Friday, September 06, 2019

"Empty Church Calories"

Proverbs 25.4-5 The Message

Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice;
Remove the wicked from leadership and authority will be credible and God-honoring.”

What makes a body work? Long before she died, my wife, Adonica, used to count calories. She tried to stay at fifteen hundred per day. She ran with our dogs and stayed in great shape. I was always so proud of her. Adonica was an inspiration to me. 

I tried to count my calories once (which turned out to be considerably more than hers). For lunch I had a food bar (210 calories) and a package of Grandma’s brand cookies (370 calories) and water to drink. I was proud of myself. Only a total of 580 calories for lunch. I called my wife with the good news but she quelled my enthusiasm. “Cookies are wasted calories,” she explained. “They contain mostly fat and sugar. That’s not where you want to get your calories. You want them from a balanced source of carbohydrates, protein, complex fiber, with very little sugar and fat.” “Great,” I thought, “Eating less is bad enough. Eating rabbit food is intolerable.” My wife persisted, “The cookie calories you ate will give you immediate energy which soon drops off. You will be hungry again before dinner. Good calories give you energy for longer periods of time. That will make your body work better while you lose weight.” I was sorry I called her.

What makes the body of Christ work? Poor leadership calories are not good for the proper functioning of the local church. The Bible says, “Remove the wicked from leadership and authority will be credible and God-honoring.” This may have more to do with honing leadership skills than kicking someone off staff. The point is... not all leadership decisions are good for the growth of the church. If church leaders wish to expand their ministry effectiveness in the community, then they must try for a simple and balanced diet of spiritual basics. Too much glitz, showmanship, popular music, fun and games, and cultural relevance is unhealthy for the body of Christ. This is the sugar and fat of the modern church. That stuff is like dessert. It’s fun to eat but not a mission-critical diet for the church. Even my wife would allow herself a cookie (or even a Dilly Bar!) on rare occasions. But she was not consumed with a love for sugar and fat. She stayed healthy and always looked great.

Outreach efforts by the emerging church designed to entertain or inspire a secular audience in a “seeker-friendly” environment, makes very little sense even as a tactic for evangelism. The attractionalmodel strategy for church growth mostly attracts believers who want to experience “a good time in Jesus.” The popular ‘party mentality’ of some modern church-goers may even turn off sincere seekers. Christian entertainment momentarily excites church folks but does not permanently inspire anyone. A few empty calories of rock and roll in Jesus’ name may be acceptable in small doses. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that these activities will reach the lost. Beautiful edifices, spiffy attire, modern technology, dramatic presentations, flawless music, video productions, mood lighting, professional sound, theatrical sets, special effects, quality staging, smoke and mirrors do not change lives. Authentic preaching trumps inspired performance any day. 

Evangelism is not the core mission of the church. Its founder did not call followers to make converts. Jesus said , “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28.19). Converts fall away. Disciples make more disciples. If the church wants to reach the world it must concentrate its ministry-wide efforts toward making true disciples. An emphasis on cultural relevance is not adequate for the growing church whose members depend on real Biblical nourishment from leaders committed making disciples and changing the world. Anything else is empty church calories and should be mostly cut from the church calendar, budget, and program for a healthy spiritual diet.


CharlieTD said...

Hi Dave – You really do a nice job with your blog. It has great eye appeal and looks very respectable. The small graphics work well for adding interest. You might try the graphics with borders turned off.

Regarding your empty calorie point of view, that is exactly the conclusion I came to. I’m somewhat surprised, considering we come from such different backgrounds, that we concur. I know that there are other factors but I hope that my negative attitude did not help point you in that direction.

Like you said (too much) “Christian entertainment momentarily excites but does not permanently inspire anyone.”


Dave's Bible Blog said...

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for the comment. I tried but could not figure out how to turn the borders off of the pictures I insert. If you know how, please let me know. That's a good idea.

I do not consider you to have a negative attitude, Charlie. I appreciate our conversations and think you have great insights about the church and its mission.

You're a great friend and brother to me.