Sunday, February 7, 2010

Is Christ welcomed in HIS church?

Recently I had dinner with a good friend, and he was lamenting his inability to find a church that would express true passionate love for Jesus in His area. Although they had great facilities and an excellent program (typical) they were not willing to truly allow the risen Savior to reign in their midst. Discouraged he was contemplating not attending a local church at all! Seeing as I serve to facilitate missional effectiveness among Foursquare churches in the Los Angeles area his response is of great concern to me. Some would blame the era of "seeker-senstivity" that was given prominence by many mega churches. Yet I think the problem runs much deeper than a particular methodology adopted by mostly the more affluent churches in America. I have also visited smaller ethinic churches where one would think that passionate expressions of love for Christ would be welcomed in a more traditional setting. Not so! What is or is not acceptable in a church service may find it's roots in that churches approach to Christology. "Christology determines missiology, and missiology determines ecclesiology" - Alan Hirsch/Michael Frost. Honestly I stayed up very late last night pondering that statement and it's implications on the condition of the American church. Without re-discovering a "Christ-centered" gospel we will continue to reproduce what we currently know is ineffective. Our attempts to be sensitive to those who are unchurched ( I applaud the effort) has left us without solid theology upon to rest the church upon. Now human preference takes precedent over revealed truth. Personally, I am walking through the Gospels again and asking the Lord for fresh eyes and a cleansed heart as I do so. As HE enters my heart again, may it unleash unfettered passion for Him and His mission.

Keith Jenkins


  1. Very provoking Keith, especially coming from a former pastor. :) I have been on a similiar quest through the Gospels this past year; nothing challenges me like the life of Jesus... Those words are in RED for a reason! Would you go so far as to say that we can extrapolate complete theology from Jesus life? What about the Church?

  2. Just venturing out....and wanting to engage in broader conversation/thinking. Let me think about that one a bit.... :)

  3. Today Tammy, Ashlee (our daughter) and I went to a church that chooses to NOT promote their name, they started an 18 month journey through the gospel of John and the place is filled to capacity 5 times every weekend with over 300 Life Groups. Hmmmmmm............verse by verse teaching that links the prophecy's of the old "T" with the reality of the new and teaches pretty deep. The church simply but clearly promotes Jesus. I like what you are meditating on Keith, we need to have confidence in the Scripture to reveal God's truth and the Spirit to apply that truth to our lives. Where is the spirituality, the trust, the love? Does being with God draw our hearts nearer to one another? Does study of the word seperate us or unite us? What Jesus REALLY the expression of ALL God intended for us?

  4. Keith, After reading your blog, it relates so much to what we spoke about two weeks ago. Being a believer for so many years, I have witnessed several evolutions of church dogma...small community mentality, mega churches, home cells, life groups, denominational, non-denominational,coventional,liberal, etc. I have seen the spirit of the church being suffocated by churches trying to preach a "people-friendly doctrine". Unfortunately, with all the modifications, many churches have compromised the very foundation of the faith...Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is a shame that the so called Body of Christ can't see what we are doing and just strip it all down...go back to the basics of teaching the pure Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to move as He wills. Until we surrender to the Holy Spirit - we are only playing church and not being the church. I agree that we all need fresh eyes and a cleansed heart, but with that must come a surrender to His perfect will, not just us asking God to get in line with what our plans are. In Him...Larry

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences and heart with everyone. I am confident the church will prevail...HE promised it would :)

  6. Missional churches flow out of a deep desire to obey the great commision and an clear understanding of how to impact the community with the gospel. Every church has to figure that out.

  7. First of all Keith, as my insights are INVALUABLE to you so is your friendship to me,(Jk bro i love you BUT I am still waiting for the payoff on my end.) As for the blog, this is very thought povoking:

    I for one agree that the problem runs much deeper than the methodology incorporated by the affluent church. The Passionate Love for Jesus is not found in many of "this generations" churches because too many of their pastors are more concerned with hearing their own voice rather than being led by the Passionate loving voice of our Lord.

