July 30, 2013

Must We Do the Lord's Work in the Lord's Way?

A friend recently posted this on facebook:
Attractional vs missional is a false dichotomy. When a church is driven by the purposes God has given it, you can use any tool short of sin. We can do both come-and-see and go-and-tell. Both are Biblical.
This statement is so typical of most contemporary Evangelicals that I thought it might be helpful to push back a bit. I want to expose some of the unbiblical assumptions behind this statement (and others like it).

First of all, the statement is actually true, so far as it goes. The problem is, it just doesn't go far enough. What I mean is, when one says something to the effect of "The church is free to do anything short of sin in order to fulfill the Great Commission," one seems to be assuming that it's not sinful to supplement biblical instruction with man's wisdom in order to fulfill the church's mission. One is assuming that Scripture is insufficient, that it gives little or no guidance for ministry beyond telling us what not to do. This is false. The church has not simply been called to do God's work but to do God's work in God's way (see 1 Corinthians 3). God has not left his church without sufficient instruction. He has given us everything we need in order to fulfill the Great Commission. Sin includes more than simply disobeying the explicit commands of Scripture. To replace biblical ministry practices with man's wisdom is sinful. Unbiblical worship practices and ministry methods are, in and of themselves, sinful.

Second, "attractional vs. missional" is indeed a false dichotomy, but this fails to see the real problem. Both models, in fact, suffer from the same problem: they're man-centered. The church, however, does not exist for man but for God. A God-centered church will be both attractive (and offensive, see 2 Corinthians 2:14-16) as well as on mission for God. Those churches that get caught up in the whole attractional vs. missional debate have put the cart before the horse. As John Piper says, "Missions exists because worship doesn't." The church exists to glorify God. The Great Commission is a means to that end. But a church that does not put God and his glory before all else will inevitably fail to do their part to fulfill this mission.

Unbiblical assumptions like these have, unfortunately, become the norm in Evangelicalism. Pragmatism seems to be the default setting for most church leaders. Sadly, these churches, though well-intentioned, are building with wood, hay, and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:12). Despite their best efforts, their works will not last. Those churches that are interested in making a lasting impact need to ditch the man-made methods and worldly wisdom and go back to the perfect, all-sufficient Scriptures, which give us all we need in order to do God's work in God's way (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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