Effective churches need to face culture questions, author says
October 4 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Effective churches need to face culture questions, author says | Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

Effective churches need to face culture questions, author says

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

BURLINGTON - Churches that want to be effective in the 21st century must decide whether they think culture is a friend or an enemy of the gospel, a pastor and author said.

Leith Anderson, who has served as pastor of Wooddale Church outside of Minneapolis, Minn., since 1977, spoke Sept. 26 at "Wired 2 Grow," a seminar for church leaders interested in reaching people who wouldn't normally attend church. Anderson is the author of several books, including Leadership That Works, Dying for Change, and A Church for the Twenty-First Century. He also hosts a daily radio broadcast called "Faith Matters."

About 135 people attended Wired 2 Grow at Integrity Community Church in Burlington. It was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention's missions growth evangelism group and innovative church team.

Anderson said churches that consider culture a friend or an enemy of the gospel both face dangers.

Churches that consider culture to be an enemy risk becoming cultic and inwardly focused, he said.

Churches that believe the culture to be a friend of the gospel face the possibility of compromising to the point of seeing no difference between the two.

Nevertheless, Anderson said he prefers to see culture as a friend of the gospel. Churches must find ways to engage the culture without sinning, he said.

"It is possible to love the culture and hate the sin within the culture," he said.

Anderson described culture as a flowing river.

"What worked last year won't work this year," he said.

Churches "need to do the hard work of exegeting our culture," Anderson said.

He said the apex of a "theology of culture" can be found in 1 Cor. 9, where Paul said that to the Jews, he's a Jew; to the Gentiles, he's a Gentile; to the free, he's a free man; and to slaves, he's a slave.

Paul "became all things to all persons in order to save some," Anderson said.

Effective churches must also have an "outreach orientation," he said.

Anderson cited Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph Winter, which contends that God withdrew His blessing on Israel because the people wanted to be blessed by God, but didn't want to be a blessing to others.

"If we refuse to pass it on, there's no reason for God to continue to bless us," Anderson said.

Anderson talked about how Minnesota, which is known as "the land of 10,000 lakes," defines a lake as having 10 acres of surface area and water flowing in and out. Churches should have a "critical mass" of people and have the blessing of God flowing in and out, he said.

Churches looking outward are "always thinking things through from the perspective of the person they are trying to reach with the gospel," Anderson said.

Using 1 John, Anderson applied three tests for Christians to churches. To be effective, churches must have truth, love and righteousness, he said.

Effective churches must clearly communicate the truth of the gospel, Anderson said. They should also be a congregation of loving people.

If a church is unloving, people "can sniff that out in four minutes and they're gone," he said.

Anderson said effective churches also live out what they preach.

Anderson described six ways church leaders can be more effective.

Leaders "do what needs to be done," he said.

"I don't have to be fabulously gifted," he said. "I simply need to do the hard, hard work."

Leaders need to find out what their church needs to do to fulfill the call of Jesus Christ. If they don't know it, they need to find out how to figure it out, Anderson said.

"Think it through, make a plan, make it happen," he said.

Leaders should also live "Christianly," Anderson said.

Some church leaders keep thinking that if they can just get through an impediment they're facing, they'll be "home free," he said. Instead, they should think of those impediments as "leadership opportunities."

Anderson gave the example of a pastor who was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. He told his congregation, "I thought I came here to show you how to live. It turns out, I came to show you how to die."

Leaders must also have multiple mentors, Anderson said.

Mentors are people the leader knows well enough to predict how they react to situations they haven't yet faced, he said.

Anderson said the responsibility for learning is on the learner, not the mentor.

"Often the ones who are best at this don't know why they do what they do," he said. "We have to figure out how to drag it out of them."

Leaders need to learn the "leadership context," Anderson said. Church leaders must study the history of their community and church.

"Leadership never happens in a vacuum," he said.

Leaders must "beware of the cutting edge," because there's the possibility of getting cut there, Anderson said.

"I suggest that you don't want to be on the cutting edge, but right behind the cutting edge," he said. "The cutting edge is not always a good thing.

"Let somebody else test the idea and thank God for them."

Effective leaders need to trust God for the long term, Anderson said. Churches are often at their best in the seventh, eighth and ninth years of a pastor's term, he said.

"Leadership is trusting God for what's 20 years out," he said.

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10/4/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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