ReImagining the Church: Sticky Faith Final Thoughts

Observations from the Sticky Faith Webcast: LINK

I am including this in my reImagining the Church series because I believe that the conversation coming out of the Sticky Faith research is born from the same Spirit that is moving through New Life Christian Fellowship, calling us to reImagine what it means to be the church in light of Jesus.

Sticky Faith Final Thought: Without Christ, it’s all Pointless

All too often I get caught up on executing a plan. As a youth pastor and a member of a pastoral staff whose job it is to consider the spiritual direction of a congregation, my instinct often moves me to address issues at an organizational level. What might we do differently? Where are the weakened areas of our church and how can they be strengthened? What could we be doing differently in order to help more people grow? These and other similar questions often dominate my own assessment of the ministry and its effectiveness and has led me and the people I work with to look to resources like Sticky Faith and ask, “What could we be doing better?”

I wonder though, is this the right question?

The Sticky Faith Temptation

I by no means believe that we should not be doing self-evaluation in ministry. There are likely things that we as a church and I as a father and youth pastor could be doing differently to better pass our faith along to the next generation. The temptation, however, is to believe that if we can identify these areas that need fixing, we will then be able to move everyone to a deeper, more lasting faith in Christ. Intergenerational mentor relationships, ongoing contact with students after high school, and welcoming places for students to ask questions about God in and of themselves can become nothing more than the latest church fad. They’re great things, and I hope to see all three of these take root and blossom in our church, but they simply do not go deep enough.

If the Sticky Faith conversation doesn’t go to the level of the gospel then it will not go far enough to be powerful. 

I am convinced of nothing more than I am convinced of this. If the church does not address the shortcomings in her understanding of who Jesus is and just how radically he has changed all things, then very little will change in the next generation. Throughout this series, as I’ve read Sticky Faith, as we’ve talked about it in staff meetings, and I’ve shared lunches with friends and colleagues, I have felt that the conversation is not reaching deep enough. We must embrace a gospel that holds Jesus as its center, and challenges people to understand that everything is different in the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God is happening right now.

Christians must take off whatever glasses they use to see the world, and replace them with glasses that open our eyes to the fact that, “Jesus is Lord.” We must reImagine what it means to say that we are all one in Christ. We must reImagine what it means to say that the record that was held against us was put to shame and nailed to cross. We must reImagine what it means to look at people who are radically different from us and say, “Brother, Sister, in the name of Jesus let us share a meal together.” If we want the next generation to have a faith that stays with them, then we must have a faith that defines every aspect of our lives from the way we use our money, to the way we approach complex issues, to how we choose our words, and how we see the world. If it’s real for us, if Jesus defines us, if Jesus shapes us and molds us and leads us, if we love and serve because that’s what Kingdom people do, if Jesus truly has a hold of our life, then and only then will we have a chance to do the work we’ve talked about to this point in the lives of our kids, teens, and colleges students of our church.

Because if Jesus hasn’t grabbed a hold of us, they’ll have no part in it.

Preparing the Soil

So then, what are we to do? How do these things relate? Well first we have to examine our understanding of the gospel and ask is it too small? We have to drive our lives toward Jesus and cry out to the Father to know Him better through the power of the Holy Spirit. And then we must prepare the soil.

We remove rocks that stand in the way of our children and teen’s lives of faith. We cultivate the soil of their hearts in such a way that they know that they are cared for and cherished. We involve the wise counsel of those who have gone on before us so as to best know what pitfalls might be avoided so that the soil is as tended to as much as is humanly possible. That’s where all this Sticky Faith stuff comes in. It’s not that it guarantees fruit will grow, but fruit sure does grow better in a tended garden then a thorny patch of dry ground. We take on the roles of Paul and Apollos and others who have planted and watered seeds. Remembering all along, that God and God alone will ever cause the growth.

It takes faith to lead others to faith, not formulas. Please, check out the Sticky Faith books. There is far more there than I have covered in these posts. Read them and pass them on to friends. Get your church involved in a conversation that more and more churches are having, but never forget, all the systems and all the research and all the organizational structures are rubbish, if they are done apart from Jesus.

To him who has done far more that we might ever imagine or hope be the honor, and the glory, and the power forever.

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