27 August 2008

Pragmatism - No Excuse!

Jesus worked very closely with His disciples for only a few years. During that time, He said very little about the look of their future ministries and He gave them very little in the way of specific theological detail. What He did provide was a goal.

For example, Jesus made a few comments on divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19) which left the disciples bewildered. Their conclusion was, why bother to get married at all. Obviously, they, along with many others since then, missed His meaning. We still fight over that one.

The fact is, there were many points of theology which Jesus did not attempt to address in great detail. But, the one thing Jesus did do was give the disciples a target. After His resurrection and before His ascension (a period of forty days), on more than one occasion, He made His expectations very clear. In brief, He said…

As the Father sent Me (to remit the sins of others), I am sending you to do the same. (John 20:21-23

Go and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19)

Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.(Mark

Be witnesses to me everywhere including the uttermost. (Acts 1:8)

These statements are concise, to the point and focus only on one thing, the end result. Jesus gave the first disciples, and us, a very clear objective. The scope of our work is the entire world and the ultimate goal is fruit (souls being saved). Everything we do, even discipleship, is predicated on this outcome.

Any Christian at the start of their walk with Jesus can know exactly what is expected of them. They are to win others to Christ in large numbers (John 15:5 & 8). Some people argue against this idea but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. The rationale for limiting your activity and having miniscule results is not complimentary. People who think this way are: small minded, bigoted, self-righteous, fearful, incapable, confused, uninformed, etc., and usually become stodgy, stiff, wooden, dull, boring and irrelevant. Unfortunately, those who bear no fruit resort to finding fault with those who do.

One argument often used against success is “pragmatism.” If someone is getting a large number of people saved, the automatic assumption is, they must be doing something wrong. Results are ignored and methods are over analyzed. The unfruitful person, not the Bible, becomes the standard by which all others, particularly those bearing fruit, must be judged.

The “unfruitful” also use “success rate” as a smoke screen. If a program has a large number of professions they question how many of them are genuine. Well, I would rather have twenty-five percent of a large crop than one hundred percent of no crop at all. Twenty-five good professions out of one hundred are better than even one out of only two. No method has a hundred percent success rate.

Anyone who fabricates a spiritual reason to justify very little or no fruit misrepresents the Bible and will still be embarrassed when they get to heaven. Methods don’t go to heaven. Only souls do. If the method you use doesn’t bear fruit, it is your responsibility to keep changing until you find one that does.

The interesting thing about the target statements of Jesus is the complete lack of any strategic content. The outcome is in view not the methodology. Jesus does not tell us how to reach the goal. He apparently assumes we have enough sense to figure out what works and what doesn’t and the initiative to get on the with the job. Jesus wants us to make the gospel known to every person and how we get that done is not an issue.

No, I am not suggesting we do anything immoral to evangelize the world, although, interestingly enough, I know of people who, even though immorally engaged, have witnessed to and won people to Christ. Go figure!

What I am saying is, that apart from immoral methods, evangelism is pretty much an “anything goes” project. Any method you can imagine, you can use. You can be silly, unusual, very different, non-traditional (culturally relevant), entertaining or whatever, but above all you must be effective. Businesses that are ineffective don’t stay in business and churches should be subject to the same rule, although I have known some to die and never know it.

Believe it or not, It’s OK to be shallow. In fact, you must be. Salvation is not complex. The issues are not that difficult to understand. The world is swimming on the surface so don’t fish on the bottom. We are trying to win the lost not impress demagogues. We must meet prospects where they are and give them what they can handle.

If your method works, it is right. If your method doesn’t work, it is wrong. God and the angels in heaven rejoice every time a soul is saved regardless the methodologies used, even if the professors grumble.

So, get off your pompous posterior and evangelize your community. If possible, join hands with others doing the same. And, since God is not the author of confusion, strategize a little to encourage efficiency.

If at first you don’t succeed keep trying new methods until you do but, please, don’t gravitate to the withdrawn, isolated, holy huddles in which fruitless participants pat each other on the back because they would never stoop to using “ungodly” methods of evangelism. Find the fish and use any method you can to catch them. ThinkAboutIt


shaun said...

