How to Get Christians to Act Like Christians: Part 2

liturgyIn part 1 of How to Get Christians to Act Like Christians, I argued that we need to rethink what most deeply motivates a person to do something. Many people take the stance that either knowledge or belief dictates action, and therefore spend all their energy educating Christians and forming a Christian worldview. Although these things are helpful and necessary, I don’t agree that they are enough to get people to act in a certain way. People need to want to act a certain way, they need to desire it. People are driven by what they desire most deeply.

In this post, I want to look at the first of four ways we as pastors can help those in our congregations to act like Christians given this new underlying premise.

A Reorientation of the Church Towards Liturgy

Liturgy, as a word and concept, has been diminished in many people’s minds to be the sit down, stand up, tired recitations of a church that is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I think that liturgy is probably the last thing people would suggest in order to inspire people’s desire towards kingdom living. But bear with me…

Since finishing seminary, I have taken an interest in exercising consistently and eating healthy. Although good diet and exercise is still a challenge with a three year old and eighteen month old waking up at 5:30 every morning ready for breakfast, it has become a bit more realistic in the absence of thousands of papers to read and write on top of work. So I’ve made the commitment. I’m in it to win it, as some may say.

In light of this commitment, I have looked into books on diet and downloaded apps to help track exercise progress. I have asked other people’s opinions on their diet and exercise habits. I am trying to educate myself on the topic and get a broad understanding of the culture of diet and exercise through my conversations with others who do so. However, if I were to only do those things, I can guarantee you that I will turn thirty next summer with a bigger gut.

The change starts to happen when I actually begin to participate in diet and exercise. I get up and run in the mornings, I go to the gym consistently, I eat the healthy food that we buy at the grocery store. At first it sucks. Every muscle in my body hurts, I dream of whataburger at night, and wonder why anybody would torture their body like this. But after time, my desires change. I wake up wanting to jog or go to the gym. I look forward to my Kale salad and drive by In’n'Out without a second glance. There is no doubt my knowledge of diet and exercise helps me and my acceptance of a worldview that values diet and exercise contributes to the new lifestyle. But without actually eating different food and forcing my body into exertion, my desires would never actually change.

This is what I mean when I say the church needs a reorientation towards liturgy. In general, our view of church is an institution of education. We like the preacher because he teaches us the Bible well. We like our small group because we study good books. Our children go to Sunday school and we ask them what they learned in class. In general, the body is bad (The evil flesh) and the mind is good and our churches reflect this belief by neglecting the body and feeding the mind.

This may do well in educating Christians, but it will fall short in forming and aiming our affections toward the kingdom of God over and above the world surrounding us.

The body matters to the Body

If I was a personal trainer (which I am not), I would never hand a client a book and tell them to go sit on the couch and read for thirty minutes a day. I would make them hurt and sweat. As pastors, we need to do the same thing. We need to realize the path to a person’s desires is the habitual participation of a person’s body in physical kingdom disciplines. On Sundays, encourage people to taste and see the goodness of the gospel through Communion. In small groups, don’t read books about the poor, go and regularly interact and care for the poor. Pray and fast with regularity. Bring your kids with you to participate in the work of the gospel.

If we as pastors want to get Christians to act like Christians, then church needs to stop being a university and start being a culture of embodied practices. We need to stop being a library and start being a gym.

What liturgy do you regularly participate in? What needs to change in your church to reorient it towards liturgy?

How to Get Christians to Act Like Christians: Part 1

St. Augustine

St. Augustine

One of the biggest challenges I have as a pastor is figuring out how to get my congregation to act like Christians. It’s easy to come up with the programming, to develop the sermons or the worship service, to write the curriculum and strategize the discipleship process. Maybe not easy, but doable. But getting all of those things to creep into a community’s soul and actually change behavioral habits is a different beast. I’ll be honest, at times it feels impossible.

There have been a few different solutions posited. One of the more popular ones is the route of education, and the argument is simply this: If you can saturate the congregation with enough information about God, then the knowledge about God will ultimately change the way people act. This is an oversimplification of this strategy, but the gist of it is there. I would argue that the majority of Evangelical churches in America are driven by this underlying philosophy.

Another popular approach is to try and develop a Christian worldview. This is slightly different than the education model in that it is trying to connect the knowledge about God with the belief systems that grow out of that knowledge. An example of this can be seen in the worldview approach to voting. Churches that are driven by this solution will often times develop platforms on how to vote given the nature of what the Bible says.

