All the recent Great Commission Resurgence Task Force talk has pretty much missed the point. Don't misunderstand. I'm a proponent of the GCRTF and deeply believe our denomination must do some house-cleaning if we're going to influence our times. Yet, the idealist in me regrets the necessity of such initiatives. Is the disconnect with our culture so complete we must resort to headlines and bold strokes to re-establish it?
Of one thing I am sure: this culture is no longer listening to the institutional church. No, they are watching us instead. They really want to know whether or not we are authentic. It's good question. Maybe it's why we need a GCR!
The "got faith?" question isn't just rhetorical anymore. Not too long ago evangelical Christians believed that such talk was unnecessary. The faith of Scripture is self-evident, an intensely personal relationship that changes us from the inside out. Genuine faith is visible. In the New Testament believers are being transformed into our Lord's likeness with ever-increasing glory. Biblical faith involves putting off the old and putting on the new, the realities of a new creation replacing the depravity of the old. It is a change that alters life at every level.
How faith devolved into such an invisible force baffles me. Maybe it's the after-shock of neo-orthodox theology, or an accommodation to cultural relativism, or the desire of the church to be a little more attractive to local communities, or some satanic force guiding church people into an era of disbelief. Whatever it is, the modern practice of faith has lost much of its realness. Yes, the Good News of Jesus is to be spoken with great confidence and boldness. Yet, it is to be verified through lives that are changed. As said by Francis of Assisi, we're to use words if necessary.
This may be one of the reasons the contemporary church has registered with younger Americans. There are few frills, no sacred cows, a good bit or relevance, some irreverence too, frank talk, on the edge topics, and a no nonsense approach to mission. They're quick to say "it is what it is", and they'll gladly show you the back door if you dissent or complain or bring any traditional luggage with you. It is real. Maybe a little flimsy in places, but real all the way. The millennials are flocking there by the thousands.
Go simple with me, again! I seem to do well with simple. Ever wonder what would happen if we made the "got faith?" question totally obsolete? I mean, what would the world look like if every believer---I mean, beginning with pastors, church leaders, and spreading concentrically through the entire family of faith---started to live up to the essentials of faith as defined by the Bible? What if our faith was so visible, the "got faith?" was totally invalidated. Maybe then we could stop talking about our cool strategies with all our hip buzzwords, the initiatives and exotic mission statements, tag lines and coffee cup mottos, and let the world see Christ in us---no, Christ in me, the hope of glory.
Of course, we're Baptists. We like to boast about being the largest Protestant denomination, about our large missionary force, our cooperative giving system, the vast LifeWay empire, and 42,000 churches across the fruited plain. We know how to program just about anything, and can throw a cool slogan on everything from a covered-dish supper to man night. We used to be people of The Word, and now we're people of words. Trouble is, words are cheap these days. So, even with our sophisticated swagger, huge balance sheets, and marketing plans, they're still not listening.