Unification News for August 2001
Seven Values for a Growing Church
by Tyler Hendricks
This is from a sermon given at the New Jersey Family Church on June 2, 2001.
We should be aware that 85% of churches in America are on a plateau or declining in membership. That's the bad news. The good news is the 15% of churches are growing, and some are growing very fast. For instance, the Vineyard Church and Calvary Chapel. Both were founded around 1970 in southern California, there were about 600 Vineyard churches and 700 Calvary chapels in 1996, giving them approximately 120,000 attendance (Vineyard) and 140,000 attendance (Calvary) at Sunday service (in 1992). That's not just members on a list, but members actually attending service.
I don't want to emphasize numbers. Those growing churches don't emphasize numbers. They just want to worship God and save people. Do we want to save people? Do we believe that every person on this planet needs True Parents, or they will be in prison in spirit world? Do we really believe that we can bring a person to a life-changing experience of God's love through True Parents? Do we want to do that? Do we care about fallen people?
At Chung Pyung Lake, Daemo Nim said that we got no results because of our sin. All our effort was indemnity, and that added to True Parents' foundation led to our registration and blessing, and so now we have to get visible results. She said we could get results by being sincere and honest and loving people despite their sin.
A man by the name of Mark Mittelberg has written a great book about building one's church; called Building a Contagious Church (Zondervan, 2000). The book is sub-titled, "Revolutionizing the Way We View and Do Evangelism." This is key. We have to revise our concept of church growth. It will not happen on the streets; Father has told us this since 1980. It will not happen through drive-by blessings or by seeing people as conditional objects. The growing churches are liberated from that, and we should be liberated from it as well.
Let me tell you my experience with the Soka Gakai, a neo-Buddhist movement from Japan, in 1969. A Japanese woman physically pushed me into a car to take me to a lecture. The lecture was given by an American, but all the other members I saw were Japanese. They pushed me to buy a gahunzen, which I did and I won't continue the story except to say that the Soka Gakai movement is negligible in America. Why? Because they never adapted to this culture. Pushing people into cars and selling them $10 prayer scrolls does not make it.
Mittelberg talks about a man named Jim, who had a passion to reach people for Christ. The people God called him to reach were not the normal people of his culture, so he decided that he would have to change to fit their culture. He shaved his head, except for a ponytail, that he dyed. He gave up his business attire and dressed like them. He ate their kinds of food and learned their street vocabulary, read their papers and got to know their points of view. He moved into their neighborhood, although they were very poor people who didn't seem interested at all in what he had to say.
Jim's church leaders were very upset. They maligned Jim for giving up the true gospel, of watering it down and changing it just to make it convenient for these strange people who nobody cares about anyway. Jim persevered, receiving persecution both from his own church and from the people he was trying to reach. But today, countless people form the neighborhoods he worked so hard to reach now know and serve Jesus Christ.
Jim—or as he's more widely know, James Hudson Taylor—is the man who more than a century ago gave up everything to build a ministry called China Inland Ministry. More than anyone else, he is credited with turning so many in that nation to faith in Christ.
Is it worth taking risks to reach lost people with the love of True Parents? Is it right to proclaim the Divine Principle in ways that break a few paradigms, push back a few boundaries, and ruffle a few feathers?
The lessons of Luke 14:28-33: 1. We have to be ready to give up everything. 2. We need an accurate understanding of the task at hand. Hudson Taylor looked long and hard at the unchurched culture of 19th century China, and he aligned his mission, values, and strategy to fulfill God's call to reach them. For those of us who have our sights set on reaching secular people in our increasingly post-Christian society, we must step back and figure out what our own mission field's cultural landscape looks like. We need to know what we're up against. Know the enemy in order to love the enemy.
Seven Values that will undergird all of our outreach efforts.
Value #1: People matter to God
"This belief is the hardest one to fully absorb into our value system." We agree with it, but we don't own it. What we do with every other concept in this book will directly depend on the degree to which we own and apply this first value. People matter to God. Do you believe this to the very core of your being?
Rate yourself: look at your checkbook and calendar. They will tell you where you are investing your time and money. Are you investing your time and money trying to reach people outside the family of God?
When you start trying to rearrange the priorities in your life—or in your church's life—this value will be tested immediately. The question naturally arises, whether aloud or below the surface: How much do people matter to God? Other values start competing with and crowding out this first one. Everyone you lock eyes with matters to the Father, matters to True Parents.
Value #2: People are spiritually lost
Luke 19:10: Jesus said his mission was "to seek and to save what was lost." Lost is not derogatory; it is just stating the truth about those who have not found True Parents. Not: I'm okay, You're okay. Rather, Romans 3:9
No matter how "good" people are, if they do not have the blessing and own it and are committed to becoming central blessed families energized by the heart of attending True Parents, they are stuck with the satanic blood lineage, at the time the Messiah is on the earth, and whose fault is it? Mine. Yours. Who will have to reach them in spirit world? Me and you. And is it more or less difficult there? More.
