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Relax, It’s Just Church!

July 13th, 2006
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

An alert reader sent this link to me. No, it is not a joke.

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  1. Steve
    July 14th, 2006 at 12:10 | #1

    Is it any surprise that the two recurring themes are “you” and “real”

  2. July 14th, 2006 at 13:53 | #2

    Thank you for the link.
    Sometimes we have to be reminded that defending the faith is no mere intellectual or academic exercise; people actually buy into this junk.

  3. July 14th, 2006 at 15:17 | #3

    This post inspired a Horn+Swoggled article.

  4. Frank Marron
    July 15th, 2006 at 10:57 | #4

    As a Lutheran who is interested in his faith and one who is constantly devouring the many wonderful treatises made available through CPH, this “simplified” worship style is not surprising. The average American simply wants a version of Christianity that is “practical”, “straightforward”, and not too different from any “normal” activity. I spent a couple of years in such a church home back in the mid 1980s, in my case primarily because of the beautiful Praise style music. I remember that it was a Charismatic church and it would always take me 30 minutes to be able to lift my hands in praise and “get into the swing of it”. The statement of belief was relatively simple,consisting of about a dozen basic tenements of the Christian faith. At the time I never questioned this over-simplification of doctrinal beliefs, but now I would be appalled. There is no substitue for the Small Catechism of Martin Luther. I now understand why many experienced Lutheran ministers advise interested parties to first sit through Adult Instruction classes before attending worship services. There are really dozens of questions on the minds of people regarding the Christian faith and doctrine class is the perfect way to address these issues. Once a person ‘s mind begins to be renewed to think theological, the Divine Service takes on a special meaning and puts all other services in perspective.

  5. Michael L. Anderson
    July 17th, 2006 at 07:47 | #5

    I think the featured web-site’s reassurance is borrowed directly from the Gospel’s ten foolish virgins: “Relax, it’s just the Bride and her Bridegroom.”
    Worth pondering: Is the passionate Lord who breathed the Song of Songs really going to tolerate the “justs” flung at His Beloved, upon His Return?

  6. Steve
    July 21st, 2006 at 20:11 | #6

    just thought i would join in the discussion on “relax, it’s just church” since i am the lead pastor of the church that uses it. New Venture Christian is a new church. the phrase was coined by someone in our community for the new church and was adopted to ease the fears of unchurched people when it comes to the church scene. it does not in any way indicate a relaxed attitude toward God, Christ or the Bible. we are anything but that. it is simply a hook to connect with the unchurched to get them to consider Christ.

  7. Steve B
    July 22nd, 2006 at 07:43 | #7

    Steve, how sad that you need a hook “to connect with the unchurched to get them to consider Christ.”
    Wouldn’t it be better to send out members into the community to develop relationships with the unchurched in their jobs, homes, etc.; to in appropriate times speak God’s Word to these unchurched and to teach them the blessings that our Triune God has to give them? Why must we “hook” anyone? Hooks are tools of deception, but God’s Word is the effective means that GOD uses to bring people to him.

  8. Michael L. Anderson
    July 22nd, 2006 at 15:29 | #8

    I think that is the problem.
    The “hook,” I mean.
    To be honest to the integrity of those hooked, and to fully respect them as soulful yet thinking beings, you will have to endeavor that it is indeed, “just” a church (as the world sees it), which the hooked encounter from now on … and not something as fabulous as Christ’s Bride.
    Those compelled to resort to a hook will eventually, I suspect, have to reveal the “catch.”
    Let’s recall: The Lord dared to tell others, up front, that they had to eat His flesh in order to be part of Him and His salvation. I don’t recall Him saying, to those who turned up their noses in disgust or unbelief: “Hey, c’mon. I was kidding. It’s ‘just’ bread.”
    Now His followers, more given to obsessing and worried about the ledger’s losses and gains (which is the Holy Ghost’s business alone, really), devise and use … “hooks.”
    As I see it, a “hook” doesn’t allow someone (or something) much room to “decide,” at all. I think most bluegills which end up in the frying-pan, smothered in butter, would agree. Indeed, in Job, the hook is threatened by God as a nasal device to bring Satan (as Leviathan) under control. Such things are for created fallen angels, not created creatures for which the Savior has shed His precious blood.
    I suppose I am being excessively picky and curmudgeonly about all this. The perfect Jerome, being perfectly vulgar. But not entirely, I pray. I expect the evangelicals are sincerely and fervently motivated, as to what they do. Still, I don’t like being wrestled into church, by precious Madison Avenue-styled hooks. Every “hook,” after all carries with it, so the con’s lingo goes, a “sting.”
    I know. I mean, I still have a lot to learn, about fly-casting. But I digress.
    Obviously, there are some serious differences inside Christendom, as to missionary approaches and the use of language. Perhaps even differences, as to the ethics employed, as we go about our Father’s business. One day the Lord will straighten things out.
    Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

