Friday, January 23, 2009

Reaching vs Preaching

In recent years I have come to the very sad realization that for far too much of my Christian life I have acted more like a "preacher" than a "reacher."

I suppose, if we look at Jesus as our example, we would be prone to say that he knew how to balance the two out - he was both a "reacher" AND a "preacher." Unfortunately, we tend to spend a lot more time focusing on, and putting into practice, the "preaching" part - meaning that we come on a bit strong with those unfamiliar with the faith - as opposed to the "reaching" part - which is actually more difficult because it involves establishing relationships with people who might make us feel uncomfortable.

You know - sinners.

I am, today, a firm believer in "reaching" people first, and then letting the "preaching" come later - either naturally, though HOW I treat them, HOW I live, letting them observe the choices and decisions I make, etc. and then, of course, if God opens the door - sharing the gospel (preaching).

Frankly, I am a little tired of hanging around Christians. Let me clarify that - I mean cranky, narrow-minded, critical, bitter, angry, finger-pointing, Bible-waving Christians. Folks who shudder if they hear someone say "shit" or who go into panic mode if they have a friend who smokes or imply that God only loves those who have jumped through some sort of series of spiritual hoops... or, ya know - Pharisees.

I am tired of hanging around Pharisees.

I am hoping that I get more and more opportunities to hang out with a whole lot of people who are in desperate need of RELATIONSHIP and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. Well, ya know - like the DISCIPLES.

I wanna hang out with Disciples. Because the Disciples had issues.

So which are you - a "reacher" or a "preacher?"


HAL said...

I was wondering... Have you read the book, "Pagan Christianity?" and/or "Reimagining Church."? Or, perhaps you have read the site "" All of these talk about serious concerns in our modern church set up that are not just incondusive to reaching people for Christ, but actually do a number of things that go against Jesus' teachings. I just started studying it, and wrote the first entry of my journal at detailing the challenge with the position of pastor. What do you think? -JCS

HAL said...

BTW... you can email me at wildlight at hotmail dot com - JCS

Dan McGowan said...

I have read Pagan Christianity but not the others... I think I'm just ready to REALLY try and LIVE what Jesus taught us - as opposed to reading about, or singing about what Jesus taught us... and, unfortunately, in the church, it ain't all that easy...

HAL said...

I totally agree. But, maybe the reason it's not easy is because the church, as we know it now, is nothing like what God wanted for us.

I've been a Christina for 15 or so years. As a Christian comic creator, and site administrator, some could argue that I am living my life as God intended. After all, for six years, my friends and I have constantly produced comics that lead people closer to God.

Yet, every time I would go to a church, I knew something was wrong. I just couldn't put my finger on it. As you allude to, it was just hard to accomplish anything significant for God inside a church. I felt like I stopped growing (And when organisms stop growing, they tend to die). The church might be great for receiving instruction, especially for those new to the faith, but it seems like a terrible place to actually contribute and serve, despite the fact the Jesus teaches us we should be servants.

I have not read "ReImagining Church" myself either. However, I have read a bit of "" and listened to a lot of their podcasts. While I have not bought into, or always agree with, everything they say, once you understand how the early church ran, and how get some idea of how the 'organic expression of Jesus' body' might run today, you realize 1) just how far away from that the traditional church is and 2) get a much clearer vision of where to go. With that, I now have a much better idea what "Church" really is, the important role it plays in my continued growth even at this stage in my walk, and how I might be able to actually serve others in that setting, as Christ instructs.

I understand your sentiment to want to live the Christian life, and not spend so much time reading different ideologies. Sometimes, we waste a lot of time reading and talking theology instead of just living the life of Love Jesus teaches. I would suggest, however, that as long as you try to grow and serve in a traditional church, you will continue to spin some wheels in the mud. Before you can drive someplace, you have to spend a little time reading the map or you might end up taking a very long way around. If you take the time to check some of this stuff out, as I did, it might galvanize you, as it did me. For the first time in about 10 years, I feel like I have a clear idea of what I need to do next to grow, and some future opportunities for me to serve my brothers in Christ. -JCS

Dan McGowan said...

Hal - I appreciate your comments and it sounds like the Lord has been busy reshaping you for your unique ministry/calling in life. That is very exciting.

I think, for me, the issue of "church" is more of a case-by-case basis. I don't think the concept of people gathering for worship is wrong, per se. It all depends on the purpose for that gathering. Far too often, these gatherings that we call "church" tend to be "man-driven" vs. "Holy-Spirit-led" and that is when we get into trouble. We humans are creatures of habit and we want things to go OUR way - or we get upset.

I think choosing to live a life that truly follows Christ and seeks to trust Him for all - well - that is not easy. It's not easy because it takes an enormous amount of faith and courage. But it is also not easy because it runs so contrary to our culture - not just the secular culture, but the Christian culture, too.

Thanks for sharing your heart in your thoughts! Means a lot to me.

HAL said...

Yeah...I'm not sure why I keeps calling me Hal on here...something must have happened with the set up. Anywho, my real name is Phil, but most people use my internet handle, JCServant.

I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. I continue to look into the 'organic church' setup that these various sites and books by Frank Viola. On one hand, I feel that it certainly addresses a number of issues and obstacles found in the traditional church. On the other hand, it can be hard just to find a handful of like minded believers who are willing to do something like that, especially in Salt Lake City!

With that being said, I'm becoming more and more convinced that not everyone is called to be in a church at every point in their life. And, I agree with you that really, the primary focus of our life has got to be on following God, and seeking His Will. If we put Him first in all things in our life, then, if it His Will, He will lead us to the appropriate people or grouping where we know we can serve Him.

Until then, my wife and I will continue to serve Him outside of any grouping or organization (aside from Cyberlight Comics, where I post comics and maintain the site). Let us live our lives for Him!

Dan McGowan said...

Hi Phil - nice to meet you! (I figured "Hal" was you secret "2001" identity...)

The whole concept of "church shopping" wherein we go out looking for a place that fits "our needs" is quickly becoming very repulsive to me. After 40 years of "being in church" I can honestly say that I have experienced only a handful of moments - snapshots - where I truly felt that God, through His Son, Jesus, and in the Power of The Holy Spirit, was honestly, truly MOVING in our midst as a congregation. I happen to believe that most churches fall more into the "me, me, me!" club - - and when we don't LIKE "X" - we decide to (as a pastor buddy of mine says) "take our marbles and go home." That's just the way it is.

When I was living in Southern California, my wife and I found a place that we felt was focused far more on the PERSON of Christ, and far less on the PROGRAM stuff.

Here, in Denver, we have found a place that even surpasses that church we had discovered in SoCal. It seems to be a genuinely "Spirit Led" and "Spirit Focused" group of people where nobody concerns themself with music styles or the clock or attire - or any of the other trappings that bring to much grief to the body of Christ . The Spirit MOVES - and the pastor ALLOWS for this - and everyone WAITS on the Lord - times of worship (singing, prayer, dancing, etc) can last 15 minutes or 60 minutes - and it's OK! LOL...

That is what I crave because I have found that, for me, my spiritual relationship is nourished in such a setting.

My "other church" (or ministry opportunity) comes simply by BEING a follower of Jesus out in the real world - meeting and interacting with people who need friends, love, acceptance, support, encouragement, etc.

Ya know - kinda like that stuff Jesus did...