Anyone who has received holy wine and has fallen, is in terrible shape. And if it is our fault, then we are in terrible shape. People who do not know and attend True Parents are separated from God: Isaiah 59:2—"Your iniquities have separated you from your God."
Value #3: People need True Parents
This is absolute. Forget relativism, that every path is the same, that every religion is okay. Every person needs True Parents. Everyone we know needs to know and follow True Parents. They need to give their heart, their time, their gratitude, their money, everything to True Parents.
We have an unpopular message, and we have been commissioned to present it boldly. The only way to God is through True Parents.
Now, if people are standing next to the chasm, and they know that they are in Satan's blood lineage and even with Jesus they cannot cross the divide, then we can directly proclaim and teach the gospel of True Parents. They will understand that God has dual characteristics and that Adam and Eve fell during their growing period and that the fruit was not literal and that religion is a result of the fall and so forth.
The problem is that people do not live close to the chasm where they can look over the edge and see the depth of their sins. They don't realize how far away God really is. In fact, they may be so far away that they do not know there is a chasm there at all! And they are moving farther and farther away.
This is called secularization. People are cynical, materialistic, critical, proud of themselves, self-satisfied and so forth. They think that God approves of whatever they like to do. They have been conditioned to reject many Principled values, like sexual purity, no divorce, honoring their parents, the sanctity of life and so forth. A few decades ago, a couple could not rent an apartment without a marriage certificate and proof that they attended a local church. We live in a post-Christian age. How do we reach people in this culture?
Value #4: People need answers
The Divine Principle not only has to be declared, but defined and defended. We have to remove the intellectual roadblocks. People are programmed in school to question everything, especially God and traditional values.
So we have to learn what the questions are and how to answer them. In this arena, we have the finest theology in the world. But even with the finest theology, if you don't know how to use it to answer their questions, it is of no value. Usually we go over people's heads. We talk a different language. We answer questions that they are not asking. So we need to slow down and get into their shoes—know the enemy. Overcome fear of the questions, and learn the Divine Principle answers. But just the intellectual answers are not enough. They are absolutely necessary, but we need to give people more.
Value #5: People need community
Look at the popular sit-coms: Cheers, Friends, Frasier, Home Improvement, Seinfeld: they deal with a tight-knit circle of friends. Beyond the humor, the attraction of the shows is the feeling that there is some level of genuine acceptance and connectedness.
Families are broken. People are scattered far and wide from their loved ones. People need friends, community, culture. People want to be members of a community of love and ideals, to reproduce the small town, village life, the neighborhood. That is what a church is.
If we are to grow, we MUST become that community. "Our responsibility is to build churches where true community can flourish." When I joined, it was not the Divine Principle—it was the community plus spirit world, the community on earth and in heaven. So we need to build true community among ourselves. Otherwise "brothers and sisters" is just a joke.
Value #6: People need cultural relevance
In a foreign land, missionaries need to know the language and culture. The culture includes the clothes, music, hairstyles, food, occupations, rites, family norms, spiritual interests, traditions, etc. The language includes humor, references, subtle signals, personal motivations, hot button words, and so forth. It is called "contextualization."
We are in a foreign culture. Now we will expand our drawing, taking out the letters True Parents. Why? Because that is not the chasm the blessing fills! There's a wider and deeper chasm to the right, even further from where the unchurched people are—that is the sin chasm, the blood lineage chasm. The closer chasm is the "culture chasm."
These are spiritually neutral, but they separate people from True Parents. The next drawing shows progressive embankments from the right to the left, filling the cultural chasm. We have to "crack the cultural code."
Mittelberg spends several pages on this point, discussing language (easy to understand), clothes (wear the same as your target audience). If you want to reach the business community, wear business attire. Students, wear campus style clothing. A tropical culture, wear short-sleeved shirts and deck shoes, minus the socks. Music—what they like. Personal motivators: spell out the benefits of membership, as well as the costs. Cultural points of reference—not a lot of people around here raise sheep, but they did in biblical times so the Bible uses sheep. We should use contemporary references. Habits—people drive, so get a parking lot. People like movies, so show film clips to convey content. People have short attention spans, so be brief and to the point.
We cannot expect them to cross the chasm; we have to do it.
And the type of outreach you do has to depend upon how far people are away from you.
Value #7: People need time
Allow people to move ahead at their own pace. "Pressing people to take steps for which they're not yet ready will backfire. In some cases it can even short-circuit the whole process."
For most people conversion to True Parents is a process. It is not accomplished through one event, but rather by deepening the trust and understanding of secular people over time and urge them to put their faith in True Parents.
To summarize the values that build the church, that lead us to become successful blessed central families: 1. People matter to God; 2. they're lost; 3. they need True Parents; 4. they need answers; 5. they long for community; 6. they need relevant communication, and 7. they require time.
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