  9. Tom Fast
    July 23rd, 2006 at 10:57 | #9

    Perhaps I am taking this all too seriously, but it appears to me that the phrase, “it’s just church” is functioning as a kind of substitute gospel. The Church is invited to rest, indeed. Troubled people are certainly looking for some rest. The rest which the Church enters into is the rest which is in the real presence of Christ as he comes with mercy in the Gospel and Sacrament. Let’s invite the troubled outsiders who are looking to “relax” to come and enjoy this rest with us.
    On a more positive note, this slogan “Relax, it’s just church,” did provide me with a perfect introduction to my sermon this morning on Mark 6:1-6. I thank you for that help!

  10. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    July 24th, 2006 at 09:38 | #10

    Tom makes a good point-would like to see how he used this as an introduction. The story of Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth is an important story for would be evangelists to consider. Of all the places Jesus should have been believed shouldn’t it have been his home town? He knew the language, the culture, he knew the needs and concerns of the people. And as God he knew their hearts. Of all the people in the world who could bring the good news to the people of Nazarth Jesus was the ideal candidate.
    Yet he fails in Nazareth. He doesn’t hammer them with the Law, he isn’t harsh, critical or standoffish. Rather he reads from the prophet Isaiah and proclaims the prophesy is fullilled in Him. Luke tells us his friends and neighbors tried to throw him off a cliff for claiming to be the Messiah. His words were wise, his miracles were amazing, they said, but their problem with Jesus is who he claimed to be; they are offended by His person. It has always been so.
    And Jesus is amazed by their lack of faith.
    If you read further into Mark 6 you will see that on the heels of this failure in his home town Jesus sends the twelve, two by two with no food, no extra clothes and no money.
    The disciples needed to not only hear the Lord’s teaching, and see his miracles, they needed to know that the kingdom is not built up by our human ability, intellect or persuasiveness. They needed to know that when people did not believe it was because of the hardness of their hearts and lack of faith not that the disciples made didn’t sell Jesus well enough. They needed to know that when they were rejected and abused by their own people it was because the person and work of Christ are offensive to those who are trapped in the darkness of sin and unbelief.

  11. Tom Fast
    July 24th, 2006 at 11:52 | #11

    I’ve got a great idea. How about having the Church actually tell the truth to the worldlings? The truth is that a worldling is going to lose his life when he becomes a member of the Church. That truth might be relaxing to some, and it might be a bit troubling to others, but at least it is the truth, and they will know what they are getting into. Fact is, the only way to become a member of the Church is by the death and resurrection of repentance and faith. I suppose that kind of honesty isn’t a good marketing strategy. Then again, there may also be a significant part of the population which is weary of being constantly sold a bill of goods.
    Boycott the “bait and switch” approach. Let’s simply tell the Truth! That is what the Lord has given us to do.

