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15 April 2009

If I Started with Scripture...

I dare you to listen to Cornerstone Simi Valley Church's podcast this week (go here for a browser-based media player, or go here for the audio podcast -- the day I'm writing about here is 4/5/09). Francis Chan, the main speaking pastor, says some hard things about redefining "success" that will raise eyebrows (and probably blood pressure) in typical church leadership circles. I hope that it does more than raise eyebrows or blood pressure; I want it to be the instrument God uses to change hearts.

I don't even think I want people to comment about this post (which is usually a nice affirmation that people are reading). I just want you to listen to the message.

Remember: Francis Chan is not Jesus Christ. He is simply a man who presents the Word of God plainly and with brutal honesty. I love that.

As he gets into the heart of the message, Chan talks about an experience he had with Jehovah's Witnesses in which he summarized how he talked to them about their beliefs by saying, "My point is, you'd never open [the Bible], read it cover to cover 20 times, and go, 'Y'know what? Jesus is Michael the Archangel." (ripples of laughter run through the congregation in the background)

But then he goes where people probably didn't expect him to go. I'm going to transcribe this because I think it's extremely important to hear, and is probably not something most "churched" people will like.

Now we'll listen to those examples [about Jehovah's Witnesses missionaries] and you'll go, "Right on! Right on! Right on! Okay." But... now I want to challenge your upbringing. Even in the evangelical church; even what we're doing right now, because this is what I've been struggling with the past couple of years.

If I started with Scripture -- let's be fair; let's be fair to everyone! Let's be fair to the Jehovah's Witnesses, let's be fair to the Mormons, and let's look at ourselves, and go, if you started with this Book, is this the type of gathering you would've come up with? (pause) For a thousand people to come to four different services, face forward, sing songs, listen to a message, go home, and say, "I'm a part of Cornerstone Church"? Did we really arrive at that exegetically? These are the things that I've been questioning for the last couple of years, and especially of late.

See, 'cause when I started this church, I didn't think this way; I'll be honest with you. When I started the church back in 1994, here's what went through my mind: "Okay, we're gonna start a church here, so what do I need?" and so I think to myself, "What do I have to do to start a church?" In my evangelical framework, "Well, I must have a building, I must have someone leading music, I must come up with a sermon, I must have a sound system and I must have childcare."

Right? (laughter)

Seriously, those were the five absolutes right there, in my mind. 'Cause how do you "do church" without those things? Everyone knows you gotta have a place to meet; you gotta have a building and call it a church. Even though it was the Sinaloa (?) cafeteria. So, you know, that was gonna be our building. We bought a little Radio Shack, y'know, sound system -- you gotta have a sound system so people can hear you. We got a band, you know, to lead us in singing because you've gotta have singing. And I put a sermon together 'cause you gotta have a sermon. And we had, y'know, this one lady take care of all of our kids in one of the classrooms 'cause you've gotta have that.

And now my question is, "Says who?" (silence)

If I started with Scripture -- and I've gotta apologize for this, because I didn't. I mean, why look at Scripture when there are so many other great models to follow of people doing church and very successful? -- if I started with Scripture, what would I have come up with? Because you guys know within a few years, Cornerstone was the place to go. It was the popular church to go to. It was the biggest show in town. The most "successful" church.

Says who?

Here ends my little chunk of transcription. You need to listen to the whole thing. If you're on the defensive, I encourage you to take him up on the challenge and read The Book for yourself and see if what we're doing matches it. It may. But what if it doesn't? Are you willing to change, or would you prefer to change what the Word of God says in order to work better with your system?

(UPDATE: Cornerstone Simi Valley has given me the thumbs-up on the post. Please remember that you must listen to the whole sermon, because I can't deliver the whole sermon here (I could, but it would be time-prohibitive). If you have any questions or issues, they should be answered within the remainder of the sermon.)


Anthony Stephens said...

I greatly admire Francis Chan and the approach that he takes to the Word and ministry.

Preston N said...

For a thousand people to come to four different services, face forward, sing songs, listen to a message, go home, and say, "I'm a part of Cornerstone Church"? Did we really arrive at that exegetically? These are the things that I've been questioning for the last couple of years, and especially of late.Hmmmmm.....I swear Chan's been reading Viola and Barna again!

Jeff said...

Right on, Lusk...I'm trackin' ya back, again. Links-a-plenty.

don't stop now, you're on a roll!

DD said...

Really enjoyed listening to the whole message from Francis. If we're raising eyebrows or blood pressure for following scripture, then so be it.

Dean Lusk said...

Thanks, all. The feedback is good to hear. This and another post that I've written but not yet posted (which may well become my sermon next week, and afterward become a two- or three-part post) have some things in them that are not really standard fare.

I don't like it when people get personally offended by things I say or write. Honestly, I don't. It hurts. But if I'm repeating Scripture or delivering a listeral "message from God," then that's something that I have to accept. I just need to make sure that I haven't injected it with Deanisms or interpretations.

I wondered today whether or not it bothered Jesus that the Pharisees hated Him for some of the things He did, like knock people's money to the ground and free their animals at the temple. My thoughts were that He probably didn't relish the idea of being hated, but He knew that it would be par for the course, so He marched on thinking little of it. That's where I'd like to remain.

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