Monday, February 2, 2009

I have been thinking about a lot of things lately. One of them has been the parable of the prodigal son. It has somewhat surrounded me lately. I've been frequently visiting Jon's blog over at Stuff Christians like and also Prodigal Jon. Several other bloggers have been writing on this blog recently and several books that I've read recently have been about this passage.

There are a lot of things we can learn about the passage. We can learn about the love of God. We can learn about our desperate situation. We can even learn about the right and wrong way to act towards sinners.

That last part is the thing that has really been bugging me lately. It seems that the real point is the way we act. The parables in Luke 15 are set off by the Pharisees complaining that Jesus was handing out with the wrong crowd. He was with the sinners and tax collectors. As far as the Pharisees were concerned they were the absolute dregs of society. Jesus then launches into three parables that explain a truth he says elsewhere like this, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" (Luke 5:31b NIV). The point here is that Jesus went to the ones that needed him.

I have been trying so hard to get the people in my church to reach out to the people that need the gospel this past year but they are content to sit back and enjoy the sermon. Even after I have preached something that jumps all over their feet they come up and tell me what a great sermon it was and how it really needed to be preached then go right on living their lives as if I had never said it. The best I can figure what they have actually said is, "what a great sermon the guy next to me really needed to hear it." I don't even know what more I can do to reach them.

Now I am surrounded even more with this idea that the people in the church don't really need me. They are just fine in their fancy white tombs waiting to die so they can get whatever reward they might have earned earlier in life.

The question is what I should do with this information. How can I reach the people God has called us to? There are plenty of ways to try and reach people but I'm interested in something different. I want to find some way to be completely honest and totally transparent. People in America have problems with the church for so many reasons and one of the biggest is the lack of perceived honesty and transparency in the church. I really don't know what the answer is, but I thought it would be so awesome if I could cultivate an environment where sinners wanted to be around Christians that wanted to live like Jesus. I mean Jesus was always surrounded by sinners but he didn't seem to have to hunt them down. He didn't need to stand on the street corners and call them in because they wanted to be around him. That is why the Pharisees were bent out of shape in Luke 15.

I doubt this is really the right way to go but I was brainstorming and came up with The Sinners' Club. I don't know if I'm totally into the emergent church but they do create an environment geared towards "seekers." What if I pushed that envelope a little bit further but with a few twists?

What if I found a place that would let me setup a club of sorts. The bouncer at the door would be instructed to ask a single question, "Are you a sinner?" If someone says no they are turned away. Once the come in there would be a second question, "what is your sin?" It isn't about recording it or anything like that. The important part is to think about what rules our life. The club would have a fun atmosphere with tables, an area for mingling and dance music. Then the service would start after a couple of hours or more. I would open with this:

We are all sinners here. I have often struggled with lust. In the past I have struggled with pornography and even now I fight for control of my eyes when I see a pretty woman. By grace I am often in control, but then I fall into pride thinking myself responsible for the control and looking at how good I am compared to others. I am a sinner and this is my sin.

I trust that everyone has had a great time and I pray that all will continue to have a wonderful time. If you feel you have been duped into joining us in the sinners club then I understand if you wish to leave. Everyone please look at the floor and close your eyes tight. Even now I am not looking around and if you wish to leave please do not feel any judgment in walking out now.

Then I would share about the love of God and how He wants us to be free from sin. I would invite them to talk with myself or other volunteers and that would be it. No long sermons just an invitation to conversation. Through the conversations I would hope that they would come to the love of Christ and if they did then I would encourage them to get into a discipleship program because Jesus was always with the sinners but he never left them in their sin. That is the amazing thing about how He worked.

Like I said this is probably way too far out for this place. I don't know if many people would even come to the Sinners Club even if I could get a place and enough volunteers. I just feel like I need to find some way to spend more time with sinners and less time with Christians who aren't interested in change.

16 comments:

Pam said...

Great post, Nick and I know where you're coming from and can understand your frustration. This part:

"what a great sermon- the guy next to me really needed to hear it."

Spot on! The only problem that I see with your club is that you're still wanting the sinners to come to you... Just my 2 cents- feel free to ignore me!

