late Boomers).

And these younger generations come into our worship services looking for an experience. And what do they get? A lecture. Information. Someone trying to build a reasoned argument and make their points. And they just don't get it. It does not speak their language. We are speaking Mandarin Chinese to them. (Actually Mandarin Chinese is an image-based language. So with the growth of China, we will become even more image based and Eastern in our thinking. Think of a picture or image. By its nature, it evokes more emotion and feeling and passion. And when younger generations enter into this throwback, print based world, they feel that our worship services are empty, dead, and lifeless. It does not move them. They can't wait for the exit.)

Older generations showed up to hear a sermon. The rest was nice, but was almost viewed as filler for the main dish. And in growing churches that are reaching younger generations, they most all have great preachers. Preaching (that is culturally relevant) still transforms and moves people. 

But what our fellowship fails to realize is that if you were to take that same great speaker--let's say, Andy Stanley, or if you prefer, Mark Driscoll, or whoever of that generation that floats your boat, and you were to plop them down into most of our churches, that church would not explode. The younger people would not, by and large, come. Why is this? Because they are not looking for a sermon--though they want to hear a moving one when they hear one. They are looking for an experience--an experience that matches their world. And we are by and large offering an experience of what life in the 1800s is like. Bible classes that educate, and sermons that give knowledge and prove points. In a world in which knowledge is ubiquitous (ever heard of the Internet or Wikipedia?) and everyone is sick of people arguing about who is right. 

Let's face it. By and large, we view the thousands of dollars that are spent on lights, video screens, and cameras in other fellowships as a waste of money. As seeking to "entertain."  We look down on those churches as being superficial. (Part of this is that during the split with the Christian church, they got all of the buildings and all of the money. So our people are inherently suspicious of these kind of expenditures as being "liberal" or superficial. But like so much of our heritage, most people don't realize why they think these things.)

And yet, churches that are doing this are growing--not only reaching lost people, but retaining their own kids. They actually come, want to come, enjoy the experience, and bring their friends. Young adults will camp out and plan their year around the Passion worship experience, but would not ever show up at a lectureship. Look around at the lectureships in our fellowship. There are a lot of older people, and almost no one under 30, despite there being incredible speakers there. 

I recently toured a church in our fellowship that just redid their auditorium. They had an incredible set up. Three huge screens, incredible lighting, stadium seating. I immediately thought two things: 1) this must have cost a lot of money--we could never afford this; and 2) I would love to preach in this atmosphere, because it would be incredible. It would be experiential. It would resonate with younger generations--and a lot of right-brained people in Boomer and above generations, who have never felt that we have spoken their language.

So, what does this mean we should do in Churches of Christ? Well, if we want the same results, I would advise us to do nothing. If we want to see our kids continue to leave in droves--and recently, Randy Harris said at Elderlink that he was afraid that we were going to lose all of our 18-35 year olds--then don't change a thing. When someone tries to dim the lights or show a video or have a praise team or give a testimonial and people complain and threaten to leave or stop giving, then give in. That is what has happened in congregation after congregation in our fellowship. And the Millenials don't complain. They don't make a fuss and stomp off mad. They are very polite. They just leave and say (to themselves), this is not for me. 

And the sad thing is, not only are we choosing to not reach lost people because of our refusal to not give an inch on these issues, but we are choosing to send our kids and grandkids away to at best another fellowship, at worst, the world. When push comes to shove, we would rather keep church the way that it has always been than to make changes that would help us reach or retain these generations. As one of my preacher friend says, "In almost every case in all of our churches, tradition trumps mission."

What if, instead of viewing these things as a waste of money and a threat to our church tradition, we viewed them as "speaking the language" of the people in our mission field? Is that not what missionaries do? We would fire a missionary who went overseas and never learned to speak the language of the people that he was trying to reach and who did not work through their cultural norms and cultural values. But somehow, we forget that we must do the same thing here in the US. 

So here are a few things that could be considered to create a more experienced based worship service.

