bits from bob....
A major concern of today's unchurched American is relationship. People want to connect with God and with other people. While there is no real church growth without the saving of the lost through the teaching of the Word, the concern of most unchurched Americans is not salvation. A society permeated with a spiritual emphasis most often couched in New Age, spiritualism, or other aberrations of biblical spirituality wants to connect with something beyond itself. Salvation is not desired until one recognizes lostness.
This is no reason to abandon the proclamation of the crucified Christ and the atoning power of his blood, but it is a recognition that more and more unchurched people in an educated, pluralistic, consumer-oriented religious context will be interested in the "so what" of the cross after salvation before they are interested in the saving power of the cross. Does the cross of Christ connect me with God? Will God be present when I assemble with God's people? Will I find strength to cope with the kinds of problems people are having in today's society? Will the study of the Bible be theoretical or practical? Happily, these and many other concerns are addressed in Scripture. The blessings of the Christian life do not cease at baptism, nor are they limited to salvation. God wants us to be powerfully and meaningfully involved in all of life.
Effective outreach to the unchurched will force us to ask ourselves, "So what?" Bible studies will not only be rational in addressing, Truth, they will also be relational, recognizing the power of persons sharing the same problems working together in problem-solving. Unless the church recognizes this need to relate to other people in our impersonal, technological world, many of the unchurched will continue to look outside the church for the support needed to live life and handle life's problems. Before we become too critical of their search for solutions in the secular side of society, let us recognize in their actions a call for the church to become personal and sensitive in addressing the struggles of life. Let us not become so overwhelmed with budgets and buildings, plans and programs that we do not have time to notice needs and give regular support.
We have traditionally focused on the assembly as the major expression of Christianity. Today's impersonal, mobile society (along with the increasing size of many of our churches) has diminished the value of that large group. Small group ministries are finding increasing acceptance and effectiveness in reaching out. It is difficult to personally assimilate people into a large assembly. Every person needs Christian identity at four levels which reflect four distinct group sizes: assembly, fellowship or Bible study groups, heart to heart groups, and one on one. The challenge to return to effective shepherding and caring one for another is a must if we are to respond to the relational needs of our world. "People are not looking for a friendly church--they are looking for a friend."
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