3/19/2007

Being "Seeker Sensitive" is the job of the laity, not the Church.

Red Neck Woman's reponse to the protestant Pastor who got huffy about church shopping has started quite the discussion over at Postscripts (I think that's a new record for the number of links I've crammed into a single sentence).

A poster named ty23 has been most vocal in his insistence that "all that doctrine stuff" doesn't matter, it's people that matter, and especially whether those people have accepted Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior (TM). (I'm sorry, that was snarky. I'm pretty sure "Personal Lord and Savior" is not, as of yet, a trademarked phrase. Then again, with the business-model approach of many churches these days, it wouldn't surprise me in the least ...)

I could have gone in a lot of different directions in my response to him (sorry if you're a female, Ty, I'm making an assumption here in the interest of readability). He brings up the impressive numbers (just under 2,000) attending Elevation Church (WARNING: turn speakers down before clicking if you're at work, have sleeping kids nearby, or just don't like loud music) as being proof positive that God is at work there. I could point out that the average neighborhood parish in my diocese has 15,000 members (does that mean God is 7.5 times more active in these parishes?). He talks about the need for something called "impactful" ministry, which I assume means ministry that changes lives, though I have to say for the record that I am not a fan of cutesy invented marketing buzzwords. I could ask what could have more impact than receiving our Lord and Savior -- body blood, soul and divinity -- in the Eucharist?

But ultimately, I was struck by the one repeated plaintive cry in Ty's posts, that were echoed by another poster called Purplegirl. A cry that said "We don't get it. We don't really WANT to get it. You use too many big words and require too much of your members and the whole thing is just really strange to us. And if we, your fellow Christians, don't get it, then how much more do the unchurched not get it?" Their argument is that because Catholicism is "too deep" (their words, not mine), that it's not relevant to regular everyday people who would rather read the sports page on Sunday than drag themselves to church. So seeker sensitive churches are reaching out to those people in a way that isn't too scary or challenging.

Ty has a valid point about bad catechesis and lack of outreach. The Church is so busy ministering to Her millions of members already that maybe not enough resources are spent reaching out to the truly lost and really explaining the faith to them.

But here's the thing: that's OUR job -- those whom we Catholics call the "laity" and Ty probably knows better as "regular people." The job of a Priest is to minister to the faithful. The job of the faithful (that's us!) is to reach out to the world.

See, the journey doesn't end at the Church door. I think a lot of "seeker churches" operate with the idea that once you get the seekers in the door and they "make a decision for Christ," that the rest is up to them. If they want theology, they can take a class. If they want fellowship and accountability, they can join a small group. But where does this leave the needy? Those who struggle with embarrassing habitual sin. Those with desperate material needs. Shut-ins. The gravely ill. Those who don't "fit in" with the rest of the church in one way or another. These people are not the exception -- THEY ARE ALL OF US! And if you think you're not one of them, you have some serious pride that needs to be rooted out. A pastor should be so busy ministering to the needs of those who have already decided to follow Jesus that he doesn't really have time to think up inventive, cutting-edge ways to "reach the lost." We are all "the lost" at one time or another in our Christian walk. And we need earthly shepherds to lead us back to God. That is what priests, confession, the Mass, etc. are all about. And when these things are working properly, then those of us who are just "regular Christians" are spiritually prepared to go out and win souls to Jesus.

Francis of Assisi said "At all times, preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words." This is our job. This is how we win the lost -- we live our lives in radical obedience to the Gospel of Christ. It's a model that has worked to sustain and grow Christianity for 2000 years. It doesn't require a fancy multimedia presentation or a talented rock band. It doesn't even require us to bring a friend to Church. If we're getting what we need from Church, and it's equipping us to live holy lives, we'll convert people without having to say a word, let alone drag them out of bed on a Sunday.

Not to say church isn't important -- it clearly is. But church isn't what converts the lost ... people (in union with the Holy Spirit) do that. The Church feeds the faithful so we'll have the spiritual energy and strength necessary to carry out the Great Commission: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Labels: , , ,

7 Comments:

Anonymous Shannon said...

I loved what you wrote about the church's function. I am Protestant (leaning towards RCC), and my husband and I have said that for years about the church, but it seems that many churches are headed in the same directions as Elevation. Thanks for the post.