1. Use video throughout. It is a Youtube world. Video has picture and music and tells a story. It is the language of today. Use background music in these videos. It is the least that we can do to be culturally resonant.

2. Use a three projection screen setup. The standard setup for an experience based event is a three screen setup. The main, center screen projects the speaker/worship leader--and people will usually look at this screen more than the actual person. The other two screens project pictures, moving images and the like. And if you really want to create an experience, then add additional screens on the sides. 

3. Dim the lights in the audience and brighten the stage. This can create the experience atmosphere that many are used to and looking for.

4. Use testimonials. Interview people and have them tell their stories. It is an Oprah world. Millions recently watched Lance Armstrong sit on the couch and talk to Oprah. People will line up to hear other people's stories.

5. Make preaching biblical, culturally relevant, and applicable. Remember, people are not going to be wowed by our exegesis. They can find this online or on their own study Bible. What they will be wowed by is a person who models a godly life, who speaks their language, and who can tell them how to live this biblical truth out in their daily lives at work, in their homes, with their family.

6. Use "pre-worship" music and "post-worship music." Music is ubiquitous in young people' lives. Playing this before and after helps them have a more memorable experience.

7. Engage the body, mind, and heart in worship. This is imminently biblical. Remember The Greatest Commands song? We do not just worship God with our mind. We worship him with our body and with our heart and emotion. Be joyful. Clap. Shout for joy. (We sing about shouting, but don't ever do it.) Have a praise team or worship leader that models this, for passionate worship is contagious. And give people permission to really engage their whole being in worship for God.

8. Emphasize community. Facebook and Youtube have created a world of sharing, a world that longs for community. It is a basic part of our humanity. Remember, in the creation account, everything that God created was good. There was only one thing that was not good. It was not good to be alone. Community can be emphasized in our assemblies not just by having coffee, though great coffee is expected in a Starbucks world. Community is emphasize by sharing stories of God's work amongst his people throughout the week. By displaying Twitter feeds with a church's hashtag, or by asking questions and letting people share through their Iphones. Community can be put in one's tagline, on the website, in one's language in worship. More on community later.

The churches that get this will do far better at reaching the lost and retaining their own children and grandchildren. The "lectureships" that get this will do far better. (Why come hundreds of miles today to just hear a speaker when you can listen to them online?) Create an experience and they will come. And they will invite their friends. Of course, this is not the only thing that has to happen. I am a "missional outreach" guy. I believe in going out and serving and reaching people to my core. But I am more and more convinced that unless we wake up to this experience culture and speak the language of our mission audience, then we will continue to shrink. And I love our fellowship and I love Christ, and I don't want to see this happen. I want our churches to grow. I want my three girls to not have to leave our fellowship to have an experience that touches their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. I want them to have experiences so powerful, that they come back time and time again.

NOTE - This DOES NOT mean that we have to throw away truth or that these are the only things that we need to do. Hardly. But it may mean that if we speak the language of our culture, they may actually listen to our message. I am not at all for watered down messages or fluff. Telling powerful stories of how God is at work--a conversion story, a story of service, a story of living holy lives, a story of spiritual formation in the home, a story of a marriage coming back together--is not fluffy entertainment. These are powerful stories told well and powerfully. And that should impact everyone. And maybe it will help people to listen and "take in" important truths about Christ, baptism, and the Christian walk.

I am sure that at some point flannel graph was considered a new fangled technology. And Power Point. And microphones. And air conditioning and padded pews. (Go back and read early Restoration history--there are tons of railings against padded pews and the like.) Every generation is comfortable with whatever technology/communication medium they grew up with, and uncomfortable with ones that they did not. It is the responsibility of those most mature in Christ to be the most generous in their personal preferences to those who are most in danger of being lost or missed. That is what being incarnational means.

Here is part 2 in this blog post series: Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking? Part 2: Failure to Recognize ...

Here is part 3 in this blog post series: Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking? - Part 3: A Misplaced Identit...

