Friday, November 4, 2011

No Gadgets and Gizmos and Yet They Grow

So, the Methodist Church is seeing growth.  It just doesn't happen to be here in the United States.  It's happening on the continent of Africa.  It's happening in Korea.  It's happening in South America, just to give you a few examples.  In many of these areas "doing church" is not an easy task!  There are restrictions, freedom of worship is not a world-wide concept.  They do not have fancy sound systems, or state of the art video screens.  Many do not have access to the Internet and social groups and online Bible resources (let alone an actual Bible).  Many of them do not have running water let alone a bed to sleep in!  And yet, they grow!  They are vibrant and alive!


Why is it, that in places, where worship can get you killed, where poverty is the norm, where there is every reason to be mad at God for ones lot in life, the church grows?

Maybe it has to do with simple faith?  Or spirit?  Or message?  Maybe it has to do with keeping it simple?

I can picture the PhD Theologians cringing as they read these thoughts!  But has anyone ever considered the possibility that we have over-analyzed ourselves in the United States to our own peril?

Analysis can be good to a certain point.  But anyone who has been in therapy can tell you that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing!  You can analyze yourself to the point of inertia, all because of your quest to fix what you think is wrong.  Analysis overused, can become nothing more than a gadget or gizmo.  Think about this in terms of someone who walks in the door for the first time and decides to join our church.  Do they join because of our in depth analysis of best practices or do they join because of the spirit they sense in the community?   Are they impressed because of a word study about why a certain word was used in the English translation based on the historical Latin or Hebrew usage or do they connect with the message that they are hearing?

What message is being shared so powerfully around the world that they connect with people in such deep and profound ways? The leaders elsewhere seem to have their fingers on the pulse.  And what works elsewhere may not work here in the United States, but can we say, with all honesty, that we have our fingers on the pulse?

Grow, grow, grow, we are told over and over again.  Outreach and mission in the community-that's the prescription.  Make your worship services more vibrant.  Small groups are the solution.  How many of the churches elsewhere around the world consciously do these things?  How many are driven by these choices?  If I had to guess-not many!  I think that they do these things, but they do them naturally, organically-it's not a conscious thought or priority for them.  I think they do naturally celebrate in worship.  I think they do naturally try to help their neighbors and I think they do naturally have small groups that pray for each other and with each other.  I think these things happen, not by plan, but because it is a natural outgrowth of the message!

What is that message?  I'd love to know!  I would love to hear what the leaders from other countries have to say in response to that question!  Again, I'm speculating here, but my guess is, it's pretty simple.  We have all sinned and made mistakes in our lives.  But there is this man, who lived long ago, who was actually the Son of God.  His name is Jesus and God sent him to save us all.  He loves you so much that he gave his life for you.  Accept his gift of forgiveness and new life and then share the story with your family and friends.  Follow his footsteps.  Love others, even those individuals that are hard to love.  Do good every chance you get.  Most importantly, share the story.

I could be completely wrong on this line of thought (as if that would be the first time) but, ya know, it really does make me wonder and think.  No gadgets, no gizmo's, no healthy church prescriptions and yet they grow!  Can we be humble enough to admit that we don't have all of the answers and look at what these churches do and how they do it and perhaps learn something?  Can we stop analyzing long enough to grasp the message that they so eloquently convey?  Perhaps the answer has been staring us in the face all along!  Perhaps the answer is just that simple!

Why do they grow?  This inquiring mind would like to know!

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