Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Ends, the Means In marketing America, we usually think we can justify anything by the results. The means don't seem to matter. It's bottom line, baby. That is not the Way of Christ. He would take no short cuts. He wouldn't jump off the temple even if people would be impressed. So we find ourselves caught between these two ways: the way of our culture (where the ends justifies the means) and the Way of Christ. I often hear people talk about what's happening at some church and the ultimate justification is "they must be doing something right" -- because of attendance, baptisms, etc. But I never find things like that as criteria of faithfulness in scripture. Or I hear people from Christian colleges justifying anything by saying, "Hey, we're building dorms . . . enrollment's increasing . . . we're having to turn people down . . . we must be doing something right." Following Jesus means pursuing the right ends by the right means. What we don't like is that the right means is often unpopular, difficult, and slow. Painfully slow.

16 Comments:

  • Mike,

    I'm sorry if this is not directly related to your post, but I thought it was relevant to many of the topics that are discussed on this blog. I share your affinity for Nicolas Kristof of the NY Times, but I think I enjoy reading David Brooks from the Times just as much. Here is a link to his editorial today detailing the prospective coalition that could form among social liberals and evangelicals to fight poverty in America and across the globe.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/26/opinion/26brooks.html?hp&oref=login

    By Blogger Justin, at 5/26/2005 04:54:00 AM  

  • "What we don't like is that the right means is often unpopular, difficult, and slow. Painfully slow."

    But slowly is how growth happens, right? Sure, we can use means that will give the impression of quick growth...when we peddle prosperity-based, impersonal, undemanding, painfree spirituality, then sure many members of our shallow, consumer-oriented society are going to want a part of it.

    It's when we begin to communicate the gospel of servanthood, of taking up our crosses, of forgiveness and confrontation and accountability, of dying to ourselves...then we begin to see what a long process our journey to the heart of Christ might be.

    By Blogger Neal W., at 5/26/2005 05:33:00 AM  

  • "Amen!" to Mike & Neal.

    By Blogger James, at 5/26/2005 06:14:00 AM  

  • Growth is so deceiving. I know of churches in some suburban areas in the south that have grown from 50 to 300 in the past 10 years and they talk about the great things God has done (not to say that God is not working in their situation. Yet, their area grew from 100,000 to 300,000. They primarily grew from transplants and not new converts. It seems more like opening up a franchise.

    The excitement and atmosphere of opening a franchise is different than starting a new plant. I experienced this when I was working in the DC area several years ago and worshipped with Journey's Crossing (ilovethischurch.com).

    Church growth is contextual. Numbers are so deceiving.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 5/26/2005 06:16:00 AM  

  • I posted something similar to this on my blog. It summarizes my thoughts on the relationship between church and culture, how growth happens, and what "church planting" has really become in North America.

    http://harvestboston.blogspot.com

    Steve

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 5/26/2005 06:26:00 AM  

  • I enjoy those church job postings that are seeking an "Evangelist." And they always put the tagline in their ad: "Wanting a man that has a good track record (successful) at winning souls." Bottom line, baby!

    By Blogger c, at 5/26/2005 06:48:00 AM  

  • Please, please take the time to click on the link Justin gave us (in today's first comment). It is an INCREDIBLE editorial in the NY Times this morning.

    It says so much of what I believe. I'm so tired of being represented by culture-war people who lead parachurch ministries. So tired of the news holding up all the aging parachurch men who are mad about federal judges, mad at the senators who finally decided to get along, etc. These are NOT the people who represent my values.

    The editorial points instead to people like Rick Warren, who has helped initiate a plan to address world hunger and poverty. Read it with some hope!

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/26/2005 06:52:00 AM  

  • Great article! Very hopeful! Many evangelical groups are being defined by the media (some probably deserve it). There are mega churches and evangelical groups that have a history of serving the poor around the world. Second Baptist in Houston is one such mega church. Life Outreach and Feed the Children are two such groups. Look at their 990's and it is amazing how much they have done to help the poor world wide.

    Why should fighting the culture war and fighting poverty around the world be mutually exclusive? Maybe it is the way the culture war is being fought?