Shannon

3/21/2007 12:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Shellie said...

Bam! You should post more often my dear. Thanks!

3/21/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Carole said...

Just a simple comment from someone who wandered onto your blog today. I agree with your general point. I just want to correct what I think might be an imprecision in your title (the job of the laity, not the Church). Maybe you mean 'the laity's job, not the priest's (or hierarchy, or magisterium?) It seems to me that the Church is indeed acting in the fullness of its vocation to evangelize when a lay person is 'seeker sensitive'and especially when they are able to articulate the mesage of the Gospel.

3/23/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger C.C. said...

Carole, you are right. We (the laity) are the Church, so it is the Church's job. I did mean Priests and hierarchy. If I can think of a protestant-friendly way to express that, I'll change the title of the post. Thanks for your comment.

3/23/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anne said...

I absolutely LOVED this post... linked to it on my blog actually...

In the interest of getting you to blog more... you've been tagged...
see here... http://kidsister.wordpress.com/2007/03/26/weirdo/

3/25/2007 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear C.C.,

While I am hesitant to enter the fray in a "agree to disagree" type of conversation, I really must push back on some of your thoughts in your "Seeker Sensitive" post.

First of all, let's just get it on the record, that Jesus was "seeker sensitive". Jesus did not sit on a hill and minister to only those who had already made a commitment to follow him and then send them out to do the hard work for Him. Your point that the "laity" (I love flowery church words, and so do people far from God, I'm sure) carries the responsibility to carry out the spreading of God's Word and the life change that accompanies a relationship with Him is correct, to a point. we are called, each one of us as individuals to affect the sphere of influence God has placed us in to bring as many people as possible into the Kingdom. Our lives should be a living and active example of how God can take over and fullfull a person through life in Him. But, the idea that the priest, or pastor is called to sit in the church building and minister to he people who have already "got it" is firstly, a ridiculous waste of a person called by God to preach His Word, and secondly, in contradiction to what the Bible speaks very clearly about the role of the local church. I'm not talking about what you call THE CHURCH says about the role of a pastor or the church, I'm talking about what the BIBLE says. And...sorry, I don't really care about what the apostle's buddies said in 150 a.d., or what saint so and so said because he was involved in the canon or whatever. GOD GAVE US THE BIBLE, HIS IN FAILABLE WORD, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO GUIDE OUR DAILY WALK WITH HIM. I will look to the Bible, and the Bible only, as the divinely inspired and written Word of God. Anytime we bring man into the mix, as the catholic church does, we are inviting trouble and confusion, and the ability for man to run the show when we should leave it up to God.

Now...in case you think I'm on a Catholic rant, let me say the same about the vast majority of protestant churches in our country. They are also poorly equipped and structured to reach the lost. They worry too much about pot-luck dinners and other "internal" ministries that do nothing to fulfill the true calling on the Church: to reach those who are far from God.

I am not saying that a church should have no programs or ministires in which they can build a culture of community, service, or discipleship, what I do believe, and live out through my church daily, is that those "ministries" while noble, fall a distant second to the #1 call on the church: to reach lost people. It is a fact, unargueable, that the vast majority of churches in our country, regardless of denomination, have those activities far above reaching the lost in their community.

You took time to mention the number of members in your diocese. If all 15,000 of those people attend mass each week, or even more often, then GREAT! The FACT is that churches on every side of the debate boast very healthy membership rolls but see a pathetic number of attenders in their services. I could name two churches, one catholic and one protestant right here in my community who boast membership over 8000 people and have an average of 1500 attend their services each week. Unfortunately, a quick look at our nations religious statistics will show that those situation are norm, not the exception. Secondly, on the numbers front, forward thinking churches who are accused of making too big a deal out of numbers, have several things in common. 1- they rarely talk of members, but instead of people who showed up to experience an impactful time of worship and hear the Word of God presented in a way that they can apply to their lives..not watered down, or "changed" as you might accuse, but made understandable to a world who doesn't spend the day pouring over the Bible or reading through catecism. 2- They are in many instances talking about a number of lives that have been impacted in a VERY short time. You spoke about Elevation Church- they have almost 2000 people attending in ONE YEAR, How long has the average diocese or First Baptist of whatever been holding raffles and bake sales so that they can report the stagnant rate of growth that is THE UNDISPUTED FACT in 95% of America's churches.