Both of these approaches have their place. It is important for Christians to understand the truth of God’s word and that they connect it to the beliefs they have about the world. However, what a lot of pastors are finding and what history is showing is that these two things, education and worldview, are not really enough to get Christians to actually act like Christians. It may get them to think like Christians or even to believe like Christians, but not necessarily to act like them.

James K. A. Smith, in his book Desiring the Kingdom, calls this problem “bobble head Christianity.” If the only thing we as pastors are trying to do is get our congregations to think like Christians and believe like Christians, than we will have congregations with giant heads and tiny bodies because it takes more to motivate a person than knowledge and belief.

People are driven by what they desire most deeply. This is a thought that was articulated by Augustine in calling humans primarily “lovers.” Actions can contradict a person’s knowledge and beliefs, but will rarely ever contradict a person’s affections and desires. If this is what primarily drives people, then the real work of a pastor, regardless of what kind of pastor, is to reform a congregations affections to desire the things of Christ.

Over the next few posts, I want to dive into this more deeply. This post serves more to introduce the topic and give an overarching perspective on the issue. The way you get Christians to act like Christians is get them to want to act like Christians. This is much easier said than done, so I’m excited to continue the conversation many others are already having about how to affect a person’s affections. What will follow is a look at four different ways pastors can go about doing this, which I will mention here and then go into detail in later posts:

  1. A Reorientation of the Church towards liturgy
  2. A Pervasive Gospel presence
  3. An Eschatological vision
  4. A Cultivation of Beauty.

I look forward to your input as I work through this very difficult task.

How to Deliver Bad News (In Love)

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

For a long time, I had a huge fear of telling people what they needed to hear if I knew it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Yes, I was the guy who would let you have an entire conversation with a giant piece of spinach in your teeth and not say a single thing. I would justify it by saying to myself, “I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. Ignorance is bliss.” But the truth is, the real reason I would shy away from telling people what they needed to hear, even when it was bad news, is that didn’t want to be uncomfortable. It wasn’t out of concern for the other person, it was out of concern for myself.

bad-newsJesus isn’t like this. In Mark 10, he is in a conversation with a guy known as the rich young ruler. This mans seems like he was a stand up guy. Not only was he a man of prominence culturally, but he was an upstanding and religious Jew. But there was something he needed to hear. It was bad news for him, but it needed to be said. So Jesus told him what he needed to hear. Jesus told him that he needed to sell everything he had and give it to the poor.

In the past when I read this passage, I always thought Jesus was annoyed by the rich young ruler, that he told him this in order to make an example of him or to publicly humble him (Is it still called a Jesus juke if Jesus is actually the one who says it?) But something stood out to me this morning as I read this. Mark 10:21 says that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” Jesus loved him. He didn’t give him bad news to spite him or humiliate him, he told him what he didn’t want to hear because it was the loving thing to do.

Fortunately, I have gotten over the discomfort of telling somebody they have spinach in their teeth. However, how often do I refrain from telling somebody bad news, news like, “If you continue to live your life not trusting and submitting to God, you will pay for your own sins in hell?” How often do I bite my own tongue when I see somebody doing something destructive to himself?

Jesus delivers just as much bad news to people as he does good news, and it is always out of love. Is there some bad news you need to share with somebody? Do we love those around us enough to share bad news when necessary?

Jesus did.

Sunday Liturgy: November 18, 2012

Big idea: A Christ worth sharing

Opening Scripture: Psalm 127

Song 1: “Oh, Great is Our God!” by The Sing Team

 

Child Dedication

Song 2: “Oh God of Our Salvation” by Michael Bleeker and Matt Boswell

Song 3: “Oh Fount of Love” by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell

Song 4: ”How He Loves Us” by John Mark McMillan

 

Sermon: Acts 4:1-37

Join us this Sunday at White Rock Fellowship if you’re in the Dallas area.

 

Save the Date: EP Release and Show

I am very excited to announce that on November 28th, I will be releasing my first EP of original worship songs entitled  ”Psalms and Gospels.” This an album rooted in the truth of the Psalms and the gospels written over the last year of our church’s life.

by Cody Kimmel

On November 30th, I will be playing a release show to play the songs from the EP as well as some other original songs and arrangements. Below are the event details:

When: Friday, November 30th, 7-8:30pm

Where: Fellowship Bible Church Dallas Chapel – 9330 N. Central Expressway, Dallas, TX 75231

How Much: Free!!!!!

You can find more information about the EP, such as song stories and song charts, www.psalmsandgospels.com.

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