Hi Mr P,

I am really enjoying your blog, a very refreshing approach that in my mind is doing exactly "what it says on the tin".

My feeling is that Christianity risks becoming "too exclusive" as a direct result of the pragmatism you speak of. Sure I agree there should be pre-defined boundaries, however as long as the road leads to salvation one is one the right track.

In the same way that we are not all born to be Olympic athletes we should all be allowed to play our best game and improve at our own pace. We all have to start somewhere after all and who cares if our "training"" methods are slightly unorthodox.



EnnisP said...

Good comment Shaun and it is great to hear from you. Glad you are enjoying the posts.

Hope you and the family are well and I look forward to more interaction in the future.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good stuff... I have quite a bit of thought to go along with it, so please stay with me.

Methods are right up there with music in the church... all people have their own thoughts about it and like you said, if it is reaching them for Christ without speaking against Him and the work of the HSpirit, im usually all for it!

I however am one to say that Winning souls is not our number one goal as Christians. I am NOT AT ALL saying it is not important and part of what we do, BUT, i am saying it is not Number ONE. Our number one, is bringing Glory to God (Isa 43:7, I Chron 16:24, John 12:27) THROUGH that, our relationship grows, and then we move on into the witnessing to others naturally. John 15:5 says when you are abiding in my, THEN you will bear much fruit.

Without the abiding with him it is a difficult, not impossible, task of truly leading others to Christ. It has and is happening, but not one of my suggestions of ungodly methods :)

I may be missunderstanding you when you say focus on the large things, and aim for the large results... but feel it is important to include to not miss the ones along the way as you are gearing up for this great movment your planning for. Jesus didnt ONLY share with the multitudes of thousands, but along the way he shared with the individuals, and often entire cities came to know him as a result of this individuals conversion.

When you use the word shallow, I automatically think, Seeker churches. I Know and really hope that is not what you are saying at all. Our Seeker Churches have completely thrown their doctrine and foundational beliefs out the window when it comes to reaching people, and most of the time after they start it is no longer souls, but numbers. Yes, reach people where they are and use all means, but dont forget your foundation, while you are fishing.

Dont hide the truth and sugar coat it just to get another soul, cause more than likely you are not going to truly win them for Christ.

Often in these seeker churches, they throw anything out the window that might "confuse" a non-believer...watering down sermons and teaching only what they want to hear. I heard a great speaker one day make the point, they will never take baseball away just because people dont understand it, and the same should be true for our foundational truths.

Thanks for making me think... SD

EnnisP said...

Hey Anon,
Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so shall you be my disciples." His word, not mine.

He connects both discipleship and God's glorificaion directly to fruit bearing.

In the same chapter He said, "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit." v. 16. This isn't about the fruit of Spirit. The fruit Jesus spoke about is outward and beyond us not inward. It focuses on others not me.

Jesus also indicated that healthy disciples are known for bearing MUCH fruit: "...some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" all of which qualify as "much." (Matt 13:23).

You and I agree that we should glorify God but I think we might disagree on how to affect that. For me, anything we do that doesn't result in "much" fruit is probably missing the point.

Regarding Seeker Churches
The model of seeker churches actually compares more favorably to Jesus' ministry than most traditional churches. Jesus had just a few committed (yet shallow) disciples and they were constantly surrounded by large (hundreds and sometime thousands) of curious unbelievers (seekers).

Most traditional churches are very different. They have a house full of flag waving, Bible toting, anti-abortion pin wearing, good ole boys who scare the bahoogy out of any curious but unsuspecting soul that gets close enough to check things out. It isn't the Gospel that scares people away it is the Christians.

And, I have read books by all those who founded and lead seeker churches and I can't find the shortcuts. I have actually met several people who were saved in some of the seeker churches and their testimonies are amazing. You will have a hard convincing me they sugar coat anything. In fact, I question whether you have read the books or have first hand knowledge of their services and the people they have reached.

I have more to say about these things but that is enough for now. I will save "music" for another post. Got a lot to say about that. Hope you will be listening when I do.

Thanks for your comments. Don't go away. I also think it is good to "bat" issues around.