Sunday, December 11, 2005

Diff'rent strokes to save the world

Ever since I learned of their existence, I've been checking out a couple of blogs - Raiders of the Lost Church and The Old Truth - whose basic premise seems to be that traditional churches and sermons are the only suitable form of Christian worship and education. Furthermore, any attempt to make Christianity relevant to today's society is a compromise and a sin.

I disagree with these sites. In part because that's ludicrous, and in part because I attend one of the churches that is most often maligned by the sites. My church, National Community Church, is a young church with a young pastor, a young congregation, and two locations (both intentionally placed in movie theaters on subway lines). Its approach is notably high-tech (e-sermons, online devotionals, blogs, podcasts, video podcasts, and preloaded Ipods), and the message themes are notably contemporary ("The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Game of Life", "God at the Box Office", "God on the Billboards"). All of this makes it a prime destination for the young and tech-savvy, and a prime target for the writers of Raiders and OldTruth.

The trap that these sites fall into is disregarding the fact that we are all on the same team. They also polarize churches into innovative and traditional, when there is a full spectrum of approaches and types. There are many "innovative" churches (like mine) with traditional theologies. There are many "traditional" churches with innovative ministries.

I'm a realist. I understand that both innovative and traditional approaches, and every combination thereof, have their costs, their benefits, and their place. But, right now, the more innovative approach is what's jibing with what God's up to in my life. I don't mean to suggest that I advocate novelty for novelty's sake. I'm a creature of habit and have been known to run screaming from change. However, taking a risk and making a compromise are in no way synonymous. So, it is dangerous to reject innovation, outright. Even by modern standards, Jesus was an innovator and a rebel. So to call any deviation from the Liturgical norm a sin is to call the founder and namesake of the Christian Church a sinner. Nobody in His day was hanging out with thieves and prostitutes with the aim of winning them to salvation, and such behavior would still be frowned upon today. Nobody in His day was talking about salvation for Gentiles, and modern day churches who gear their ministries toward the unsaved and unchurched are still the object of ridicule and judgment.

It is naive and dangerous to believe that, at any point in the history of the Christian Church, we corrected all the mistakes of the Old Testament Church or overcame our own. Nor can any model we have established be considered henceforth and forever more the only way to go. To me suggesting that one style of church and preaching can capture the complexities of an infinite God and convey them to an infinite number of completely different individuals seems a little sacrilegious. But that's just me.


At 1:17 AM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Jim from said...

Dear BlackSheep:

Your description of my blog doesn't sound like it was written by someone who says they're "on the same team" with me.

I have no problem at all with innovation; I think the blogs and iPods are cool things; I'm into those things myself. The only time innovation becomes a problem for me is when it plays a part in watering-down the Gospel or over-shadowing biblical standards somehow. Other than that, I'm all for high-tech.

You have me classified under the heading of "Prayer Hater" and you say my blog is "dedicated criticizing". Well, Im very much for prayer, and actually my blog exists to draw attention to the standards of Christianity in earlier centuries, when more emphasis was placed on biblical doctrine. And thus the name of the blog "Old Truth".

You characterize my blog by saying "any attempt to make Christianity relevant to today's society is a compromise and a sin". I don't believe that at all. Christianity should be presented as very relevant to sinners who need a Savior. I disagree with those who try to hide this relevance, via de-emphasis of things like sin and a Savior. We should all make a stand against those who try to hide the real relevance of the Gospel, or against attemps to assign a (world-pleasing) alternate emphasis to it. But, Im all for relevance, true relevance; Im for the greatest relevance there is, and that's: Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save hopeless sinners like me.

It sounds like there have been some misunderstandings related to my blog. I hope this clears-up some of them.


At 12:08 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Jim from said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:51 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Ian said...

"Watch you talkin about Willis"

At 11:40 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger The Black Sheep said...


I edited the title and that line in the posting because they are unfair characterizations of your blog and the views expressed there. I was wrong and I really appreciate your response, which forced me to reconsider what I had written. As I wrote to Ian, I value the accountability aspect of your blogs, and I am grateful to you for holding me accountable.

The original title (Prayer Hater) was intended only as a play on the term “Player Hater,” I never meant to suggest that you or Ian disliked prayer or those who pray. I edited the general description of your blog as “dedicated to criticizing innovative churches and ministries,” because it is an overstatement of my point that could easily be misconstrued. Also, my use of the word “innovative” does not refer to the use of technology, per se, but the use of any progressive, advanced or nontraditional methodology to further the spread of the Gospel in a new way or to a previously unreached population.

Thank you for clarifying the intent of your blog. My posting, however, is based on my impression of the content of your blog and the intent implied by that content. Regardless of my new understanding of your actual intent, my impression of your content hasn’t changed. I challenge you, as you challenged me, to ensure that your content reflects your intent. I would hate to see misunderstandings such as this one keep Old Truth from being the invaluable and transformational tool of accountability and education that I know it can be.


At 8:56 AM, December 16, 2005, Blogger Heather Z said...


Thanks for your comment. We appreciate you so much and what you are doing to reach people for Christ at NCC. Your passion for Jesus is contagious.

At 9:01 AM, December 16, 2005, Blogger Mark Batterson said...


What an amazing post. I appreciate your thought-full comments.

I honestly don't visit those blogs you cite because there doesn't seem to be any room for "dialogue." I feel like they've "written off" certain churches having never attended them. I wish they could come to one of our baptism services :) It might soften their views.

Keep on keeping on brother!

Pastor Mark

At 12:11 PM, December 16, 2005, Blogger Ian said...

If you don't visit them how would you know there is no room for dialogue?

At 12:22 AM, December 17, 2005, Blogger The Black Sheep said...

Thanks Heather and Pastor Mark, I pray that one day they'll accept your invitation.

At 9:34 AM, December 17, 2005, Blogger Mark Batterson said...

Jim and Ian,

My email is I'd welcome an email dialogue. And I'd be happy to meet if you're ever in the DC area. I'd love to have you visit NCC some weekend.

Mark Batterson

At 12:20 PM, December 29, 2005, Blogger Hyla said...

Okay, I know I missed the boat on this one time-wise, but I just wanted to tell you, Dennis, that I was so infuriated when I read through ian's blog. I actually never made it to the oldtruth one. If we all want people to experience the power of Christ, then why would we spend time criticizing how others do it? We are only responsible for our own actions in the end. Go share God's love however you want to do it!! (ok, within confines, I suppose)

At 6:40 PM, December 29, 2005, Blogger The Black Sheep said...

I'm with you, Hyla. A big part of this debate seems to be over who gets to set the confines you mentioned, and how and by whom those confines are enforced.


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