    "Alacrity," I must look that one up!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 5/26/2005 07:16:00 AM  

  • I'm inclined to agree with David. Could it be that this "new" outreach by evangelicals is a result of the vocal and at times, pushy work of the parachurch organization? So then the explorers/discoverers, (the parachurch groups) are followed by the settlers/pioneers (the "new" evangelical outreach)- and doesn't God use both groups to work within His plan and will?

    I truly believe it isn't an either/or situation. What Paul wrote, "...that the gospel be preached..." seems applicable here, imho.

    btw-there are voices on both sides that absolutely aggravate my sensitive ears. How dare they be so noisy!!! LOL

    By Blogger Kathy, at 5/26/2005 08:26:00 AM  

  • Mike- appreciate the distinction on means and ends. Reminds me of a front cover spread that BusinessWeek did 2 weeks ago on Evangelicals powerful "use" of marketing. Fascinating spread...but read on an empty stomach. It should also give us humility and discernment as we look to participate in authentic incarnational ministry. Many faith communities might look very alike from the "outside looking in". However, the motives and reasons for some of the very same things might be in different universes!
    For example, how a community uses a facility, decides what to do in its community worship, or even yoga classes can be done for all the best or worst of reasons/motives. Again, all motives are tainted, but that is no excuse for us to not pursue being theologically driven in our life and ministry. My guess is God does more work of spiritual formation as we sort out the motives of means than ends anyway huh. Thanks for the challenge!

    By Blogger Ken Haynes, at 5/26/2005 08:35:00 AM  

  • Wow, we just missed a great opportunity! We could have celebrated Pentecost with a, a, let's see; we could call it ... "Fifty Days of Fire!" Yeah! Rent a big stadium, invite all kinds of people who speak all kinds of languages, hire lots of translators, get a hot tub sponsor to provide baptistries, sell tee-shirts and Holy Cola, have a communion picnic ....

    That kind of thinking doesn't quite jibe with Solomon, does it?

    "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1a)

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 5/26/2005 01:41:00 PM  

  • Neal said: "But slowly is how growth happens, right?"

    I'm not sure I agree with this. 3,000 one day -- 4,000 another day. The early church exploded with growth. Maybe that's not normal, but it happens.

    And the whole "we're not into numbers" idea needs to take a step back and realize that numbers are important to God because these are real people we're talking about. How do we know there were 3,000 that day? Someone had to count them. Obviously, the early church was at least to some extent "into numbers".

    I happen to work with several really large churches (some of them even get written up in magazines sometimes). These churches are strategic and smart, AND they care about people.

    It's easy to make this an either/or argument and paint all those mega-churches with a really broad stroke. But that's not fair, and it's not really helpful or healthy either.

    By Blogger john alan turner, at 5/26/2005 06:33:00 PM  

  • Ditto to John Alan Turner. There's the story in Mark 1 where Jesus had a day in which he drove out evil spirits, healed the sick and cured the diseased. He got up early the next morning, got alone with God, and spent time praying. Simon and the boys found him and said, "Everyone is looking for you." You know why? They wanted more healings, more curings, and more exorcisms. To that cry, Jesus gives one of the most shocking and defining statements of his ministry: "Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. that is why I have come." Does Jesus not care about justice? The hurting? The diseased? The impoverished? Of course. But He sees the bigger issue. As someone once put it: "If an alcoholic quits drinking but doesn't surrender to Christ, he'll just go to hell sober." The bigger issue is not crying for justice in a fallen world. The bigger issue is God's justice satisfied on the cross. The cross defines the justice we seek, does it not?

    steve

    By Blogger Mr. Incredible, at 5/26/2005 07:00:00 PM  

  • Dear Mike,

    I came across your blog today, and I just wanted to drop you a line. I THINK I used to use your books when I was a kid in church in Tennessee! We did several of them as I recall. Anyway, just wanted to drop you a line to say hello and that I've enjoyed reading your blog.

    Nancy

    By Blogger Nancy, at 5/27/2005 10:13:00 AM  

  • That is, I KNOW that we used books by Mike Cope.... I just an unsure if you are the same Mike.

    :)

    By Blogger Nancy, at 5/27/2005 10:14:00 AM  

  • Means and Ends of Christ in War?

    Kind of makes you wonder if a Christian can so easily pull the trigger in war???

    By Blogger Chris Ewing, at 5/28/2005 06:06:00 AM  

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