Here is part 1 in a parallel blog post series: Why Do Churches of Christ Have Hope and a Future? - Part 1: A Reawa...

If you are interested in me giving a Missional Outreach Seminar or Spiritual Gifts Seminar in your church, please let me know. I can adjust the schedule or topics to cover the topics that are needed in your church. I am filling out my 2013 calendar right now. Also, you might be interested in the evangelistic Bible study that I have written, the Story of Redemption. www.StoryofRedemption.com. To discover your top five Spiritual gifts, check out my Spiritual gifts website, www.YourSpiritualGifts.com

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Comment by Bill J Green on February 7, 2013 at 9:12pm
James, these are great articles and should be read by all in our fellowship. You are "right on"!!As a student of the Stone Campbell movement for the last 45 years I know there were many paths we should have taken but didn't. We have e discussed this many times so you know exactly how I feel about these matters. As you know many in our fellowship do not want to hear these things, but it has to be said. I think God for your courage to do so
Comment by James Nored on February 7, 2013 at 12:59am

Darin, you say: "Something else that strikes me and hits close to home, I hear it all of the time, I appreciate my great Biblical foundation from the Church of Christ but.... Don't misunderstand me, I'm not bashing, but I would say when you go away and find they don't have this foundation and you have kids, you are cheating them out of the same great foundation. Been there done that."

One of the real strengths of our heritage is our commitment to Scripture. I will blog about this too. Although, we really do not have a monopoly on this. Most Protestant churches have a high view of Scripture. We are not the only ones who had the motto "back to the Bible."

So glad that your church is doing well, Darin. I am always eager to learn, so if you have some things to share about this, I would love to hear them. As you say, we go way back. I pray God's blessings upon you.

Comment by James Nored on February 7, 2013 at 12:54am

James Harrison, you write, "I believe, James, that the problem is not that we are a left-brained fellowship in a right-brained world, but that we are a program- and sunday morning- oriented fellowship." There is a lot of truth to this, James. We are not very formed spiritually, and we tend towards a sacred-secular divide. What I write about in this blog post is not the only issue that we face. It may not be the greatest issue that we face. But it is still a significant issue and source of disconnect. Thanks for your thoughts!

Comment by Jr Sheets on February 5, 2013 at 8:20pm

Thanks for the reply, James. I see the grace in kind.

I'll just clarify that my main point was that it isn't so much about the preacher but about what and Who the preacher preaches about. It has more to do with the message than the messenger (though that can help, as Christ has gifted individuals). What I mean is that a certain preacher can be considered "good" but when his theology is shaped by the likes of Brian McLaren, there's a problem. A preacher can be "good" and entertaining and funny but barely open the Bible. You know what I'm talking about: whether it's a message of simply make people feel good; a soft-god; man-centeredness; easy-believism; love-no-matter-what; "enlightened" or post-modern drivel; it comes in many forms. "Good" then, is obviously relative. And so it's about the message more than the messenger; and in that case we DO have a problem with putting out "good" (in message) preachers.

Here is a thoughtful article (not by me) titled: "Do We Really Need to Be Culturally Relevant?" - of which I quote something in part that nails my thinking:

Now to be clear, I am not opposed to having nice looking buildings, fancy technology or a great sounding band. But it is problematic when that becomes the impetus that drives what we do, especially with the goal to attract people. And I’m particularly disturbed when it affects preaching with the reasoning that people need cultural relevance. Then churches can become competitive to fill their flock and capitulate to the latest marketing technique.  Rather, if the goal is to attract people to the beauty of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel, then it seems there would be an impetus to remove any distraction to that message and just preach the word, point to Christ and tell people through his word what that means for them.

...certainly there are those who enter into the fold not having had a previous churched background. I get that. But new believers need to be introduced to the language of faith and worship that is distinctly Christian without the priority of making it appealing. I fear that when we make everything we do ministry wise on appeal that the new or returning-to-church believer becomes conditioned to cultural relevance instead of language of faith. Taken too far, their multiplication may not be based on a sound message of faith but “come see how cool my church is”.

