Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Notes - Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters

In January of 2005, I traveled to Orlando to participate in a Mosaic LA regional Origins experience held at Discovery Church. The host and emcee was an Australian guy named Jon Tyson. I continued to track his ministry after he left Orlando to land in NYC. Fast forward to today when Jon pastors Trinity Grace Church, a church I have yet to visit but have admired from afar. So when he wrote a book called Sacred Church: Why the Church Still Matters, it became a must read.

That and the fact that sometimes, I'm left thinking that so many expressions of our local churches could be so much more. Be it organizational architecture, mission and values, cultural relevance or the unleashing of the priesthood of all believers, I'm frustrated more than I want to be. So this book pushes back on my skepticism and tells me that yes, the local church does still matter. If you are involved in local church leadership or are a bystander to it, you should give this book a read. Not only because of the content but because I believe Jon and his team are proving that the local church still does matter and they are proving it in one of the most postmodern cities in the world.
Christy still loved Jesus, still loved people, and still believed the gospel was good news. She just wasn't sure the church we had created was producing the kind of disciples Jesus had in mind. Sure, we had become successful in the Christian subculture, but meanwhile, we were becoming irrelevant to the rest of the world.

The growth of the early church is arguably the most remarkable sociological movement in history. The numbers are staggering. In AD 40 there were roughly one thousand Christians in the Roman Empire, but by AD 350 almost 30 million.4 A remarkable 53% of the population had converted to the Christian faith.

The early church leaders didn't have the things we now consider essential for our faith. They didn't have official church buildings, vision statements, or core values. They had no social media, radio broadcasts, or celebrity pastors. They didn't even have the completed New Testament. Christ-followers were often deeply misunderstood, persecuted, and some gave their lives for their faith. Yet they loved and they served and they prayed and they blessed, and slowly, over hundreds of years, they brought the empire to its knees. They did it through love.

I believe two major factors have negatively shaped people's expectations of what it means to be the church in our time: the entertaining church and the individualistic church.

The impact of consumerism on American culture has been repeatedly discussed. From documentaries, the rise of Occupy Wall Street, and our media exposure on how the rest of the world lives, we understand the concept of consumerism and wonder about its implications for our culture. But we rarely ask how it forms our longings and expectations as disciples of Jesus. When we apply these same consumer standards to church, we end up approaching our Sunday worship with an attitude that can be summed up in this one simple phrase: "I want experts to put on exciting events that meet my expectations."

We expect brilliance from the pulpit, but often accept mediocrity in our souls. What is presented up front is often exceptional, yet most of us live average lives. ** so so good.

In fact, most of Jesus' invitations were not simply personal invitations to personal salvation; they were invitations to communal salvation — ​and shared responsibility as a result. Jesus made this clear when he said in John 13:34 – 35.

Yet the reality is that relationships take time to form. To love our neighbor means we have to know our neighbor. Beatrix Tafoya, one of our leaders at Trinity Grace Church, often says, "In other times of history the great commission was to go, but maybe the great commission in our generation is to stay." For those of us called to serve God in a Western context, these are words worth considering. ** this is a pretty significant idea, especially for the emerging generation

What would the church look like if the members chose to buy homes in the same neighborhoods or subdivisions, lived in the same apartment buildings or blocks, and sent their children to the same schools? What would love look like if it showed up dozens of times a week in small but profound ways: meals cooked, prayers prayed, songs sung, Scripture studied, games played, parties thrown, tears shed, reconciliation practiced, resources given? What if we stopped attending community groups and became groups of communities? What if our homes stopped being the places we hid from the world but havens to which the world comes for healing?

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