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Gaining By Losing

Few books have captured my attention and interest the way J.D. Greear’s recent book Gaining by Losing has this past month of reading.  Dr. David Chauncey, the new pastor at Westside Baptist Church, took his staff through the same book.  We held a short group session for pastors in June and passed this book out.  The way J.D. describes church reflects a new and growing paradigm of church.  Let me share a snippet from the book, I would love to read your comments after.

“I lived in a Muslim country for several years, and I was friends with dozens of people who went to the mosque weekly.  At no point did I consider going with them, I wouldn’t have gone for a special holiday.  I wouldn’t have gone if I were facing hard times.  I wouldn’t have gone if the imam were doing a really helpful series on relationships or if he told really funny stories that helped me see how Allah was relevant to my life.  I wouldn’t have gone had they added percussion and a kickin’ electric guitar to the prayer chants.  Islam was a completely foreign world, and one in which I knew I clearly didn’t belong.  So I didn’t go.

I take that back.  I did visit the mosque one time, because a Muslim friend invited me, and I wanted to honor him by learning more about his life and faith.  It was an unmitigated disaster.  First, we had to sit in weird, uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time.  And everyone but me seemed to know what to say at various points of the service. They would all suddenly stand up, in unison, leaving me clamoring to get to my feet, which was hard when you couldn’t feel your legs anymore.  They all dressed up in the same outfit, and my Nike shirt and Levi jeans made me feel pretty out of place.  At one point they sang out an “Amen.”  At that point I thought I knew the drill, harkening back to my days in a country Baptist church.  So I hit the harmony note.  No one else deviated from the primary note.  Everyone turned to stare at me.  I felt like a side of bacon at a bar mitzvah.”  p. 30.

I made four observations from the above quote.  You may find more, but here is what stands out in my mind:

   1) People in our neighborhoods and at work, those we do life with, do not find relevance in, or a necessity to, attend church for any reason.

   2) People aren’t coming to church.  Nothing you can do is going to attract them.  It may have worked up until the 80’s or maybe the 90’s but we are not finding lost people coming to our churches.

   3) Lost people coming to our churches are most often personally invited.  While believers changing churches or moving to a new area may find their way into your church, lost people generally do not come without a personal, relationship based invitation.  The new key word to church growth and kingdom impact in our community, then, is relationships, relationships, and relationships.

   4) Our services can be awkward and uncomfortable.  Those who are used to our services often forget what it is like to not know the Baptist drill.  An ancillary assumption is, people who feel uncomfortable will likely never return to your church.  So it makes sense then, if we do things by wrote and appear uncomfortable and unnatural, lost people will have a difficult time being comfortable.

So based on the above four gleanings from the text, what will you do at your church?  How can we change, not at the expense of the message, to be relevant, be welcoming, and be comfortable, while still worshiping our God?  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below….

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