I appreciate the dialogue in peace; and your ministry here. Grace be with you -

Jr

Comment by James Nored on February 5, 2013 at 3:35pm

Jr Sheets, thank you for your well thought out post. I agree that preaching is still important. As I state above, the churches that are growing generally have very good preachers. I too don't buy into the idea that a sermon has to be 20 minutes long because people can't sit still. You have pointed to some good examples of this.

But my point is that that preaching alone does not bridge the cultural gap that is in our fellowship, and if these same preachers were plopped down into our churches, they would face enormous challenges. In discussing this with one of the most prominent and well-known preachers in our fellowship (who is at one of our largest churches), he said that we do not have a problem putting out good preachers. What an example? When Mike Cope was in Abilene, he was one of the best preachers in that town with a church that really believed in both shepherding and reaching out. But where do the college kids in Abilene go? They almost all go to another fellowship, despite great preaching being available. That is simply a fact that cannot be ignored.

I too believe that there is a thirst for the word of God. But a large majority of people will choose a place where they can get both of these things.

As to the stories that I mention, I do not believe that those are self-centered. They are stories of God being at work in people's lives! A conversion story is about GOD forgiving a person through JESUS CHRIST and his work on the cross. A story of service is about helping others--selflessness. A story of holy living--well, we are called to be holy because God is holy. This IS the gospel! The gospel is not only about what happens to us at the end of time, but what happens to us NOW, in the present, as the kingdom of God has come near.

A story of spiritual formation in the home or of a rescued marriage could potentially lean towards more of a self-focus, but it certainly does not have to. The stories I am thinking of are of parents who make godly choices that help their children follow God, or a spouse who changes his life for the benefit of his partner--usually because of what God has done for them and Christ as being the model. 

Certainly, we have to watch against self-centeredness. But those are not the types of stories that I am referring to.

You have given some good things to consider here, and I appreciate this. Blessings upon your work in Scotland.

Comment by Jr Sheets on February 5, 2013 at 12:22pm

With love, and as a 33-year old who ministers in a country that is 15 years beyond our own (re:Post-Christianity), I’m going to push back just a little bit on this article.

Congregations that are doing what you are promoting in your article are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. That doesn’t make it bad, and that doesn’t make it good. I’m personally very open-handed on worship styles and the use of technology and the like. I’m an avid user of social media and see these as key ways to reach our culture. But there are several things that the article missed.

Just take a look at where growth is taking place; and then consider the connection to the most listened to preachers today for late teens and those in their 20s and 30s: Tim Keller (in the middle of NYCity mind you, preaches for at least 45 minutes each time); John Piper (regularly preaches 45 minutes); Mark Driscoll (in one of the most unchurched areas of our country, regularly preaches an hour or more); Matt Chandler (45min to an hour); and on and on. Not only are they not in our fellowship, but they preach. They preach a lot. And my age group and the 20s are listening and being saved through it. And it isn’t only Americans who are eating it up.

So why is my age group and below listening and being discipled through it? Because the God they preach is God; the preaching has purpose; and the focus is on Christ and the Gospel. The God in their sermons is Almighty, challenging, sovereign, loving, just, judge, holy, and on mission. He is not the mushy, feel-good, moralistic, unchallenging, or laughy-laughy god we hear preached from many pulpits every Sunday. People are being saved and sent because God is being preached. And this is what many of our churches are lacking, and it is also what the article lacked. We want to know why people are leaving the CofC? It has little to do with lights and screens. A big reason is that the preaching is lackluster, moralistic, self-absorbed, mushy, and without power; and the Gospel is often missing. This is true of even the most well-known speakers in our tribe. There are other factors, certainly (our post-Christian day, lack of relationship, etc.), but this is a big one, I believe.

Young people are craving the Word. Absolutely craving it. We are done, are we not, with surface level theology and stupid debates over man-made trivialities?

