Forgotten God

I am reading Francis Chan’s book, Forgotten God. It is very similar to the writing style and approach that Francis took when he wrote Crazy Love (which is on my “read every January list”).

In other words, it is easy to read, challenges assumptions, and dares us to move out of our routines into a powerful relationship with God the Holy Spirit.

Here are a few excerpts from later in the book to give the flavor:

God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of Him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus. Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Christ. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately.

p. 143

and

But God is not a coercive God. And though He desires for His children to know peace and love and to have wisdom, I have noticed that He often waits for us to ask.

He desires to do more than “help out” a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so much so that people know something supernatural has taken place–life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from heaven.

p. 146

and

I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love. I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient. We are not strong enough or good enough and it doesn’t work that way. None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.
….
Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us. Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives. And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.

p. 148

Banging the Drum

Francis Chan continues to bang the drum. This man really fires me up. Have you read Crazy Love yet? you should.

here are a couple of bits from his article, but go read the whole thing.

[In starting Cornerstone Church] I simply followed what other churches in America had done. I didn’t even think twice about it. But as I look back, I’m amazed that I didn’t consult the Scriptures as my primary resource. Had I done so, “church” probably would have looked different.

If I had consulted the Bible first, I probably would have created a gathering that emphasized loving one another. Instead, I spent years running a service that left little room for love. It quickly became the most popular service in town. It was “successful.” The problem is, we defined success as a lot of people coming, enjoying the service, and receiving some sort of benefit. Our motives seemed pure, and good things were happening, so we didn’t question much.

REDEFINING SUCCESS
How would we define success if the Bible were the only standard by which we judged our church? If you had no theological training or previous church experience—if you did nothing but read through the Bible fifty times—what would you consider to be essential for a gathering of believers? How would you measure the success of a church?

…….

We have trouble building our churches exegetically, however, because we are surrounded by so many influences, and each of these beg us to think subjectively. My thinking is constantly affected by my Asian culture, my American culture, my Southern Californian culture, my evangelical church culture, and a host of other factors. Then I have my own flesh that begs me to believe what I desire to be true. There is so much in this world that would keep us from simply listening to the voice of God.

When I began to realize this, I prayed that God would allow me to ignore the prodding of my culture, my lifestyle, and my flesh as I searched the Scriptures for an exegetical model of church. I have listed some of my conclusions below.

on a somewhat related note, yesterday at Austin Stone, Matt reminded the church about its vision to be a church “for the City.”

We are seeking to live out the same desire as Francis Chan to do church biblically instead of culturally.

lukewarm and loving it?

Francis Chan’s question three years ago is are you lukewarm and loving it? well?

six flags over Jesus

compare and contrast this to this.

here is an excerpt from the first one:

Q: What can the church expect to gain from all the changes?

A: The transformation of our campus will dramatically increase First Baptist’s ability to minister to our city. It will make room for hundreds or even thousands more worshipers and Sunday School attendees and will vastly increase our capacity for weekday groups. The worship center in particular will also be an iconic presence in the city, standing boldly as a continuation of our legacy in downtown Dallas.

Q: What are the distinctive intent and features of the new campus design?

A: The design is filled with messages about our church. The glass, the water, the light and the spaciousness of the plan speak of openness, transparency and spiritual refreshment. In a way, the glass walls have an evangelistic effect: people walking by have a view in from the street and feel drawn in. The glass also unifies the architecture of the church by extending the aesthetic started by the Criswell Center, which was built in 2006, and thus capitalizes on our $50 million investment in that multi-purpose facility. As for long-term cost, modern technologies allow vast use of glass with surprising energy efficiency.

emphasis added.
just an unbelievably huge demonstration of the attractional church mentality. They are saying that we will minister to our city by making room for hundreds or even thousands more to assemble here in an even bigger [glass-walled] room. Isn’t there a better and more direct way to “minister to the city”?

Contrast this to the second one:

Convicted by the verse to “love your neighbor as yourself,” Chan showed up at the next board meeting with an agenda. In the early years, Cornerstone gave away 4 percent of its budget. Chan asked them to give away 50 percent. Cuts in staff salaries and serious sacrifices in programs would have to be made, but it only took a half hour for the board to agree.

Rick Utley, an elder, says that decision “has produced a heart in Cornerstone unlike any church I have ever been involved with. The blessings that have come with it are hard to quantify.” Utley says it would now be hard for him to worship in a church that didn’t make the adjustments and sacrifices Cornerstone made to give at this level.

