i recently finished a book for pastors on simplifying the way your church does things. based on research and polls over a broad range of churches, the authors found the the most vibrant and biblically healthy churches were those that simplified the way they do things. i gleaned a lot of good information from it.
one of the things the book pointed out was the need for clarity in the church's purpose. it examined different purpose or mission statements of different churches and then asked the churches themselves how clearly that vision or purpose was being lived out and how all of the ministries and programs contribute to meeting that purpose.
at the church i pastor, our purpose statement is:
"pursuing the glory of god through the gospel of jesus christ".
in that we hope to communicate that everything we do is for the glory of god, and that thing through which we channel everything- worship, bible study, and evangelism, flows through the gospel.
after reading this book, i have been more aware of church purpose statements and slogans. not that my church's is the model or perfect, but i find myself when hearing a new mission statement "what does that *mean* ?"
one church's slogan that i hear everyday on the radio is " [so and so church]: where diversity is central".
when i first heard it, i thought it was odd. and as i continued thinking about it, it became more odd. on a secular radio station, you have one small radio spot to tell people what your church is about, and the message is "diversity is central". no mention of god, jesus, or even the bible.
i visited the website and my suspicions were confirmed. the site goes out of its way to make clear that it does not judge (or even think wrongly about) things that the bible speaks clearly about. if you have read this blog long at all, you should no that i do not hate gay or lesbian people. in fact, i have had and do have many friends that i care a lot about who are practicing homosexuals. i would never tell them that they could not come to my church. i would love it if they would attend in hopes that they would obtain the freedom from the bondage of a sinful lifestyle. but i would make clear that to be a church member, certain things are not acceptable, such as living openly in sin without remorse. the same is true whether it be homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, etc.
we have got to get past the notion that speaking the truth, when it speaks contrary to some one's lifestyle is "mean" or closed-minded. why bother being a "christian church" if we are willing to change the teachings of christianity in order to be culturally relevant?
yes, jesus ate and spent time with sinners. i am thankful for that, because i am a sinner! but when jesus did spend time with those living a sinful lifestyle, his message was not "i'm ok/you're ok, we are just different". it was "go and sin no more". he offered true peace and joy that comes only through a relationship with god, not being accepting of the fleeting impulses of satisfaction that come from sin.
so as christian churches and individual believers, what is our message? though we are fallible and make mistakes, does our overall message invite people to hear, know, and love the gospel, or do we make it easier for people to be comfortable in their sin?