Some parts of the article also seemed to be all about the self, which is a cancer in this Disney Land called American Christianity. For example: Should we tell stories? Sure. As a former drug and alcohol abuser I’ve done it for testimony and I’ve encouraged others to as well. There are times and places for that. Absolutely! But consider where the focus goes when that methodology becomes the focus. Let’s just take one of the last paragraphs as an example:

"Telling powerful stories of how God is at work--a conversion story, a story of service, a story of living holy lives, a story of spiritual formation in the home, a story of a marriage coming back together--is not fluffy entertainment."

Let's break that down:
a conversion story = focus, self
story of service = focus, self
story of living holy lives = focus, self
story of SF in the home = focus, self
story of rescued marriage = focus, self

That might not be “fluffy entertainment,” but there is caution because each of those are more about the individual(s) telling the story than about Christ. Sure Christ is sprinkled in there, but at the core, many pagans and civil organizations can tell a similar story of some kind and leave Him out.

But where is the Gospel? The Gospel: That main story that is completely external to us, completely outside of us. That story of Christ that changes hearts and pushes people on mission. A story decreed and carried about by the Sovereign God of the Universe.

There is a difference between the Gospel (what Christ has done) and the consequences of that Gospel (how we change, what we do). We should share the latter, but only after centralizing everything on the former.

Focus: Christ. The Gospel. Theology. Biblical literacy. The God of the Bible. Spiritual Maturity. Discipleship. Mission. And turn away from trivial issues our movement has been plagued with. Watch the Holy Spirit work with that.

In sum: What you win them with is what you win them to.

Grace be with you -
Jr

Comment by David Glen Pace on February 4, 2013 at 3:40pm

Actually, this story is as old as the first century church itself. We have the right brain gentile Christians being put upon by unreasonable, outdated and no-fun left brain Jewish Christians (circumcising an adult gentile Christian would definitely be NO FUN). Did I get the brain sides correct? Then we have the marvelous example in Acts as to how to handle it as believers in Christ under the umbrella of love for each other. Basically, the decision was that everyone should adhere to the moral code expressly stated by God and which hasn't changed since creation, and the righties should be careful not to do things that are offensive (repugnant?) to the lefties which may otherwise be their right to do under the new freedom in Christ. In this first century example, I just don't see a condemnation of the left brain Christians other than a quick freedom in Christ lesson. This example is still a pretty good standard I think but hard to remember in the rush to add experiential components to our worship service. Here's my counsel to us all. The visionary righties should start their own congregations in different venues than on existing lefty church properties. In large part, righties didn't pay for those properties and won't be able to change a congregation of lefties without affecting their relationship with each other and creating a lot of angst and ill will. Andy Stanley sets a great example as to how to go about successfully changing direction in outreach. Everyone should read his books. I have. Personally, I think righties are moving in a very exciting direction, but there's no need to leave a lot of enmity and heartache in the wake. Everyone with the true loving Spirit of God should consider this.

Comment by James Nored on February 4, 2013 at 12:45pm



Hi Nathan. Thank you for your feedback! What you say is very true. It goes far beyond just these individual things. It is indeed, a mindset, of thinking like a missionary and being incarnational.

Yes, we use the booklets to go through the Story of Redemption study (www.StoryofRedemption.com), and I often introduce them to how to use the Bible during the study as well, though all of the biblical passages are found in the booklets. I am in the midst of making a professionally done 8 part video series of The Story of Redemption. We will be traveling and doing some awesome shoots at the beach, at the Grand Canyon, and over in Israel. Yes, video is the ideal format for this. However, there are numerous things about the print version that fit into all that I am talking about, including:

  • It starts at Genesis, the beginning, and assumes no Bible knowledge.
  • It asks the questions that people are asking today--who is God, why am I here, if there is a God, why is my life (and the world) so messed up, does God have a plan for my life?
  • It is primarily narrative and does not jump around or proof text
  • It is in full color, with lots of pictures, and attractively designed
  • It draws upon the primary atonement aspect for today's culture--the brokenness in relationships and life, with the idea that through Christ, community (relationships) with God and one another can be restored. Other atonement theme are brought out, but this is the primary one.
  • Over the course of 8 weeks, people can build relationships, be invited to participate in worship or church life, start serving, and be prayed for. All of this helps bring people to faith. 