In 2008 the church will give away 55 percent of its budget to the poor and hungry through various ministries, including a $1 million annual commitment to Children’s Hunger Fund and a sizeable contribution to World Impact, which plants churches in urban America.
….
Chan didn’t want any part of it. “I kept thinking about all those people I’d seen in third world countries and it made me sick.”

Chan thought he knew what Jesus would do. He’d say, “Meet me at the park.” That was what Chan wanted. Just a patch of grass where the church could gather.

The solution was an outdoor amphi-theater, a simple structure enjoyed by the community during the week and used as a gathering place for worship on Sunday. The plan would save tens of millions of dollars. Even the elders got behind the idea.

If it rained, they’d get wet knowing their money was feeding the hungry.

emphasis added.

just go read both and think for a few minutes about how we do church in this country. Do you want to be a part of something like the glass walled extravaganza or the outdoor ampitheater?

hat tip to Challies for the link to Jared Wilson and hat tip to Jared Wilson for the links to the comparison and the title above.

a couple of videos.

Here are a couple of videos from vitamin z’s blog.

First, like Vitamin Z says, you really don’t want to play this guy in H.O.R.S.E.

second and more seriously, here is Francis Chan talking about Christian “security”

Horton on the Prosperity Gospel

Michael S. Horton confronts the modern iteration of the prosperity gospel here with a particular emphasis on Joel Osteen.

Oh my goodness, it is magnificent. here are some clips, but go check it out in full when you have some time to read it carefully.

In the Wal-Mart era of religion and spirituality, every particular creed and any denominational distinctives get watered down. We don’t hear (at least explicitly) about our being “little gods,” “part and parcel of God,” or the blood of Christ as a talisman for healing and prosperity. The strange teachings of his father’s generation, still regularly heard on TBN, are not explored in any depth. In fact, nothing is explored in any depth. Osteen still uses the telltale lingo of the health-and-wealth evangelists: “Declare it,” “speak it,” “claim it,” and so forth, but there are no dramatic, made-for-TV healing lines. The pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, which now owns the Compaq Center, does not come across as a flashy evangelist with jets and yachts, but as a charming next-door-neighbor who always has something nice to say.
…..
As community philosopher Karl Marx said of a consumer-driven culture, “All that is solid melts into the air.” Religion, too, becomes a commodity—a product or therapy that we can buy and use for our personal well-being. Exemplifying the moralistic and therapeutic approach to religion, Osteen’s message is also a good example of the inability of Boomers to mourn in the face of God’s judgment or dance under the liberating news of God’s saving mercy. In other words, all gravity is lost—both the gravity of our problem and of God’s amazing grace. According to this message, we are not helpless sinners—the ungodly—who need a one-sided divine rescue. (Americans, but especially we Boomers, don’t take bad news well.) Rather, we are good people who just need a little instruction and motivation.
……
A TIME story in 2006 observed that Osteen’s success has reached even more traditional Protestant circles, citing the example of a Lutheran church that followed Your Best Life Now during Lent, of all times, “when,” as the writer notes, “Jesus was having his worst life then.” Even churches formally steeped in a theology of the cross succumb to theologies of glory in the environment of popular American spirituality. We are swimming in a sea of narcissistic moralism: an “easy-listening” version of salvation by self-help.

This is what we might call the false gospel of “God-Loves-You-Anyway.” There’s no need for Christ as our mediator, since God is never quite as holy and we are never quite as morally perverse as to require nothing short of Christ’s death in our place. God is our buddy. He just wants us to be happy, and the Bible gives us the roadmap.

emphasis added.

Michael has this culture and especially this religious culture nailed.

for further reading making similar points you might check out my post on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the links therein.

Also, Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love is directly opposed to the Joel Osteen “God is my buddy” version of christianity prevalent today. I read it already and I am currently reading it again with a group of guys. difficult and powerful. I highly recommend it.

hat tip to Vitamin Z.

Francis Chan on the Church

I am reading Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. I am more than halfway finished with it and I will be posting more about it once I have finished it. I can already see that it is going to have to be on my read every year list.

This morning I ran across an article he wrote for Catalyst on the church. This is how it begins:

Is there any logic in believing that God started His Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to Him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?

Try to imagine what conclusions you would come to if you had no prior church experience. The things in church services might make sense to the American church-attendee, but they don’t make sense biblically.

Picture yourself on an island with only a Bible. You’ve never been to a church-you’ve never even heard of one. The only ideas you have about church are what you’ve read in your Bible. Then you enter a building labeled “church” for the first time. What would you expect to experience as you entered that building? Now compare that to what you actually experience when you attend church.

Go read the rest. Interesting stuff.

I really like the way that Francis approaches these kinds of questions in his book and in this article. “Let’s just see what the Bible says for itself.”

Not a half bad approach.