Paul Thompson blogs at “The Bridge” and was a close second in our 2012 “Blue Collar Blog Madness” blogging tournament.
A common thing I hear when I’m in the circles of Baptists is a lot of talk about what we think. (Maybe this is true of others, but it is true of too many Baptists.) I’m guilty of this very thing I’m writing of tonight.
I have been pondering the need for church planting in the Magic Valley, Idaho and beyond. I’ve been reading about church planting and various articles on the subject from mission agencies. I’m not sure what to think on some things related to affinity church plants (church plants for people who like NASCAR, or people who like this kind of music and that kind of music, or people of this age and not for that age, or a church for blue collar laborers or white collar professionals, or this culture and that culture.) This kind of thinking seems to be supported by quoting the apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 9; “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”
Does that mean we should start a church for left handed people because we think left handed people are not comfortable around right handed people? (hyperbole if there ever was one.) Are we going to start a church for cat lovers because they need others who understand them and know where they’re coming from? Do we start a cowboy church for cowboys (and everyone who likes John Wayne movies) because we think they won’t get along with NASCAR fans? Do we start a church for teenagers because their parents don’t understand them? Do we do all of this for the sake of the gospel or because we just think it’s a good idea? What if God isn’t looking for people with good ideas?
I’ve been reading various passages of Scripture on the calling of the Lord’s people to go to his people or to go to the ends of the earth. As I’ve been reading about them, I don’t find these people to necessarily be people with creative ideas about how to reach a particular segment of the population. I found them longing to hear from God and then obey God.
There are a few exceptions, here is one. Jonah, heard from God and then had a ‘better idea’. It wasn’t until he was spat out upon the shore three days later that he actually went to Nineveh. Even then, it wasn’t until he did what God instructed him to do, in the way He instructed him to do it, that the people repented and turned from their sin.
I wonder how many times Ezekiel had a ‘better idea’ about how to get the attention of the Lord’s people? “Come on Lord, really? What do you think about using a hickory smoke BBQ for fuel rather than using human dung? I think we may be able to attract a less hostile crowd if we offer cotton candy” or “I think, if we were to offer their children the opportunity to glue macaroni to a piece of cardboard, let them spray paint it with gold paint, then they may be more ready to listen to me.” (the Lord does seem benevolent to Ezekiel by allowing cow dung instead of the human dung for fuel.)
It seems right with Scripture that God is not looking for people with creative ideas. (Not that He’s opposed to creative people, He himself is rather creative. I think creative people are used every day.) But isn’t He looking for people whose hearts are turned toward Him? Those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness? He asks “who will go for us?” He wonders who will stand in the gap. He desires obedience over sacrifice. He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. He puts the call out to those who would not be swayed by the applause of men. It seems right with scripture that we preach to all men, everywhere (Acts 21:28).
Church of the Living God, are we really arguing from the platform of becoming all things to all people that we might win some from the right understanding (1 Corinthians 9)? Paul is not saying that he became a cowboy to reach cowboys, he didn’t become left handed to reach left handed people (assuming he was right handed), he didn’t become a drug addict to reach the drug addict, he didn’t become a motorcycle rider to reach motorcycle riders, he didn’t become a business man to reach businessmen. He became a slave to all so that he might reach a wide range of people, not a narrow segment of people. Peter, tried his hand a creating a way that seemed right for him and wanted to limit his scope of preaching to the Jews only. God wasn’t interested in how he thought this would be best, He wanted the gospel preached to all men, everywhere.
I have more discovery to do from Scripture on this matter. I respect people who can reach a segment of the population more naturally than others, but I want to resist the modern idea of creating affinity churches and plant churches that preach repentance and the Gospel from a biblical foundation of right doctrine. One that calls people from the pursuit of idolatry and toward a hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Cautiously thinking about the way we’ve been planting churches