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04 June 2009

It Isn't Just for Christians Anymore?

Is it okay for people who don't honestly love God to be involved in "ministry work"? Now, no doubt it's good for all people to do good things. But in the Church, a group of people that is responsible for bearing the name of Jesus Christ, I find it a little odd that we'll usually take anyone when we're looking to fill a position of service or work.

I've gone through this thought process from many different angles when drawing up my worship team expectations. I keep going back to the Bible for a precedent, and the only one I'm finding is that the Church is a body of believers. It's the body of Christ and the bride of Christ. Do we have Scriptural license to use programs or ministries as a means of outreach or evangelism?

Is the following reasoning Scriptural, sound or justifiable?

"If so-and-so starts to play drums with us, he'll be among a group of committed Christ-followers and will see what it truly means to follow Christ"?

Did Jesus invite people to follow Him -- but not really "follow" Him -- just so they could hang around with Him and His disciples and thereby be among people who were good influences?


Eileen said...

Hey Dean... Like your post because I find it interesting. I have seen this demonstrated in two different ways.

First case, I have seen demonstrated exactly what you are talking about. When I was involved at McLean in Virginia, I don't know how to phrase this so it sounds right, but my perception was that this church reached out to people who were not necessarily in church was by their ministry outreach. You see, I think people really want to belong to something greater than theirselves and want to believe and be involved in good causes. They don't mind even if it is a "religous" activity because they want to feel apart of something greater than themselves and helping their community. Many times these people were in high positions of leadership in these efforts. Did these efforts lead to salvations? Most definitely... In a way that wouldn't have reached them otherwise.

Now the second example, I have seen in southern baptist and other denominations specifically. I have found that if you are not "members" of the church, the church would not involve you in specific activities. Also the ministries are so ingrained into church life... they are not really open to the community. If you know what I mean...? It is like you have to be a member to know that this activity is going on to be involved. Thus not really opening it to "outsiders" or people beyond the church community.

Personally, I think there are pros and cons for each case. I think to be honest, a church should be ministry minded to allow people who do not attend church to be involved. I also think the church has to "guard their hearts" and be prepared leadership-wise to shepherd these people.

You KNOW many people profess belief in God, but don't necessarily have a personal relationship through Christ. So it would be a great for ministries to reach out, but be "know the costs" of doing so...

Dean Lusk said...

Very well-said, Eileen!

One of the potential problems with viewing things the way I've talked about is that it can very easily lead to legalism and an almost aristocratic attitude.

Of course there has to be a line drawn somewhere, though. I don't believe anyone would argue that we need to install non-believers in teaching positions, for instance.

There is Biblical precedent, even direction, for certain things only being "open" to members of the Church -- not members of the church by what card they carry or what they call themselves, but by whether or not they have a relationship with God through Christ. I'm perceiving that in some cases we've blurred the lines so much that many things have become a free-for-alls. (Or should that be "frees-for-all"?)

Maybe I'm over-thinking and being legalistic myself...? Surely not! :-) Legalism can be a tough thing to let go of, because it's often tough to know when you're actually practicing it.

Preston N said...

The problem lies in the fact that too many still have either a Pagan or Old Covenant view of a religious temple - note I didn't say "church". That is one must come to a "place" to meet or commune with God or to experience spiritual matters. Christ came 2000 yrs ago to oblish the temple, but within a short 350 yrs later Constantine was able to rebuild that which Christ destroyed in 3 days. Why? Because man can't seem to get past the idea of having an intimate relationship with God, an interpersonal one at that. It's so hard for us to realize that we have become the temple of God! It seems man want something it can see and touch, such as an idol to worship rather than a relationship.

This is why I think we have a mentaility that the church (that building on the corner) needs to be the one that shares the gospel to our neighbors or friends and loves ones, rather than doing it ourselves. Drag em to church and make it someone elses responsibility - but not mine.

For me the issues really is one about knowledge. Most church attenders have a poor or limited understanding of how salvation works. Few can give a reasonable and logical explaination as to why someone needs to be saved. This is what the church was originally intended for (at least one of several functions) and that is to properly equip Christ-followers in the instruction of evangelism. Instead we boil the gospel down to a 30-45 minute weekly snippet and expect beleivers to leave and go forth and share the light with others.

As I like to say, if somone tells me their a Christian and I will typically ask them to rationally explain to me why Jesus died on the cross - in many cases all I really get in return are a bunch of cliches and little depth of the "hows" and "why". Is it any wonder then that the current generation that is highly skeptical is not being saved? As I see it, too many in the world today are asking tough questions of Christians and sadly few can give the world logical and rational response. For me this is where the church is failing and we need to change the model.

Jeff said...

I've always felt (and will probably always feel) that the examples that are most destructive are from church fellowships that don't have any kind of organizational structure for integrating new they saved or lost. Sometimes, simply sitting down and figuring out which volunteer roles unsaved people can participate in is the best solution.

The outcome: lost people see the authenticity of what we're doing, while not being put into roles that could potentially hinder the effective completion of a ministry objective.

just my two cents,

Jacob said...

Didn't we just talk about this? :-)

I think the statements made above are very true. Preston: EXACTLY EXACTLY EXACTLY!!! YES! very true. When someone doesn't know why they believe what they believe, they are ignorant. Even if they believe what happens to be the truth, they are still ignorant for not being able to give a logical account of what they believe. THIS (not hypocrisy) is "what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Now on topic. As i've said before, they church seems to be doing things backwards. By backwards, i mean WRONG. 1 Corinthians 5 says we are to hold those who claim to be believers accountable for their actions. We can (and must) test and affirm their salvation by being fruit inspectors. However, Paul says that he can't judge non-believers because they aren't held to the same standard as believers are. He says it's "none of his business."

