The era of the modern world’s fair began with Britain’s “Great Exhibition” (often called the “Crystal Palace Exhibition”) in 1851. The exhibits on display at the Crystal Palace included scientific and technological marvels from many different countries as well as works of art and craftsmanship. Some six million people attended the exhibition. One of the displays was an engineering marvel, complete with hundreds of moving parts, interconnected cogs, levers and pulleys … all the bells and whistles. The thing is, it really didn’t do anything.
Busy-ness without productivity is never acceptable, especially when doing the Lord’s work. That’s why it’s important to me that in UBA we do things that really matter, things that help our churches fulfill their great commission responsibility.
We say that we exist to mobilize our churches to take on lostness, but what does that mean? Why is that important? What did we do last year and what will we do this year? Those are all big questions, too big to completely answer in a short blog post, but let me mention a couple of things.
Last year we mobilized our churches by ...
1) helping them understand what lostness means today. Lostness, it really isn’t a popular word these days and some folks would even bristle as me using it, but it’s a biblical word so I’m comfortable with it. Lostness has changed. Once Americans held a common cultural worldview. It was informed by the Bible and came to us from our European forbearers. Today folks are influenced by competing worldviews: postmodernism, shame and honor, fear and power. Not everyone accepts the authority of Scripture. Not everyone frames things as guilt and innocence. We’ve held numerous conferences and provided resources to help our church understand that old ways of framing the gospel won’t work with people who have a different worldview.
2) encouraging folks to engage people differently to share the gospel. Years ago we held evangelism training classes (e.g., 4 Spiritual Laws, WIN, EE) to teach people how to share their faith. We encouraged people to go visiting door to door. Those strategies worked well then, but they are not as effective today. Today people meet online, so we need to know how to use technology. Last year we held several conferences to help churches learn how to use technology more effectively in reaching people. We also know the church (and the gospel) is considered irrelevant by many in modern society. Through initiatives like Loving Houston we helped churches engage their communities in meaningful service which becomes a first step in making the gospel relevant to unbelievers.
3) experimenting with different kinds of church. I like hamburgers, but a steady diet of only hamburgers will not provide the nutritional variety I need for good health. Likewise, I like traditional churches, but our research unquestionably shows that if traditional churches are all we offer we cannot reach our city with the gospel. We cannot buy enough land, build enough buildings, and staff as many churches as we’d need to reach our city. So ten years ago we began experimenting with house churches. Today house churches (sometimes call cell church, simple churches, organic churches) are being planted all across our cities, especially among immigrant communities. Today we are exploring cell-celebration churches, which are a hybrid between the house church and the traditional church. Together these three kinds of churches will help us better ensure that people have ready access to a culturally relevant, Bible-believing, disciple-making church.
We’ve been busy, but have we been productive? Is what we are doing making a difference? You can help us answer that by having your church complete the Annual Church Profile. It provides a statistical summary of what your church has done this past year. When we compile the data from all our churches, we get a better sense of what we are doing well and where we need to do better. Pastor (church leader), you can go to the Lifeway links provided by both state conventions or use the shorter UBA form which will give us the basic information we need. As we gather the information, I'll share it with you. Together, let's not just be busy this year; let's make sure we are doing what matters.