Christianity Today’s New Global Gospel Project — A Focus on….. (you’ll love the next Word)….. Catechesis
With this issue of Christianity Today, we embark afresh on such an enterprise. We are calling it the Global Gospel Project (GGP), resources for a full-orbed discipleship of heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Christianity Today is setting out on a life long learning project designed to make disciples. In the churches that make up the “evangelical” world and that pioneered the Church Growth Movement throughout the world, leaders have noticed that there is a hunger for deeper teaching of the Word, a hunger for *gasp* doctrine.
We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine—dull dogma as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.
Roots are meant to run deep, take hold of the soil and all the nutrients, and hold on for dear life. The deeper the roots, the stronger the plant. Without these deep roots, when raging storm winds blow, the plant will be ripped from the soil because it has nothing to keep it grounded. There are many word pictures in Scripture that illustrate this point. Christ’s parable of the sower tells our preachers how the Gospel will be received by others, and what will affect our reception. His comment about the camel and the eye of the needle made as He watched the rich young man walk dejectedly away from Him is another. Paul warns preachers in 1 Corinthians to be careful how they build, for in the day of judgement, the material will be exposed — build with straw, and it will go up in flames on the day of judgment. That material is most certainly the doctrine being fed to the flock. If it is straw, it will burn, and not withstand the day of judgment. Consequently, it will not sustain those hearers in that day either.
The church growth movement at least in evangelical circles has long recognized that they can attract large numbers of people by playing church and making it look like so many other things in popular culture. However, once they get them in the door, they cannot keep them — Lutherans in the CGM never got that message. One can be fed spiritual baby food only so long. Once you start cutting teeth, you need to start eating solid food, and the bottom line is that people ARE NOT being fed.
The question that has long dogged the evangelical world of church growth gimmickry is how do we retain this burgeoning membership that lines the pockets of the preachers, pays for fancy lighting and high tech equipment, sends our select preachers to cutting edge leadership conferences where they learn to change the language of Scripture to make it kinder and gentler for those non-sinner, unchurched people. Put another way, we have been so focused on growing our churches, that we have neglected the main priority of the church: to Make Disciples.
Christianity Today is attempting to exert some influence over the evangelical world of churches to implement a unified program that emphasizes core doctrines of Christianity. While they admit that the program is not catechesis, they recognize that disciples are made through life-long learning — catechesis is a necessary component of the Christian walk and mission of the church. The series will last five years, and will examine doctrine through the lens of the ecumenical creeds, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each of these are foundational elements of all catechisms. The lead article, Why We Need Jesus, is written by Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn radio program, and a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. Christianity Today plans to develop more resources such as podcasts, blogs, and Bible Studies. This is exactly what confessional Lutherans have been doing through outlets such as Issues, Etc., Pirate Christian Radio, Worldview Everlasting, and Concordia Seminary on iTunesU just to name a few. We need to continue to do so, and expand our leadership in this area.
This will be an exciting time for pop-Christianity in America as God continues to call gather and enlighten His church. I pray that the church growth proponents in the LCMS and particularly in my District watch what Christianity Today is doing. I recently had a Lutheran pastor tell a group of people that our Lutheran confessions are not a tool to be used in reaching the “unchurched.” Rather, we need to use recent, innovative materials that deconstruct the church and the faith, and rebuild both using different words that convey meaning to lost sinners. After all, we have to speak their language, not teach them the language of Christ and His church. But as a clear explication of what Scripture teaches, I can find no other better tool to assist in reaching those people who really want to be in church but do not know it and so they are just not churched (I did not realize church was a verb). This especially so since the confessions contain each Ecumenical Creed, Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, the Formula of Concord and its Epitome, and testimonies from the church Fathers. There is certainly a walk from spiritual milk to solid, rich food, that nourishes for a lifetime.
Hats off to Christianity Today and the ambitious program on which it is about to embark.