Nick the Geek said...

Pam, actually I really feel that is the biggest problem. I was talking about this with a couple of the area YPs and we are struggling with where to find them. People are so disconnected now that it is hard to find them and just hangout.

We are planning on trying to figure this out and try to start spending more time with the people that need healing rather than the ones that think they are plenty healthy.

katdish said...

Nick - Weird...I just finished writing a post called "Prodigal" that I'm going to post on Wednesday. (Literally 10 minutes ago.) It is very much along the sames lines of this post. May I link my post to this one?

I LOVE the Sinner's Club concept. And I know you don't heart Texas, but a guy with a heart like yours would be a great asset down here! We were at a prayer meeting last Sunday and my dh made a comment that sums up our core group. He said, "We are all wretched, what I love about this group is that no one tries to pretend that they're not." (He's pretty smart, even though he married me.)

Great post.

Nick the Geek said...

Kat,

Feel free to link to anything I write. BTW, I learned something that troubles me in many ways and alters much of my most basic beliefs. My parents were stationed in TX not long before I was born. I was never told this. In fact I was only a few months from being a Texan by birth. This carries a very troubling bit of information. If my parents were stationed in TX while my mom was pregnant that means I was made in Texas.

I'm sure you can see how this affects me. I am not an Okie but I claim it as my adopted home. Oh well, if Adrian Peterson teaches me anything it is that many great Texans made greater Okies. So even if I was only made in Texas and not a Texan and only adopted oklahoma instead of being an Okie I figure it might still apply

The OC Josh said...

There are people, and youth out there that feel the same way... I'm one of them!

but I thought it would be so awesome if I could cultivate an environment where sinners wanted to be around Christians that wanted to live like Jesus.

I love this idea, if u had genuine, honest Christians. What if you built connections and then had the people who built the connections stand on stage and speak?
idk just some ideas

Nick the Geek said...

The OC Josh,
Yeah I know lots of people feel the same way and it is nice to hear that as well. Sometimes it gets frustrating because I feel like I'm standing in a field of people screaming my heart out while they wonder along to the edge of a cliff. I wonder if lemmings have prophets?

I like your idea and I think that would be the only way to really pull it off. I think it is also why I feel so frustrated. I really don't have much of a network outside of church here because I've not been here long and the church eats up most of my time.

Scott and Sarah said...

My husband and I were just talking about how sometimes ministry can feel like the most unrewarding job out there becuase you are pouring your life and energy and passion into people and feel like you're getting nothing in return. It's so hard to find affective ways to reach people, I like your sinners club idea, though - very unique!

Max02 said...

Crazy!

You're not crazy, nor is your post. I'm saying "crazy" because your concept for the Sinner's Club almost exactly fits the description of our Friday night Celebrate Recovery meetings.

Aside from the dancing, bouncer, password, and short message, we do pretty much everything you described.

Have you ever heard of Celebrate Recovery? It came out of Saddleback Church (you know, Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, etc.) Well, anyways, this guy, John Baker, felt sort of the same way you did with some slight differences. He was struggling with sin and wanted a place where he could get better inside the church. That's a REALLY paraphrased version. You can look it up for more info if you want.

Anyways, we have a free meal that starts at 6pm, childcare begins at 6:45pm, the large meeting (music and message/personal testimony/graduations) is at 7pm, open share is at 8pm, dessert and adult hang out time at 9pm, and childcare ends at 9:30pm.

When we, the leaders, get up on stage for a particular reason, we sometimes start with our names and what we have or still struggle with. It's our own personal Sinner's Club.

Everyone who comes in knows/learns that we are not perfect, we have issues, and that it's okay to be real, honest, and transparent.

All in all it's a good thing. Serving with the leaders, people who are open about their struggles, is awesome.

By the way, Texas is awesome. And, if you're Texas made, it means you'll always have a home here somewhere.

wv: dimegal

Nickname for the taxi dancers of the 40's(?).

Nick the Geek said...

Max02,

I would love to get something like that going here. We really need to find some way of doing that kind of stuff but getting the people here excited about doing anything is going to drive me to an early grave. I'm about to just leave them to their own devices and make real relationships happen. That is what you have going on. Relationships are the key to the Gospel.

