Monday, October 02, 2006

Fresh basics

Christianity Today asked pastors about "fresh basics for the local church." Here is some of what they found:

"As in every age," says John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, "the greatest challenge … will be to treasure above all goods and kindred and this mortal life that Jesus revealed with infallibility, perspicuity, and sufficiency in the propositions of the written Word of God, the Bible."

Will Willimon, United Methodist bishop of North Alabama, sees a similar timeless need: "The greatest challenge facing the local church in the next 50 years is the same one that we've never quite met in our last 50 (or 2,000) years: To enable our congregation to be half as interesting as Jesus!"

Joshua Harris, the young pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, notes that he preaches to people who "are influenced by [pluralism] more than they realize."

Dale Burke, pastor of First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, believes that "a shrinking percentage of the culture even cares about what we have to say." The challenge is to engage them without compromising the core message and its power. He believes the church must "lead with love," "not with the slickness of the presentation but with the sweetness of acts of grace and kindness."

Mark Dever, pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., believes a pluralistic culture will turn increasingly intolerant of Christian faith. Our challenge will be faithfulness to the gospel "when it is seen as anywhere from criminally intolerant hate speech to [merely] unpopular."

John Sommerville of City Church in Minneapolis is anxious for churches to engage the culture in ministries of mercy as well as proclamation.

John Huffman from St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, notes that consumerism affects not only the people we try to reach, but also the very nature of what we consider a "successful" church—which he's not sure is really so successful.

Michael Horton, a minister with the United Reform Churches who teaches at Westminster Seminary California wonders whether churches can regain their confidence in the "ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament."

Robert Lewis of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle both see ministry to men as the future's key challenge. Lewis considers men "the lost gender," while Driscoll highlights a crying need for proclaiming a manly Jesus, lest "increasingly impotent churches [become] filled with mere handfuls of nice church boys standing around drinking decaf while the world goes to hell."



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