Monday, May 22, 2006

In Search of Jesus part 3

I want to put a disclaimer in this 3rd installment of In Search of Jesus. We have been visiting churches in our part of Ottawa, Canada to get a better understanding of what the Church (capital C) has been offering to the city. In no way do I want this to be misconstrued as sitting in judgment over these ministries; only the Lord Jesus has the right to judge anyone. My intent is to confirm something I have been suspecting about the Church. I suspect that the Church has been preaching morality rather than the gospel and that the cross is not central to the message of Jesus' Church. I have undertaken this personal project because I myself have erred in much the same way that I have written about regarding these churches. Having said that...

We went to a Baptist church yesterday. I appreciated that the service was at 11am. We got to sleep in a little and didn't have to feel rushed. Nice. There were just under 50 adults in attendance. Here are my observations.

Overall, I felt that the musical style, Bible version (KJV), and preaching style created a big DISCONNECT on a personal and cultural level. The congregational singing was accompanied by a piano and was led out of a hymnbook. They sang old Gospel hymns like the type you would hear in the US Midwest. The choice of songs had nothing to do with the message and the lyrics were outdated. Unfortunately, the pastor read the Bible passage he was preaching from out of the KJV. I don't think anyone could have possibly understood the story as he read it.

As for the pastor's preaching, I appreciated that he taught the Bible as an exposition. This did not happen in the 2 previous churches I had visited (see In Search of Jesus 1 and 2). Unfortunately, the pastor had a habit of scrunching up his face quite often giving the impression that he was angry or disgusted. This happened a LOT. He did not give us background or context of the passage he read from so we didn't know where the story fit in the big picture. The pastor had way too many references to other passages that really distracted from the main passage he was teaching from. He referred to several obscure passages assuming that the congregation was familiar with them. He also used a lot of "christianese" like judicial forgiveness, gloriously saved, born again, remission etc.

In all fairness, of the 3 pastors whose churches we've visited, this pastor was the only one who tied in his teaching to following Jesus as a disciple. That in itself far outweighs all of the negatives I listed far as I am concerned.

When I visit churches I have been asking 3 questions:

1. Who is Jesus according to this church?
2. What is the gospel according to this church?
3. What is Jesus' mission in this city according to this church?

This is what I discovered in this Baptist church:

1. Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.

2. The gospel message (according to a tract they give to every visitor) is about having one's sins forgiven by trusting in Jesus Christ. Nothing else is mentioned about the benefits of the gospel except forgiveness of sin.

3. Nothing was ever communicated about the mission of Jesus or the Church in the city.

Though I truly appreciated that this church taught the Word of God, Jesus and the cross were still not central to the message of this church. They were relegated exclusively to the beginning of the Christian life. This is something I suspected that most churches were doing. In visiting other churches, I have been confirming this suspicion.

Are 3 churches enough to make this conclusion? A Seeker church, a Baptist church, and a Pentecostal church. Hmmm....I think we will visit an Alliance church next.

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