  12. Michael L. Anderson
    July 25th, 2006 at 08:58 | #12

    In the main, I prefer to think that the saint portion of the “simul” Christian prefers the Truth.
    The worldling doesn’t, of course, which makes the strategy of well-intended deception a dubious one. It continues the delusion which will not make us free. The difficulty is that the Truth hurts, because the truth is, a cross and nails once hurt the Truth for our sakes … even as we were God’s enemies. And who among us likes to be called a murderer, an enabler of a killing?
    The world sees Jesus as a good man, a great teacher, perhaps even a great relaxer. A little naive, maybe; a little addled, probably. But a good man. The world in its smugness will see itself as no murderer of good men. It will like to see itself as cool and relaxed, however.
    Here’s the thing, speaking professionally and for free, yet. The resort to “hooks” speaks less of an existing state of relaxation, on the part of those bodies resorting to such maneuvers, than to a state of desperation.
    As I see it, this is an emotional condition that is far more volatile and untamed, and thus far more likely to be given over to mischief, than a genuine “concern” for another’s soul. If one sees Mt 28 as a brusque and unsmiling command, say, rather than a loving invitation to participate in the joy of God’s plan for salvation, desperation will be the rule. We will then perceive a heavy burden of work ahead of us, with souls perishing for all eternity all around us even as we muse to Cyberbrethren. Who wouldn’t quake, in the hands of an angry God with demands such as these? Who wouldn’t be desperate? We are responsible for the lost. We are that powerful. God needs us. So let’s try every maneuver, every shell game possible, every sleight of hand under the sun, in order to obey and follow the General’s “orders.” Actually, such a response sort of makes sense, from the perspective of fear and fright, coupled with the ego-pumping idea that our ways are God’s ways, after all. Or at least, ought to be.
    This is unfortunate. The wrong spin placed on the “Great Commission” makes humans, even well-meaning ones, do some strange things. Naturally, I am biased towards thinking of Lutherans as being as well-meaning and certainly as human as anyone, so that the non-denom types can take some comfort that the lash here is being evenly distributed. To my eye, Lutherans are not above desperation-driven gimmicks, either.
    I do not get the impression that Paul was psychologically desperate enough to resort to anything but the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth in his missionary endeavors. To the Greeks at Areopagus, he spoke of a God no longer winking at men’s idolatry, and spoke of an eventual judgment presided over by a man appointed by God. To the Corinthians he conspicuously vowed to preach nothing but Christ Crucified. The ancients knew the significance of crucifixion, and Paul never softened the blow by intimating that the tool of execution was “just” a bunch of timber lashed together. It was a mean and dirty death, devised for mean and dirty people. Better devised for us, if you please. But Someone took our reservation card, as His own. And “God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.”
    Jesus our dear Lord, too, never betrayed much in the way of desperation in the course of His ministry to others. He preached in parables, for goodness’ sake, and indeed indicated that many would not understand what He was saying. He seemed to venture that unhappy opinion, with a rather “matter-of-fact” mien. Desperate people, I maintain, resort to “hooks” which people immediately swallow, and not to stories which leave many to time-consuming head-scratching.
    Jesus was spurned in His own hometown; and it appears He did not elicit such response (or counter it), by urging the folks to “relax.” As has been noted, His response to this slap in the face was not to fashion Isaiah into a hook. Instead, the Lord calmly sent out His disciples to announce, to surrounding villages, that the Kingdom of God was at hand. I suppose this was greeted with joy in some circles … and in others, with puzzlement and even with fear. After all, John the Baptist earlier had promised that the Kingdom on arrival would winnow and discard the chaff, with fire. Not relax the chaff. It was the truth, of course.
    Jesus was continually offending others around Him, by His actions and by His words. One thing could be counted on, and that is easily seen from the Gospel narratives: Jesus Christ could still a storm, all right, but tended to stir a turmoil among the humans tagging alonging His side. St. John’s Gospel is one long debate after another. I am sure the situation was disturbing, and not relaxing, to many.
    And there you go. The Gospel properly presented divides; a two-edged sword does not relax, it cleaves. By the work of the Holy Ghost, we who are cleaved are invited to life-long conflict, as a new creature washed in the Blood, with an Old Adam drowned by Living Water, and yet remaining as enfleshed as when we were conceived. We are indeed simultaneously saint and sinner, at war with ourself; we will bear a cross; we will lose our lives, if we believe Jesus at His non-relaxing edgiest.
    This is not a matter of taking one’s ease, of relaxing, at all. Seeker beware. That’s the truth. Measure the cost, the forces of the opposing king. That’s one of the Lord’s parables, too.
    Not that we should obsess about the truth of travail, I think. While we have not overcome the world and our flesh, the Servant Lord assures us in that Upper Room that He has. If we fix our focus on Him, Him alone, the anxieties will flee. But we have a fight on our hands in this world, until we see come to see Him face to face.
    We must not forget this, so that there is some element of reality-testing consistent with what is true. There is a reason why the Church, of this dimension, is referred to as the Church Militant. There is no good reason to suggest to the outsider, that the Church is DisneyWorld with (maybe) some incense.
    M.L. Anderson

  13. July 26th, 2006 at 09:57 | #13

    I am so sick of this “Jesus as a great moral teacher” approach. He wasn’t a moral teacher, he was either a madman or is the Son of the Living God. The only “morality lesson” we get from him is the Golden Rule, which he go from God who told the Isrealites back during the Exodus.

