Pop Church Circus (S|R)

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The guys talk about anything and everything as it pertains to church: the primacy of Sunday morning and the preaching of Christ, pastoral care, music, church programs…you name it, it might be in there.

Giveaway: Faith vs Faithfulness

Semper Reformanda Transcripts

Jon Moffitt: It’s good to be with you. Hopefully you enjoyed that podcast. It was something a little bit different—just trying to help people think through. Not only do we want you to think through Christ and pietism, but we also want you to rethink church. In the end, if Theocast does not lead you to fully rest in Christ, and I honestly do not believe that biblically, you can fully do that without being in a local church and cared for by your pastors. You are always going to find that frustration.

I put a video out there the other day that overcoming sin is not the great commission. The conclusion that I made was to overcome sin, or I would say to deal with it consistently, you don’t ever overcome sin—let’s just be frank as we are saints and sinners—that the local body has been commissioned to care for, administrate, and encourage you to continue to fight your sin. This is not done by you being at home, using accountability means like journaling or whatever else you want to put on there. That’s a whole nother conversation for another day.

Gentlemen, I’m going to start this conversation off by poking holes in modern Christian evangelical churches because of one reason. I have so many people in my church that have been exhausted, burnt out, beat up, beat down—use any other kind of a synonym you want to use—by the modern evangelical church. There’s a thing called church hopping. I also think there’s a thing called church escaping, where people barely escape with their spiritual health because they are, I think, being spiritually abused. COVID created an opportunity for a lot of churches, and I have heard from a lot of Reformed churches that their numbers have swollen because modern evangelicalism just beat up people from the pulpit when it related to COVID, when it related to social justice, when it related to racism. People are like, “Can someone just give me the Bible and give me Jesus?” And they walk into a Reformed church and go, “Oh, finally. Finally, someone’s going to care for me, and I’m not going to be beat from the pulpit about what I do and don’t do, who I vote for and who I don’t vote for, and what I have done this last week.

That, to me, is why I think Theocast should exist; it is to encourage those local pastors to encourage these congregants that real Christianity is not what we are seeing today—and I have no problem saying that. God uses the ordinary to advance His kingdom; not the extraordinary. I put this tweet out there. You look at who God chooses to advance the gospel: Peter—coward, Paul—serial killer, Mary—prostitute, Zacchaeus—criminal. He’s grabbing people who, culturally speaking, are not acceptable and they are perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God because they are not there to boast about themselves or the program they have created, dare I say. I can tell you about Jesus, but I can’t tell you about anything else. My life is a disaster, but I can tell you about Jesus who saved me. Zacchaeus robbed people his entire life, but he can tell you about Jesus who saved him. That’s how church should sound but it’s not; it’s programmatic for pure moralism and it’s just deistic moralism.

Justin Perdue: It’s fair to say that it’s the codified life.

Jimmy Buehler: There’s a lot that could be said here. If you attend a big church and they say it’s like your home here or they say, “Welcome home,” or, “You belong here,” and I look around and there are a thousand other people around me. I’m not home. This is nothing like my house. I don’t want to get into the weeds of how big is too big in a church. I guess I would say if your pastor doesn’t know your name, he’s not your pastor. There’s a lot that could be said there. But in a lot of churches today, the main goal is to do what? It’s to on-ramp people so they can serve in various volunteer roles, to get them involved, and keep them on hand. Have you ever stopped in July or August and raised the flag and said, “Is there a reason why our church can never find volunteers for the school year?” Has anyone else ever asked that question? Why is it every July or every August, we’re begging people to volunteer for this ministry. Why don’t the same volunteers come back? I think that there’s something off there that we’re constantly having to man these stations.

I used this illustration with my elders the other day where I said there’s so much you can do in a church. I just know in my household—and Jon and Justin can testify—that there are ways that you can serve your wife, and there are ways that you can serve your wife that she just doesn’t care about. If my wife came home and I had cleaned the garage and organized my tools, and I said, “Babe, look what I did for you.” She’d be like, “Well, thanks. But I never asked for that.” Right.

Jon Moffitt: It’s her birthday and you buy her a vacuum.

Jimmy Buehler: Right. Honestly, in churches, we do these things and it’s like, “Look, Jesus. I did this ministry. We had this initiative. We had this movement.” And I think a lot of times Jesus would say, “Well, thanks. But I never asked you to do those things. I never asked you to clean the garage for me. That wasn’t what I asked you to do.”

Honestly, what I constantly try to point our people to is loving and serving the people around you and trusting the work of Christ on your behalf. That’s really ordinary, and perhaps a little boring, but frankly, in our culture today, we could use a lot of doses of that.

Jon Moffitt: Yeah. Unfortunately, ordinary is the new extraordinary.

Justin Perdue: Sure. It’s not the norm.