    Oh sure they may sugar coat their agenda with a strategically placed hallelujah from time to time, and they may draw the attention of others with their "flattering lips" - They may even raise their hands as if they are praising Jesus but if you look close enough you see they are actually reaching around to pat themselves on the back in praise to "ME"

    Yes Passionate Love of Jesus is a far gone illusion in many churches. But when we stop measuring the success of our churches based on the # in attendance and instead base it on # of lives changed. Than maybe people wont look only in the "mega" church doors to find "His Love" being preached, and they may start to look in the church doors where lives are being changed.

    Within the last month I had the question posed to me 3 times in three different conversations all by the same "pastor"! the question: How many people do you have in attendance? and with each answer i gave this man (of 25 plus years of ministry) responded with "not to bad"

    It has dawned on me that many pastors have a Passionate Love for THEMSELVES and only an appearance of Love for Jesus... no wonder we dont hear it from our pulpits - because we are too busy praising our programs and laying claim that that is the reason for a churches growth, all disguised with a strategically placed hallelujah!!!

    I can admit and shout it from the rooftops, "I am nothing if not for the Love of My savior for me"

    To me Keith if you look at the heart of the pastor you will find the root of the problem or the foundation of a True love affair with Jesus

  8. In my opinion, what lies at the heart of this challenge is the superficiality of the relationship many Christians have with Jesus. I believe that relationship releases ministry and that this is true not only of our interpersonal relationships but of our relationship with Christ as well. I think there is a tendency to think that programs and classes will somehow deepen a person's relationship with the Lord, but what usually happens is that it only broadens their knowledge or gives them data about the Lord. I learned far more from my parents about what it means to walk daily with Jesus by what they showed me as they live their lives in transparent honesty before me and God. Surrender to Jesus is the entry point of kingdom living but it seems like so many Christians don't progress very far beyond that entry point. What I try to teach and show my congregation is that my relationship with Jesus needs to be revisited every day and that I am passionate about that relationship. It may be that there are a lot of pastors who are struggling so hard just to survive that the relationship with Jesus becomes nebulous and almost Platonic. And there are probably some pastors who have such large churches that they are more like a CEO than a shepherd and so rather than inculcating a deep passion for Jesus they end up simply promulgating programs. If the world is going to be impacted with the love of Jesus it can only be accomplished by those who are deeply and desperately in love with him.

  9. The topic is an interesting one, and one that has been a concern for quite a while now. You don't have to listen to James Vernon Mcgee for very long before he is commenting on this very subject. For me it all boils down to what Jesus said the two most important commands are, love God, and love People. If we can do these things, everything else will be easy. That being said, I also have to say that I am not worried about Churches that have grown soft. While it might take years for a church to slide into decline it is an overnight work for God to stir things up and pour out His Spirit on that Church in the right season. The most important thing is to make sure you are in the Church that God places you. You belong to Him and should not be doing things because they make the most sense to you but because you are being an obedient son.

    Love you All
    Joseph W.

  10. Shane Claibourne said it best when he held up a bible and asked "Have you read this book? Jesus was radical he wasn't ordinary." Jesus wasn't just about love, he challenged the religious system so that our hearts would be changed. If we continue to live sitting in our seats, or speaking about God on Sundays and the going about our days as usual then how do we expect the world to change. We as leaders need to stop leading ordinarily and start leading. Paul writes that we need to be in the world and not of it. Paul is saying that we need to be the influencers. Leaders that are ordinary don't exist outside the church because they aren't allowed to lead. We need to stop allowing people to be leaders that are ordinary and start pressing in to the radical.
    Keith you're so right about the seeker sensitive churches but don't you think that when we do that the very thing there are seeking gets waterdown. When I came into a relationship with Christ it was because it was real not something that was friendly. I don't look for seeker friendly friends and I don't like friendships that are comfortable I want authentic and honest. Let's get back to being Christ-like and leading extraordinary lives.