Now here is how this applies to this topic. If we have someone who claims to be a believer and is on stage raising their hands on sunday but then living like the world through the rest of the week, they are only further damaging the Gospel of Christ. However, if someone who isn't a believer, doesn't claim to be a believer, and doesn't try to fake being a believer is on stage just doing what they love to do (playing music), there is (i believe) no problem with that. Music itself is a neutral medium. Just because Dean Lusk might be using a song to praise God, it doesn't mean that "Viper" the guitar player has to have the same intent with the song if all he's doing is jamming on the guitar.

And now (because i love it argue with myself) i will present a short counter-argument. Scenario: what if you have a non-believer on stage playing guitar. He doesn't make himself look like a Christian, but doesn't make himself look like a non-believer either. He looks very neutral to someone who doesn't know him. So say a guy who is genuinely curious about Christianity slips in one sunday morning wanting to know a little bit more about Christianity and what it's all about. Well he sees "Viper" up on stage and automatically assumes that he is a believer. Guilty by association. Then, on tuesday, he sees "viper" out beating up a guy because the guy, oh i dunno, stepped on his new shoes. So now Mr. Visitor here thinks Viper=Christian; Viper=jerk :: Christians=Jerks. Now Mr. Visitor never comes back, hates Jesus, and is never saved. That's not too good, now is it?

I think, like Jeff, the church needs to sit down and decide which roles are uncompromisable i.e Teachers, mentors, etc. and which roles are "open."

Ethan said...

Let me first say that I found your blog through, and I really like it. This post was especially interesting because it reminded me of how I came to find Christ, so I feel obliged to comment.

My family's not really religious--we're not NOT religious, but I don't come from a church-going background. Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I didn't have a necessarily good opinion of the Christians here. The ones at my school who were most outgoing and adamant with their beliefs were the ones who probably missed the point most. They'd be the first to shove the Bible down your throat, but also the first to go out drinking on the weekends, talk about others behind their backs, be intolerant, etc. So long story short, I was turned off the church.

That changed sophomore year of high school. Being a guitarist, I started a band with a group of friends, kind of funky rock with some jazz and reggae thrown in. Our music was entirely secular, but all of the other members of the band were very involved at the same church. One week, the singer of the youth group's praise band had other engagements, and we were asked to fill in. Although I wasn't religious, I knew a bunch of the people in the youth group and I love playing in front of people, so I agreed under the condition that I get at least a solo every other song.

After a few practices, I was feeling very uncomfortable. Nothing against it, but the music were were working on was very simple compared to our typical stuff--to borrow a joke from the comic Mike Birbiglia, "Gsus, Cadd9, and Dsus". I guess I was pretty visibly not feeling it at practice, because the sound guy took me aside and had a talk with me. I don't remember what he said word-for-word, but it was along the lines of, "I know you don't really like this kind of music, and I know you're not really religious, but let me tell you this. This music is meant to praise. It doesn't matter what you guys sound like, if you go on stage with the intention of praising God, you could go up and play Megadeth riffs and it would still accomplish the mission we're here for. If you need to switch up the arrangement a little, that's great, just whatever will make you feel it."

Something there clicked. It probably sounds like a trivial affair, but it was a big deal for me. In playing with my band in church, I got to be around people who believed, and I got to see exactly what that meant. I realized the people at my school weren't the people I should be judging Christianity on, but rather, people like the sound guy, who do all things in order to give praise.

That's a long story, I know, and I hope it didn't bore you to death, but my point is--I wouldn't be a Christian if a local ministry wasn't willing to reach out and accept me for who I was at the time. Ministries, in my mind, should be accepting of all newcomers and outsiders--maybe not to the point of appointing them REALLY important roles as I believe was your point, but definitely they should make them feel welcome.

Dean Lusk said...

Ramarkably good comments and insights on this post.

Ethan, perfect example of what I was questioning in the post. Very cool.

While I may be a little too uptight about some of this, I don't believe we are to be focusing on "ministry work" as an outreach tool. Maybe we're not. In Ethan's case, it seems like a very natural progression, or a way God steered events to draw Ethan to Himself. The word "allow" in Eileen's comment is pivotal: "a church should be ministry minded to allow people who do not attend church to be involved."

Finally, people in the church often ignore things along the lines of what Preston talked about. The difference between the temple as a physical building and our living souls as the temple of the Holy Spirit is stark, yet it's often left in an unexplored area in discipleship. This should not be. As we examine out lives to see if we really are living in line with Scripture, there's not a reasonable way that we can truly believe and embrace both. If our core beliefs are off-base there, it's going to spill into our practices.

Dean Lusk said...

The scenarios that Jacob and Ethan mentioned about how people represent Christ either accurately or inaccurately is a great topic for another post.

But I'm trying to find some encouraging topics... :-) I'd probably come off very heavy-handed (again?).

Eileen said...

AWW ... Dean, don't be too worried about being heavy handed... these are good conversations and amazing testimonies.

I agree with Preston on many points. Frankly, I don't believe we (individually and collectively as the church) do a good job of explaining 'truth' and the hope that lies within us.

I really appreciate Ethan's honesty, but also how our awesome God reached out to Ethan in a way especially for him.

Great discussion... can't wait for the next....

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