We also make these conversion videos, like the one above, that are very moving. In the above video, which we showed this Sunday, Kelly Weatherford talks about how she had prayed for her husband, Charlie, to become a Christian for 13 years. They went through the Story of Redemption, and at the end of the study, he was baptized! Now, everything has changed. Charlie has become the spiritual leader in their home, they are closer than ever, and their children will never be the same.

Also, please see "How to Use This Study." I also give Missional Outreach Seminars and Spiritual Gifts seminars that cover these issues, if you are interested. Thank you!

Comment by Nathan Berry on February 3, 2013 at 10:56pm

James, I love your article and have really enjoyed the website.  I have read through the many posts since your article hit just a week ago.  Some say, "Just turning down the lights or having 3 screens is just show and not about preaching Jesus."  I see their point, but it's bigger than that.  It's a mindset.  These little baby steps in our worship show our own longtime members that we're more about reaching out and touching the newcomers and the younger generation than keeping tradition.  Some of the smaller churches that can't afford 3 screens, having short testimonies shared by members thru video or live is powerful, but rarely done.  What's more effective than hearing a testimony from someone you live life with?... and it doesn't have to be about your conversion but even something recently on your heart. How your grandparents molded and shaped your life-to inspire the listening grandparents to be that influence themselves.

 

 We are emotional beings, created to be moved with our senses of sight and sound.  Little things we do in our worship do matter.  They can move and inspire us to get out and start salting it up.  "Oh, well all you have to do to get more salty is read your Bible!"  That sounds very reasonable, but it is just not entirely true for most of us.  Some very cerebral types, perhaps.  But most are motivated when things hit the heart, not the head.

I've heard it said many times about these kind of ideas as "entertainment."  My take is this.  I love watching movies like Courageous, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Flywheel b/c they inspire me, they move me.  I'm a better man for having watched these movies.  I'm 6'3'', 215 and I cry like a baby.  Well, is a movie entertainment?  Absolutely, b/c you enjoy it.  The question should not be, "Is it entertainment?", but rather "Does it move people in a spiritual way?  Is it beneficial?"  If so, then do it, and hope your elders have the boldness to deal with the "no change crowd" and say "I understand your concern, but we feel this is beneficial for the body."

The "Story of Redemption" has sparked an interest in me to invite some of my non-churched friends over to my house and do an 8 week series.  This is exciting and scary at the same time.  I had always considered showing a DVD in this type of outreach setting, then discussing it.  Your website makes it seem you read the booklets(at home beforehand? or aloud together?) without any media such as video, which is ironic considering the recommended use of media in your post.

I'd love to actually see thru video or explanation- paint a picture on how a group is run.

My heart seems so non-denominational as I am so much more concerned about the hearts of our people in our walls and the souls of those outside our walls than about our specific CofC tradition and doctrine, yet my roots and heritage draw and keep me in.  Therefore, I love these discussions.

Thanks so much for posting the articles and the website.  It has inspired me!

 

 

Comment by James T Wood on February 3, 2013 at 11:10am

I'm glad this is just one part of many. This is a true(ish) description of what's happened and what's happening in the Churches of Christ. 

From a bigger perspective, we need to find ways to engage people in all the spiritual pathways. CoC has done a good job of hitting the Intellectual pathway. James makes a good case here for hitting the Worship pathway, but that's only two out of seven (the others being Relational, Creational, Service, Activist, and Contemplative). 

We are whole people created by a whole God to experience whole life. Because some people have a predilection for encountering God through ideas and others through experience does not make one right and the other wrong. Instead we ought to, like a family, learn to experience God together through those means that we prefer and those that we don't. 

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