I Love the Church! – Lessons From the Whole Church

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I love the church, I truly do.  I am convinced that the church is at the center of God’s cosmic plan.  Precisely because I love the church so much, I often blog about the church and point out areas where I think deeper reflection could make the church stronger and more reflective of God’s plan.

Over the years, at one time or another, I’ve probably offended mainline Churches, independent churches, non-denominational  churches, charismatic churches, liturgical churches, non-liturgical churches, high churches, low churches, missional churches, emergent churches and mega-churches, among  others!  So, maybe it’s long overdue for me to say quite plainly that every one of these movements brings gifts to the church.

I’ve really appreciated the Pentecostal and Charismatic emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.  I’ll never forget the time that I heard a Pentecostal preacher proclaim from the pulpit, “Jesus is the Great I AM, not the Great I WAS, and the Holy Ghost brings the “was” into the “am!” You don’t hear things like that ringing forth from the typical mainline pulpit!  I appreciate the liturgical churches emphasis on the continuity of the church through the ages.  Every part of the service cries out, “We are not alone.  There are millions of Christians who have lived faithfully and died in faith.”  To use some of the very same language that these brothers and sisters from earlier ages used is powerful and is a kind of living testimony to the “communion of the saints.”  I also have a deep appreciation for the missional churches, including ones that range from mega-church to the emerging churches.  Here you find men and women who deeply care that people are lost and without Jesus Christ.

It is in the contemporary church that you are most likely to find people who understand that we are living in a post-Christendom world.  It is in these missional churches that you find a deep passion to connect the gospel to unbelievers.  It is in the mainline churches that we remember that the gospel must be good news to the disenfranchised in this world.  We cannot follow Christ without following him into the most painful corners of society.  I could go on, but I think you get my point.  Every movement in the church has insights which, if shared, could strengthen the whole.  It is also true that every movement has embarrassing blind spots where greater reflection is needed.

To point out that many mainline churches have sometimes forgotten the gospel and turned it into bland moralizing and mere social action is not to write off the whole movement, but to call it back to its own more nourishing roots.  To point out that the mega-church movement has become overly consumeristic and market driven is not to write off the whole movement, but to gently nudge it back to its missional heart which is, fundamentally driven by the imperatives of the gospel, not the entertainment industry.  To point out that the liturgical churches have sometimes exalted form over substance is not to write off the whole movement, but to help these movements to remember why they crafted such beautiful prayers in the first place.

John Wesley models for us the power of learning from other Christian movements.  He was a great student of the Reformation.  He was a student of Puritanism.  He was a student of pietism.  He was a student of Eastern Orthodoxy.  He was a student of the Patristics.  Over the course of his writings he criticizes all of these movements, times and writers.  But the “people called Methodist” also learned to glean the best from all these movements.   The Methodist emphasis on experience (fourth plank of the quadrilateral) is clearly drawn from the German pietists.  The Methodist emphasis on prevenient grace is drawn from the early Greek fathers of the church.  Wesley’s emphasis on salvation by faith alone resonates fully with the Reformation, even while Wesley embraced so much of the “catholic” tradition.  What a great model for us today.  We are Christians first before we are Methodists or Baptists or Pentecostals.  We must be good students of the whole movement, always learning, always listening and always reflecting.


  • A wonderful post. Thank you.

    Like you, I have gained much from many different branches of the church and I am thankful for them all.

    • Mathieu says:

      Jay,Maybe I missed the nneouncament for this blog topic. I got here from reading part 2 and then tracing it back.Have you ever read Ed Stetzer’s blog? He is a Baptist and the CEO of Lifeway Research, a church growth research company that is seeking to help the church to understand what it takes to reach the unreached and then grow the ungrown. You could learn a lot about the real differences between attractional models and missional models.What is described so far is not attractional versus missional. What is described so far is attractional with and without outreach programs that go beyond the building/facility doors. I could not find a missional model description at all, despite a lot of smoke using that term but failing to understand it.Attractional versus Missional is NOT about location. It has next to nothing to do with where you gather for worship. 60 people meeting in a mobile trailer that can relocate by starting up the tractor to move it can be very attractional. Graphics on the side of the bus do not change it from attractional to missional any more than parking it all over town would change it. Location has almost nothing to do with it.On the other hand, no matter the location, the FOCUS of the church is extremely relevant. If you believe the church exists to grow the gathering of believers for the purpose of developing more and greater resources to serve the growing gathering of believers, then you have an attractional model. However, if you have any size or shape or talent pool of believers focused on reaching out and serving and saving the lost who do not yet know Jesus, seeing a growing congregation as one that is always seeking to find the lost and introduce them to Jesus, seeing growth as maximizing the gifts of the congregation to maximize contact points with the lost so we can reach them with the Gospel and then reach others, then you are most likely involved in a church using a missional model.Go visit Stetzer’s website. He will say it much better and with more clarity and he will let those in the emerging churches see where Kimball has missed the point and done something altogether different from addressing attractional v. missional issues. Kimball addresses the Greatest Generation-to-the Baby Boomers versus Generations -X and -Next issues. That is an entirely different discussion.Don’t take my word for it. Investigate the matter beyond the surface. These issues are not going to be addressed well until they are clearly understood in accurate terms.Thanks for the start. Please do not make the mistake of thinking this is anywhere near to the present reality. The discussion so far is at least 2-5 years BEHIND the wider discussion as are the observations. And it only gets harder to have this discussion or to make any transitional changes when we are mistaken about how the discussion terms should be defined.Blessings,Grizz

  • Bill Adams says:

    Interesting, how often we seem to overlook the negative, and negate the positive. I have noticed at least some of these things over the years, and have learned from them. Thank you for pointing them out. Sometimes our Methodist political structure could stand recognizing the same, perhaps it would benefit.

  • Carol Gullett says:

    Excellent thoughts! Perhaps those who follow in this heritage of Wesley will be those who join the Whole Church together in the realization of our collective call to Glory and the Kingdom Power of GOD.