All of us as church leaders lament the wide open back door that many churches that see many church members and attenders leave the church. In my 20+ years of ministry, this is what I see.
They hear the Bible in the pulpit, but see pragmatics in the pew, in programs, and in public. To elaborate, they hear about how God’s Word is without error, cannot fall, cannot fail, authoritative, and even sufficient for all things in the faith and practice (and hear the Amens from many in the pew), but many fail to take that and put that mirror to their churches and their lives.
We count on grace, but in the process we write our own laws based upon what ‘works,’ rather than based on the work that the Spirit reveals about who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He intends to do through us.
Many pastors preach from the Scriptures, preaching with all their hearts from God’s sacred writ. But for many churches, there is a disconnect between the pulpit and the person sitting in the pew. Preachers preach the Bible, but in most other areas of the church, the Bible is not even opened or consulted—and thus, we show we do not feel the Bible is sufficient for all matters in the church.
Thus, we rely on pragmatics—that is, we rely on simply what works and what brings the most results. Pragmatism was developed by the philosopher William James, declaring that the value of any truth was utterly dependent upon its use to the person who held it. Bruck Kuklick reflected on James’ philosophy:
James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth. He would seek the meaning of ‘true’ by examining how the idea functioned in our lives. A belief was true, he said, if it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world. James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their “Cash Value” was, what consequences they led to (from his introduction to William James’ ‘Pragmatism’).
How does this translate to how we view Scripture? Subtly, but dangerously. If we come to Scripture simply looking for the ‘cash value’ of what works for us, we miss the point of Scripture. What may be ‘true’ for one person would be ‘not true’ for another, and so forth.
Do we find ourselves ‘Amening’ something in the pulpit, but fail to plug that in to other areas of our church and our lives? The people who are new to the faith, as well as those members who may be looking for authenticity, see the false dichotomy we set. While the pulpit must speak loudly, our actions speak louder.
When we look for the bottom line of why we should do what we do, do we look to Scripture or to what works? Here’s how our pastoral team will lead out in this.
- We will preach that the intention of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church is to have discipled disciples discipling. We long to make much of Jesus so others will make much of Jesus. Then those ‘others’ will make more ‘others’ that make much of Jesus (see 2 Timothy 2:1-2). This involves patiently equipping others to see the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel in their homes, workplaces, school, and with their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. Thus, discipleship breeds evangelism, which breeds more discipleship.
- Regardless of the meetings we are in (deacons, stewardship, security, worship team, greeters and ushers, custodial, administrative assistants, etc.), the goal will be to see what must be done to plant that discipleship, gospel seed in the hearts of all who come and to remove whatever obstacle is in place to keep this from happening.
More details as God begins to clarify and crystallize.