Koffijah said...

Hi Nick,

Please come read my posts on my blog. I have lots more to come...

Koffijah said...

Good idea and you are thinking the right thoughts.

Here's the deal... The Sinner's Club is still our turf. Eventually, people who are looking to be served alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. will figure out they're not going to get it and leave.

We need to go on their turf. Evangelism has to be more than "invite them in". We need to go on their turf. Most Christians are afraid to go places where, in the end, a Christian isn't in charge (like a Christian would be at the Sinner's Club).

We have to find ways to put people like YOU amongst non-Christians, rather than just having people like you (1) trying to get people who come to your church to bring their non-Christian friends next time, or (2) trying to make a cooler, sexier place for non-Christians to come and be among Christians. I mean, these two things are good, but they are not enough.

If your town was under ground attack by another country's army, the US would probably send our own troops to protect the city. But, what would happen if when the troops got there, they held big meetings and invited all of the townspeople and them told them how they need to get out there and fight that enemy!

Those who are trained to fight, don't fight, but talk and tell those who are untrained to get out there and fight!

Is this what Jesus did?

Nick the Geek said...

Koffijah,
You are right that the biggest flaw is that we wouldn't really be going where the lost are. I'm actually more interested in figuring out where the Youth hang out in this town. They don't seem to anywhere because there really isn't a place for them here.

I thinking your analogy of the army is broken. The leadership of the church is suppose to train the rest of the church how to do the work of the church. Check Ephesians 4:11-13 for this express purpose.

Jesus did this as well. He spent much of his time with the sinners but he also called a group and taught them so they could do good works. He sent them out in groups to do what he was doing. This is what we should be doing in the church but the layity of the church seems content to let the ministers do all the works that they should be doing.

I think Red Dawn is a better analogy. They started a small resistance and added to it training new members as they grew.

Koffijah said...

Yes, yes... you are right! My analogy is broken, or at least, not complete. I agree with you 100% about the work of leadership is to prepare God's people for works of service... so, you are right.

My point, I guess, is that we best prepare people for that ministry by doing it and giving them an example, rather than just telling them to do with with no example.

My other point is that we Christian leaders are often buried within Christendom and never have any contact with the world. We isolate ourselves behinds church walls, theological libraries, Bible colleges and Christian culture. I believe we need to find ways to get out among non-Christians ourselves... learn how to actually do ministry with them... and then train others in the church to follow our example and do the same... to the point they can and are doing it.

I agree... I would NEVER want anyone to think I am in favor of just having trained Christians do all the work on behalf of all Christians! I believe in the priesthood of all believers much more than I have ever seen it practiced. Thank you for illuminating the weaknesses of my analogy... and please understand the point I was trying to make anyway.

Nick the Geek said...

kiffijah,

I think you are dead on accurate and probably the best analogy for your army is Alexander the Great's army. The leader of the Army, Alexander, did everything expected of the least soldier. He then had generals and other leaders down to the centurions who were responsible for carrying out orders and training the troops.

During battle they all fought not just the troops. The most impressive part was they added to the army as they went and train new recruits into the same practices.

That is the way we should work. I think our concept is broken because our entire world view has shifted. Leaders no longer lead their troops into battle on any level. We have been in war for some time now and our president, neither, every went into the war.

That is the basis for our thinking now, but when the Bible was written things were different. The right understanding really helps when we begin to read the army references in the NT.

Dana said...

Hey Nick.
You said you wanted to know where the youth hung out. School. It's mandatory to go to school. Maybe you could try to get access into local jr. high and high schools and talk to the kids? My pastor and some interns from my youth group do that, and it really works.
Just and idea.
-Dana

Nick the Geek said...

Dana,
That is totally true. In the schools we are somewhat limited in what we can talk about officially, but I am working on getting some official channels into the schools. Substitute teaching, teaching in a smoking cessation class that is mandatory for any student caught smoking in school, and some events that we have been allowed on campus for in addition to attending school events that my students are involved in as part of the public.

I am also working to get some of my students trained to be more active in witnessing on campus because they are much more free to speak about what they want to.

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