Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spinning off of Genesis

I'm always intrigued by people who take scripture and apply it to stuff in the present day. I was reading an amazing book (re-reading, actually, and worth every moment) about what churches should really be doing with their time and energy. If you're in any kind of church leadership or if you are interested at all in churches or if you despise churches and love Jesus, you ought to read Organic Church by Neil Cole. You may not agree with him in all details but he'll certainly make you think hard.

Here is a lengthy quote that lays out some challenging ideas and ends with this concept of fruitfulness, in a very poignant way. Most of Cole's book is an answer to the problem he lays out in this quote:

American Christianity is dying. Our future is in serious jeopardy. We are deathly ill and don’t even know it. Our illness has so saturated our institutions that we are not healthy enough to live beyond the present generation. Our only hope is to try to keep current organizations alive for as long as possible, by any means possible. This is the mentality in Christian ‘churchianity.’ Many institutions are holding on to life support, fearing that death is the end of us. Do you think I am overstating our condition? Then it is even more evidence of how bad off we are. Look at the facts.

The Southern Baptists have said that only 4 percent of the churches in America will plant a daughter church. That means that 96 percent of the conventional churches in America will never give birth. On the basis of experience, I believe this statistic is true. Even worse, I suspect that the majority of the 4 percent that do give birth will do so with an ‘unwanted pregnancy’ which we call a church split.

Many people think this state of affairs is fine. I have heard people say, ‘We have plenty of churches. There are churches all over the place that sit empty, so why start new ones? We don’t need more churches, but better ones.’ Can you imagine making such a statement about people? ‘We have plenty of people. We don’t need more people, just better ones. Why have more babies?’ This short-range thinking is only interested in the here and now and does not think there are long-term consequences for living selfish lives.

… Imagine the headlines if it were suddenly discovered that 96 percent of the women in America were no longer fertile and could not have babies. We would instantly know two things. First, this is not natural, so there is something wrong with their health. Second, we would also know that the future is in serious jeopardy. This is the state of the church in America right now. It is that serious, and we need to take heed.

We need a new form of church that can be fruitful and multiply. Many of our churches do not even want to multiply. (From Organic Church, pages 91-92)

So what would it look like if churches were fruitful, instead of productive? (Lots of churches aren't even productive, but that's another matter.) What about pastors? Or Christians in general? When Jesus talked about what he dreamed for us, he used this image of fruitfulness in a very powerful way. (See John 15).

Do you suppose that Genesis 1 even has something to say to churches? How about that.

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