I applaud Christians who desire to link biblical teaching to today’s culture in an attempt reach people in today’s culture with the gospel. But what should Christians think when the espoused biblical teaching really isn’t what the Bible teaches? Worse yet is to misuse biblical narrative in building a theology of the church.
Recently, The New York Times ran an article about churches using innovative strategies to create churches to reach people without Christ. The article talks about art galleries and coffee-houses on one hand. On the other, it also provides accounts of pastors dressing up like the Easter Bunny on Easter Sunday.
To rightly evaluate these strategies, we need to see what foundational statements are made which produce these outcomes. Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington provides us a glimpse of such a foundational statement.
“We felt like Jesus didn’t hang out at the synagogue, he hung out at wells,” he said. “Coffeehouses are postmodern wells. Let’s not wait for people to come to us, let’s go to them.”
Let’s dissect that statement a bit. The foundational statement has two opposing statements.
Foundation #1: Jesus didn’t hang out at the synagogue.
Foundation #2: Jesus hung out at wells.
With those foundational statements, this is what follows logically:
#1: We should be like Jesus by hanging out at wells and not at the synagogue.
#2: Synagogue would be equivalent to the church.
#3: We don’t have wells.
#4: The coffeehouse is the equivalent of a well.
#5: Hanging out at synagogues or churches is waiting on lost people to come to us.
#6: Hanging out at wells or coffeehouses is going to lost people.
Now, I can probably jump on the wagon for #6. We should be going to where lost people are. But if your foundation statements or any of the logical links in the chain to #6 are faulty, you put #6 into question. If you slide on your foundations, you can make #6 anything and have just as valid of an argument.
So what about those foundational statements? #1 simply is not true. Jesus did “hang out” or go to the synagogue. The Bible gives us an accounting of this.
#2 is true. Well it happened at least once. I’m not sure if that really qualifies for “hanging out” at wells. A clear reading of the gospels would place Jesus in the synagogue more frequently than at wells.
In the book of Acts, the apostles provided more examples of reaching people with the gospel. Repeatedly they were showing up at the synagogues. The actions of the apostles seriously calls into question Batterson’s foundational statements. In fact, Batterson’s statements call into question the actions of the apostles. Which side of that question should we rest?
I am not trying to nit-pick. But if churches build strategies on fallacious assumptions, those strategies must be questioned. I would think that it also hinders reaching the lost if the lost see through the logical fallacies.
I welcome your thoughts on this subject.