  11. Thanks for the provoking thoughts Keith. It's not easy to respond to a problem that I think points right back to us and the sin issue we are in constant contention with. Many of us desire to embrace a fellowship in whose essence is a true "Christ-Centered" gospel expression. I believe we begin to fail to find it or develop it however once we stop heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit. Because of sin, our interpretation of God's Will cannot be clearly understood without His Holy Spirit's help. I believe that many times church leaders make decisions simply because it 'makes sense' intellectually or because practices have been traditionally modeled to them by someone else. Man's models or practices should not be our first stop when pursuing God's intentions. Jesus was the perfect model for how we are to be as sons and daughters of God. I think we would be wise to first compare our pursuit of the Father to that of Jesus'. How did Jesus pray? How did He serve others? Who did Jesus hang out with or reach out to? Where could He be found? How did He speak to people? How DIDN'T He speak to people? What did He teach? Are we doing what He said? Are we doing what He did? It's true, methods should change accordingly to the culture that the gospel is being communicated in, but God's intentions remain rock solid throughout the ages. When we live lives that pursue the Father's intentions like Jesus did, I believe that we will get it wrong a lot less as we strive to get it right :)

    In short, I don't believe God will allow us to cut corners. We must first discover His desires through seeking Him in intimate communion with His Spirit and His Word. Then we must simply obey what He tells us to do.

  12. I go to a church that is seeker-sensitive. It’s so hard to go in the morning, I know that I will be bored with the politically correct statements, and will feel out of place to raise my hands, jump up and down and get on my knees. I have seen our minister cry over money so I know he is capable of preaching with emotion. My husband loves this church (he doesn’t feel the need to worship the way I do). I have looked around the room at the faces of people and wondered how many of 6,000 members in this church are actually spirit led? The numbers are decreasing every month and the church is struggling. “I have felt the lord whisper to me “don’t be afraid step out, be different and worship me” I have begged my husband to please let’s find another church, but he likes the donuts and the fluff, or am I being selfish and really god is asking him to stay there because he has a calling for us there. yesterday morning I did what the lord had been asking me to do, I worshiped him, when I opened my eyes my husband was looking at me with a huge smile, my first reaction was “ are you making fun of me”? Later in that night he tells me I wasn’t making fun, I was smiling because you looked so beautiful. God is trying to retrain me; I allowed the church to break me. Now I wonder how many of the 6,000 members feel the same way as I did and if I continue to worship the way I know my god wants me to if the domino effect will start to take place.

  13. For those of us that grew up in church following the traditions of men become easy, expected, and often the "norm". When God tells us to worship diffently we stop and think......then we don't follow the Lords instruction because of our traditon. I know a pastor who once said "Church is MESSY" That statement taught me to see that it is ok to not be a traditional pew sitter but a worship minded person of faith. We are now helping build a new church and when I was asked for a review of a preview service I was overwhelmed by the performance not the passion for our savior! The church of today small or mega need a revial just as many of the posts are describing. True worship of our savior unhindered by those around us!! That is only way that many of the lost will ever find God, they dont want to be the "christian" that they have seen outside of the four walls of the church, who cheated on his wife or was a ruthless businessman and stole from someone. They what to be set FREE! and transformed. We must not continue the traditions of men but truely seek what God wants from his church

  14. Looks like you touched a nerve, Keith!

  15. I am so glad that so many of you care so deeply about the Church. Let me just point out a few important factors gleaned from your comments.

    1. We need to recover our passion for Christ! I am not speaking about a particular "style" of worship. Personally, I have been privileged to worship on several continents with various people groups. Passion for Christ should not be reduced to some one's preference or a particular style. Nor can it be so easily judged by some outward manifestation of a person. I grew up in a classic African American context, and I wouldn't call all the shouting I seen passion for Christ. :) I agree with the words of the Savior (Rev have left your first love.) I simply call us back to the place of unbridled affection for the lover of our souls. I have been married for 22yrs and I have found that my passion can wane. I hate to admit it, but I have taken my wife for granted. Fanning the coals of my love until once again they burn fervently for the object of my affection. I am not advocating another human induced attempt at revival...I am not calling anyone to a fast. However, I do stand with those who say....My love has grown cold. If I sounded like I was exempt from the correction of the church at Ephesus, forgive me. (it was my 1st blog) I am in desparate need, and I remember "from where I too have fallen."

    If we continue the dialogue, we will all be stirred to deeper levels of intimacy and TRUE WORSHIP.


