In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White has one chapter devoted to key components of a church’s ministry that will keep the front door open and help attract the unchurched. Here’s a summary of his principles.
- Friendliness—You must be intentional about the guest’s experience and cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance. “Acceptance is not affirmation, but it is an embrace.”
- Children’s Ministry—Children are the heart of your growth engine. And if nones ever come to your church uninvited, it will probably be for the sake of their kids.
- Music—Music matters, and the key is cultural translation. And remember, there’s no such thing as traditional music.(See yesterday’s blog.)
- Building—From the moment when nones first view the church and its grounds, the initial impression is made; physical surroundings convey strong messages.
- Importance of the Visual—Over the last twenty years we have decisively moved to a visually based world and the church needs to move with it.
Does all this matter? It depends on whether or not you are expecting company.
At last night’s quarterly leader’s meeting at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, I introduced a proposal from the elders to add several people to our staff. As I explained, the purpose and focus is to train and equip these individuals for a career in full-time ministry, not merely to add staff to our church. You can read the details in the proposal below.
In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White addresses to issue of music in the worship service. His perspective might surprise you.
There is no such thing as traditional music. All music was, at one time, newfangled, contemporary, cutting-edge, and probably too loud. The great hymns of Martin Luther are considered traditional and sacred to our ears, but they were anything but traditional and sacred to the people of Luther’s day. Many of the great hymns written during the Protestant Reformation, such as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” were based on barroom tunes that were popular during that period. Luther simply changed the lyrics and then put the song into the life of the church. The result? People were able to meaningfully express themselves in worship—or at least connect with it stylistically.
Charles Wesley also borrowed from the secular music of his day, and John Calvin hired secular songwriters to put his theology to music, leading the Queen of England to call them “Geneva Jigs.” Bach provides a similar pattern, as he used a popular form of music known as the cantata for weekly worship music. He was also known to seize tunes from “rather questionable sources and rework them for the church.” Even Handel’s Messiah was condemned as “vulgar theater” by the churchmen of his day for having too much repetition and not enough content.
The last line is worth rereading. The point? Throughout history you’ll find a connection between church growth and contemporary music. Sorry if that’s too crass for you, but it’s true. Don’t ever downplay music—remember, there’s an entire book of the Bible that is almost nothing but lyrics you can work from so here are two words that will serve you well: music matters.
Just as the deeper issue with friendliness is an atmosphere of acceptance, the deeper issue with music is cultural translation. Let’s retire such words as relevant and contemporary, shall we? The heart of it all is a missionary enterprise: learn the language of the people, the music, the dress, the customs—and then translate the gospel for them.
Chase this with me for a moment. If we were dropped into the deepest reaches of the Amazon basin as missionaries of the gospel to reach a specific unreached tribe of people, we would attempt to learn the language, dress in a way that is appropriate, craft a worship experience that uses indigenous instruments and styles, and work tirelessly to translate the Scriptures into their language. No one would argue with that approach. It’s Missiology 101. Now realize that your mission field is the West. Are you doing the work of a missionary?
Book Review: The Last Rescue: How Faith and Love Saved a Navy SEAL Sniper, by Howard Wasdin with Joel Kilpatrick
How do you go from an elite warrior to a broken man? How do you find meaning and purpose when your body can no longer perform the skills that gave you an identity? How do you find support to endure rehabilitation and recovery? How do you go from being valued for your tactical skills to being unable to put your marriage and family back together?
These are some of the questions touched on in Howard Wasdin’s book, The Last Rescue: How Faith and Love Saved a Navy SEAL Sniper. Wasdin is a former member of SEAL Team Six who survived the firestorm in Mogadishu made famous in the movie Black Hawk Down. Wounded in the battle, he returned home to discover his marriage was falling apart and his world turned upside down. On top of that, he faced the challenge of rehabilitation and recovery. His greatest challenge, however, was discovering a new purpose in life.
At the same time Howard was recovering from his wounds and trying to find his place in a peacetime world, his future wife, Debbie, was walking through her own trial by fire. When they met, they began a journey together by rediscovering their faith in God and their ability to trust in God’s goodness.
The book is a very fast read. Wasdin weaves together his time in the SEALs with his childhood years and his journey through rehabilitation and building a new life. He shares lessons he learned along with Scriptural principles without being overly preachy. He tells how he learned the importance of love and forgiveness.
Having read his previous book, SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, I was curious to read the next installment of how he adapted and adjusted to life at home. While I would not call it a great book, it is an interesting story. The book would be a good gift for someone interested in the military. It would be a good conversation starter to lead into spiritual things.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
When you ask the average person, “If you died tonight, do you know for certain if you’d go to heaven?” their response if often like this comic.
Scripture, however, explains that we can know for certain.
Romans 6:23 points out that I have a problem. I am a sinner in need of a savior.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The bad news is that because I am a sinner by nature and by choice, I deserve to be punished. Like receiving a paycheck at the end of the month for my work on the job, death is the just wages for my sin.
The good news is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. Even better news is that heaven is a free gift. It’s not earned or deserved.
Romans 10:9-10 goes on to explain how I can receive this free gift.
“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
- I believe the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that he rose from the dead on the third day
- I confess Jesus is Lord by asking him to forgive my sins
- I can know for certain that heaven awaits me when I die