  14. Michael L. Anderson
    July 28th, 2006 at 14:19 | #14

    I believe the choice of madman versus versus liar versus God was first advanced by Professor Lewis, but I could be wrong. Or mad.
    Or possibly both.
    Anyway, the palette of choices has become somewhat less convincing, over time, to me. A moral deviant, Jesus was not. He seems incapable of being selectively evil, to the extent of misrepresenting Himself. If Jesus were volitionally lying as to being God’s Son, to Peter and the rest, then He is obviously untrue to the principles of which He taught. The Law was not dismissed by Christ; He fulfilled it, He was that keen on it. And Jesus, moreover, was reknown for ratcheting up the Law, to dizzying new heights. I dare say the vast, vast majority of us are adulterers, in consequence. Or cold grasping misers, in the matter of our coats. A person who talks of other’s beams, while lying, has an Amazonian jungle in the eye.
    But was He mad?
    If Jesus were lying about His identity … perhaps simply for the “fun” of it, or for the attention and devotion it provided, or maybe for a perverse streak of meanness and spite (“what fools these mortals be”) … then His lying is more in keeping with the behavior of the inveterate con man, a psychopath. But there is nothing … nothing … in the rest of His behavior, to clinch the diagnosis of an anti-social personality disorder.
    No liar, especially a pathologic one. But was He mad?
    Mental illness is not necessarily aversive to personal morality. The face of clinical delusion, i.e., the presentation of schizophrenia, has changed with time; but in my study of the history of psychiatry, while I note that many a 19th century “Napoleon” existed, exceedingly few there were who bothered to launch an invasion and take the innocents by storm. Most Napoleons stood in a corner silently, hand inserted into the front of a frock coat; few even bothered to topple tables, or ride a donkey causing a public tumult. Most led respectable lives, while being affectionately deemed “dotty” by their acquaintances, every so often.
    Of course, St. Paul himself was perceived as crazed, by no less a hard-bitten observer of human foibles as the Roman governor of Judea (Acts 26:24). I am not sure Festus ever reversed his mind, on the diagnosis.
    To return to the Lord’s case, one gets a hint from the loaded expression “Isn’t this the carpenter?” (Mk 6:3) that there were plenty around who saw the Savior as narcissistic to the point of being definitely unbalanced. Even the immediate members of Jesus’ family were concerned enough of this public impression, to take the steps which are normally reserved for those who are deemed mentally incompetent (Mk 3:21).
    [Nota bene: The precise attitude and role of Mary His blessed Mother, in all this, might be intriguing to flesh, but are not delineated by God's Word. The focus, as always, is on Jesus.]
    I think Prof. Lewis, then, is not arguing that the idea of Jesus’ insanity is untenable; he is not setting up a soft strawmen with no brain, whereby the only possible conclusion to be reached is that Christ was (and is) divine.
    Indeed, the human mind will naturally gravitate towards insulting the Anointed One, and challenging God’s ways as weird and unhinged. Such unquestionably happened in the first century of our Lord, by those who saw Him and His works up close and personal. We should not reject those who think such, as fools and dunces; but more as the blinded, to be greatly pitied and for whom prayers are demanded. God the Holy Spirit have mercy on them.
    People could be appreciated as honest, if they concluded that Jesus was personally obsessive about the moral life, and had a flair for teaching about it, yes; but was certifiably psychotic. That is to say, He was the Nazareth family’s keepsake Napoleon.
    In fact, few people in the world, when they list the great men, are so consistent or so bold about it. Jesus is always the nice guy, misrepresented by His stumblebum group of followers, maybe. Jesus was not mad, but He chose to surround Himself with the mad, as those He solemnly entrusted with His wisdom as legacy, in other words. Now there’s logic for you.
    In fact, I have not seen any established or reputable textbook of secular history, at the level of secondary education or beyond, which calls Jesus insane.
    I think this situation establishes three hard truths.
    First, the secular mind of fallen man, on its own, refuses to take Jesus seriously.
    Second, the secular mind of fallen man is dishonest.
    Third, the secular mind of fallen man as a result of truth #2 desperately needs the God-Man it doesn’t take seriously.

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