  16. I wanted to add an afterthought to this blog... at some point in this generation (and im not talking about an age span) we went from people who go to church looking to be "shaped by the Word" and willing to be clay in the potters Hand... and we now go to "observe a message" and to critique the manner in which its delivered...

    I've been to many "seeker sensitive" churches and have been shaped by the Word given simply because I went to hear from Jesus not from the preacher... So long as Scripture is the foundation on which a message is built that that message, no matter who delivers it or the manner in which its delivered, has the potential to change a life...

    I believe as well that too many people have become overly sensitive to "church" as an excuse to not attend!

    Im Out!

  17. Hey Keith, what your friend experienced is I think real in the lives of so many. They want a church but "church life" is so empty of real life or Jesus life. Judy and I are still searching for a place to express our love to God with people in community. I can say I think a reformation is coming. There are really exiting pockets of life with people being Jesus to others! There is also HUGE hunger in the hearts of some pastors who really feel something is missing and are rediscovering Christs mission again. Let's keep praying Luke 10:2 and believing God to revive us again. Love and hugs! Ron

  18. I am in agreement with the concerns and even criticisms of the North American local Church and our often less than half hearted efforts to take the love of Christ and His Gospel to our cities, nation and to every tribe and tongue. Although I feel we must shift the blame slightly, that has settled on the Pastor, and allow the responsibility to fall on the Christian as an individual as well. After all, God has created each of us for a specific role in evangelism (local and global) and The Great Commission. Whether we were made as a sender, giver, intercessor or goer we have the responsibility to seek God, allow Him to show us and then do it. I agree with the comments made about the importance of studying the Gospels and Jesus' life as a model to evangelism. I would also suggest we follow it with a careful look at the book of Acts as it is the most complete biblical example of the "Missional Church". It was only the first seven chapters or so that the Church had the priviledge of meeting, being built up and trained corporately before God allowed persecution to come so "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." Acts 8:4. Earlier in Acts 1:8 when Jesus gave the command to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth He wasn't speaking to a crowded church over a pulpit, but to a handful of people. It was these obedient individuals who took the Gospel to many places of the world including Europe which is the heritage of how it ever got to North America so we could enjoy it freely today.
    It is clear we have not taken this command seriously as a body or individually, when you look at where we focus are resources. The average American Christian spends about two dollars per year toward advancing the Gospel to unreached people groups of the world (this is pretty sad beings that the vast majority of us are in the top 2% of the world's wealthiest people) and our churches are in the same state, with only 0.02% of their spending going to evangelism of unreached people. This so so unfortunate because the unreach world is VAST! It takes years and costs countless thousands of dollars to translate the bible into a new language and of the nearly 7,000 languages of the world, over 4,000 of them have no bible in their language at all. Evangelizing the unreached is not cheap, but most things that have value ever are.
    WHY are the focus and agendas of Christains and churches SO far off from what Christ taught and demonstrated? The simple fact is we (corporately and individually) are often too preoccupied with the exact thing the Word warned us so feircely about... "keep oneself from being polluted by the world" James 1:27. We as North Americans are extremely vulnerable to these distractions that lure us away from the truth which are pointed out again in 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19 becausse we have the resources to pursue them. I recently discovered an alarming truth in Ezekiel that required me to look at myself, our Nation and the N. American Church. It was dicussing the sins of Sodom and why God had to destroy them. Most of us would say,if asked, that is was because of gross immorality and perversion but what I discovered in scripture pointed to something else... "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She was arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and the needy." Ezekiel 16:49. YIKES! "unconcerned", "overfed" are adjectives that could definately be used to describe many modern day churches and Christains. Please help us Lord! We need your eyes to see! Help us to stop focusing on health and wealth and to start focusing on dying to ourselves and give generously to others just as Jesus did.
    To sum it up... Pray, Give, Go!

    Blessings to each of you as you are striving to be more missional. Diane

  19. This is an excellent article. Church has changed over the years and seems to have become more of a business venture than a place for people to really worship God from their hearts. Whether a person stands or sits, sings or is silent, waves their hands or dances is not the point. It's the atmosphere that is created from true worship and respect for God that is a rarity. I don't want a donut, I want to hear a Word that will help me overcome the devil! Blessings and keep writing truth.