I’m listening to you guys talk and I don’t feel especially fired up about this at the moment. So I may be able to just state it in plain terms, which is not always bad. I guess I just continually come back to the main thing that we do as a church, which is this thing we do on Sunday morning, and that’s all about receiving Christ and what he’s done for us. I am under the assumption and understanding that that will drive our love for each other even. To agree with both of you in that regard, we need the Sunday gathering because we forget the gospel all the time. We’ve been beaten to death. One of the reasons that I think I really struggled with the hamster wheel that is church, and this burden upon burden upon burden that’s heaped upon people, is we’ve been beaten to death all week long and I don’t need to come to church to be exhausted.

I had a conversation with a guy yesterday. It was a good conversation. He’s a newer attendee at the church. I don’t need to really disclose a lot about his theological backgrounds. It’s good and interesting. He has walked through the shift that we’ve all walked through, from a Calvinistic-biblicist background, where the language about churches is you’re always showing up to church to serve. You’re showing up to do stuff. Of course we want to show up in love and serve each other—we’ve been saying that—but I think it changes the game when you understand that you’re showing up to church not to do something fundamentally; you’re showing up to church to receive something that you need that only God can give you. I’m not talking about consumeristic nonsense here like showing up to church to consume, consume, consume—cause that’s always demonized. I don’t mean that. I mean show up to church because you realize that you’re a wretch in need of righteousness that you don’t have, and you need Christ, and you need forgiveness and absolution that are only found in him. That’s what unifies you with all of these other people who showed up to church. That will absolutely stir affections for God and each other in a way that’s all kind of fruitful. But when we confuse the main point of Sunday, and when we confuse the mission of the church, we’ve got no shot at getting that right and really seeing that happen.

Jon Moffitt: I think there is a shift happening. I’m excited to be a part of it. I honestly am not interested in modern evangelicalism. I’m not interested in programmatic churches. I am not against children’s ministry, youth ministries—I’m not against any of that. What I’m trying to get to is that when the main focus of the church becomes two things—cultural influence and growth—you have to then do things that are pragmatic, and your focus and intentions change. My encouragement to every congregation that’s listening here is if you’re not being cared for, and you’re not being shepherded, and you’re not being fed, then that’s wrong. You need to evaluate what kind of system you’re a part of. If you’re a pastor and you feel like you’re failing because your church isn’t exploding but you faithfully preach God’s Word, you’re faithfully involved in your people’s lives, and the people are growing further and deeper into Christ and they’re caring for each other, then you are a successful pastor of a growing church. Praise God for you.

Justin Perdue: Amen. I’m going to circle back really quickly to something I said earlier: that the only essential thing that we do at church is the Sunday morning gathering and everything else is a wisdom call. I think that’s incredibly freeing. I don’t know about you guys, but as a pastor, I’ve been a member of various churches of various sizes with various amounts of programs and things going on. I think it’s very easy to assume, as a pastor or a congregant, based upon past experience, that there is some stuff that we just have to do in the church or we’re not really doing church well, or there’s a standard that’s unspoken of that we’ve got to meet.

Whether that’s children’s ministry or whether that’s some kind of mercy ministry thing, or whether that’s a community group structure, all of that could literally go away tomorrow and your church will still be fine if you were showing up together on Sunday to sit under the Word of Christ, come to the Table, and sing and pray. You are doing church. I feel that pressure. Even in our context, I sometimes wonder whether we are doing enough. And then I come to my senses and realize we’re fine. But it’s very easy to fall into that trap. I see it in our people because they have only experienced church one way, and they ask, “Don’t we need to be doing this or that?” And it’s hard to detox from that.

Jimmy Buehler: It really is. It’s a monumental shift. The new people that have come to our church, the people that have not been with us from the beginning, those are the things that they say. They say that there’s a relational closeness there that they have not experienced before.

I will say this: maybe this person exists and I just have not met them yet, but I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody who says, “I want to try out your church because I don’t have enough things to do with my schedule.”

Justin Perdue: Nobody ever says it that way.

Jimmy Buehler: No. I don’t ever want to impugn motives, but when people say, “I’m ready to plug in if you need me anywhere,” I reply, “Well, I just need you to be here. You can stay late and put away the chairs cause they get heavy after a while.”

I remember, Justin, when we were first starting this church, some wisdom you gave me that has kind of stuck with me is that we never want to be married to a program that we have. If it stops “working” or it stops meeting people’s needs, we just don’t do it anymore. It can die and that’s okay. That’s not a sign of failure, it’s just a sign of change. Yeah. We had a bunch of college students for a season and we’re not going to continue college ministry because they’re all away at college.

Justin Perdue: Yeah. We’re not going to force something that we don’t need to do.

Jimmy Buehler: Exactly.

Justin Perdue: I agree. I think that you’ve got to be content as a pastor and as a church, as a congregant too, to see anything but that Sunday morning gathering live and die and rise again, depending on what season of life you’re in as a church, and it’s entirely fine. It sets us free to focus on the main things.