Here's one you can look up: the average church in America, regardless of denomination has 90 people attending each week. that is in spite of swollen membership rolls, claims of your local diocese, whatever.

You mentioned that saint so and so gave you a model that has "sustained and grown the church for over 2000 years". You may be able to support that in the catholic church with a membership tally or another obscure reference, but the FACTS are: that in America, the average church attendance has dropped from 100 people to 90 people in the past decade, in all denominations, AND the average number of Americans who attend church regularly is estimated at: 40%, and "regularly" is defined as attending a service once per month. That certainly does not portray a community of believers who are sold out, actively involved in their local church, working to reach the rest of their community. That statistic tells us that Sunday soccer is more important, sleeping in is more important, or just simply that in general, God is not important enough. Sory, but that is a FACT, you may be in one of the exceptional churches, your membership, who shows up each week 100% strong, may be living out the mission of the "laity" as you put it, but the fact is that the "laity" aren't showing up for church, let alone doing the job that you feel a pastor or priest is above doing. Pardon my rant, but HOW DARE YOU OR ME think that the person called by God to pastor His people and lead His church are only there to tickle our intellect and make sure we are good to go, as opposed to using the gifts and annointing given by God to reach into the lives of those who do not know Him. I know it's your model, it's your church, but it's not working, and the church that you want to tout for the last 2000 years is NOT getting done, NOT growing, NOT keeping up with the number of people who do not know Christ.

It's an epidemic across all denominations, and my apologies to Shannon, but THANK GOD that many churches ARE headed in the direction of Elevation Church and seeing lives changed, and not just seeing Christians puffed up.

All in all, we could argue catholic-protestant all day long. The point is we should be arguing lost-saved all day long. Both catholic and protestant denominations have been radically and negatively affected by the interpretations and practices of MAN. The both carry some of the same stereotypes which prevent them from accomplishing their mission (like being boring, antiquated, out of touch) by the way, being boring, antiquated and out of touch is not something to be proud of because you'll feel like you aren't OF the world or haven't "changed" to reach people; being boring, antiquated and out of touch is something to be VERY worried about and ADDRESS. Jesus was NOT boring, antiquated or out of touch, neither were His disciples, and neither should His church be today.

I know this is not a forum to reach the lost, it's a place to feel intellectually strong and banter about alot of stuff that a very select number of people find gratifying, so keep on doing what you are doing here, it's for people who are already saved, right.

But...please don't sit idlelly by and watch the world around you walk right past your doors because your tradition, doctrine, or methodolgy gets in the way of them having a impactful (oh, bad buzzword") experience with God. The fact is, it does, and our world is leaving the church behind because it doesn't offer them anything they feel is desirable or attainable. Let them know it is. be a part of seeing lives, hundreds, thousands of lives changed...TODAY...TOMORROW...NEXT WEEK...changed by meeting with God and changing their life. Look outside the walls of the church, and ask yourself, what things are in the way, (whether we believe in them or not) in the way of more people knowing Christ. It's time that the methodogies of the church get OUT of the way and begin to become part OF the way that people find Christ.

4/03/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Irenaeus said...

"Jesus did not sit on a hill and minister to only those who had already made a commitment to follow him and then send them out to do the hard work for Him."

Actually, he pretty much did. This comes out especially strong in the Gospel of Mark. From 2:1-3:6 Jesus meets increasing hostility. Then in ch. 4 he withdraws as a result of that hostility and focuses on those who would be "around him" (peri auton), namely, the disciples.

"All in all, we could argue catholic-protestant all day long. The point is we should be arguing lost-saved all day long."

Can't discuss one without the other; what does it mean to be lost, and how does one 'get saved'? Catholics and protestants have very different answers on this.

The big problem with seeker churches is that they are directed towards people, as if every service needed to be an evangelism outreach thing, whereas worship should be directed to God. In trying to reach people, the message usually gets watered down into heresy.

I know, because I've spent many years in evangelical churches and am in the process of converting to Catholicism or Orthodoxy. Protestantism/evangelicalism is a truncated, incomplete faith.

If anyone is interested in dialoging on catholic-orthodox-protestant issues, come to my new blog: catholidoxies.blogspot.com.

6/06/2007 12:54:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home