Jon Moffitt: This is a whole other podcast, but I’m going to just drop the introduction here. When you start thinking about the impact of a local community, of a local church of five to 50 people to 250, for example, and then you have multiples of those in communities around the world, when culture crashes… We’re losing battles on every level and we’ve been losing them since the fall of Adam. Adam failed the covenant of works and it has been a landslide. All you have to do is read Genesis 6 to see that God had a landslide proving it. But when everything else fails, if the churches are rightly administering its commission, then it will survive any cultural crash. It will because it has. God’s will prevail and God builds His church upon ordinary means. I want to be a part of a mission that leads the way of going back to what God has called us to do, because I’m telling you, in 10 years, a lot of these churches that are emphasizing all of this stuff, they are going to die out and crash. Look at Rob Bell. Rob Bell’s entire ministry just hit the tank for one reason: he became irrelevant. His whole mission and whole, what he’s doing just became completely irrelevant. And this is what’s going to happen. But God’s word is never irrelevant. And God’s people rightly obeying God’s word will always be relevant. I think we need to take comfort in the fact that for 2000 years, it worked. We need not be enticed by what is popular or what is growing, because that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

Justin Perdue: One of the things we’ll joke about at our church is that we could absolutely have a service if we blew a fuse and the power went out. There’s nothing about our services that we need bells and whistles for. We can straight up do it because all we’re doing is reading the Word, preaching the Word, and praying. We can sing acapella and it’s totally cool. But I think the same is true of the church. If you need the culture and the kind of American, Western sort of trappings that so many churches are built on, if you need that to do church, I think it’s a problem. If you couldn’t do church with all of that stripped from you, which we may be headed that direction. We’re standing in line with saints who have gone before us, who we’re going to quickly understand what it means to be a counter-culture , as the church in this context. Can you do church as a counterculture and not do church as this attractional cool thing to go do on Sunday? I think that’s a question for all of us to ask.

Jimmy Buehler: You might be a consumer-driven Christian if you can’t have church without lights and fog.

Justin Perdue: Or even an amplifier.

Jimmy Buehler: I have this conversation with my high school students all the time. They always want to come to me and say, “Oh, worship was so powerful.” I replied, “No, it wasn’t. It was loud.” I do this thing with them and it drives them crazy: I can play guitar—and not to toot my own horn, but pretty well. All I have to do is the formula. I call it the formula. I turn off the lights in my classroom, then I play a drum app, and then I start playing guitar. And then I just start saying things like, “Some of you kids have been running from the Lord.” And one girl says, “Oh, I just got goosebumps.” See? It’s that easy.

Justin Perdue: Totally on the same lines. One of our elders plays lead guitar a lot on Sunday mornings. We were having a conversation during a music setup a couple of weeks ago. Me and two other people were over here talking and he’s got his guitar out with his pad and all that stuff. We’re just talking about some theological stuff, but he starts doing that very thing, playing straight up altar call music. He’s just doing it while we’re over there talking, and every one of us at some point stopped and looked over at him and laughed. We’re just joking about how incredible the conversation was with that backdrop musically. It’s true.

Jon Moffitt: I think there’s a lot of emotions in Christianity. Here’s a great example of this. I had a man sit across from me visiting my church and what I told him was this: “Brother, I’m going to love you. I’m going to care for you. I’m going to help you find rest.” And the man started weeping. And you know what was powerful for him? He felt loved for the first time in a long time. There are songs we sing that are musically okay, but when you start thinking about the words—”and the crimson blood that covers my sin”—that is my Jesus. I could sing that all day long and I want to go sing it to my congregants.

Anyways, the point of it is I am not anti-emotion. Sometimes people react so far against the modern church, or even the charismatic movement where any kind of emotion within Christianity is wrong, and I’m telling you right now that Peter is probably the most crazy emotional person on the planet when he was a pastor. I can relate to that. In the fundamentalist Baptist churches I grew up in, there were master manipulators of people’s emotions to draw them into decisions about themselves that have nothing to do with scriptural basis.

Justin Perdue: And has nothing to do with Christ.

Jon Moffitt: I hate that we even throw the word “worship” when it comes down to music. Music is a mechanism. Music is designed to do two things: unify voice and direct word. That’s the point of it. And obviously it needs to be for the glory of God and beautiful.

Justin Perdue: These things are not contradictory. We can seek to do things artfully and well, and it need not be about the emotion and the show. Both of those things can be true.

Jon Moffitt: A podcast we are going to do soon is on music. When Jimmy comes back in a few weeks, we’re going to talk about music in the church. All three pastors on here, we’re not ignorant to music. All three of us at some point have been music directors.

Justin Perdue: I still sing every Sunday into a microphone.

Jon Moffitt: So these aren’t guys who are like, “We hate music.” By the way, the guy’s musical preferences on this podcast are far beyond mine. They can run laps around me.

Justin Perdue: Some people say, “I just don’t know that church music is really my vibe.” Homie, I’m with you. It’s not what I play in the truck. I promise you.

Jon Moffitt: We’re going to run this down. We’re running out of time. We all have things and places to go. Jimmy, thank you for taking time with us. Pray for Jimmy. The first few years of a church plant are like scraping sandpaper in your eyes every morning. How long can you endure it? That’s how it feels.

Justin Perdue: Jon, you’re an encourager.

Jon Moffitt: Sometimes someone acknowledging your pain is the most encouragement you can give them.

Thank you for your support. We are excited about the future. We will see you next week.

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