Saturday, 3 November 2007

Harvests 2007: my reflections.

On Sunday night I went, along with a couple of CUers to the last night of the harvest outreach event at TSB Bank Area. There events featured a couple of popular Christian bands: the Newsboys and the Katenas, and a message form evangelist Greg Laurie. While a large number of people responded to the alter calls at the end of the events and I believe God was at work, I was nethertheless left with some issues about some aspects of the event.

 My main issue with it was how very “chruchy” it felt. All the music was what would be considered “contemporary worship.” And while the main message delivered by Laurie was amide at non Christians, there was a lot of talk by other people was definitely aimed at the Christians present. While it was the Sunday night, which I understand often has a more "churchy" feel to it at these sorts of events, and the Meany Christians presents were obviously having a good time, I couldn’t help felling that this would feel very strange and in-groupy to any non church goers present, for whom the event was meant to b aimed at. Furthermore, it was also obvious that a large majority of the people present were church goes, maybe as much as 80% or higher.

So where does this leave us? Do we as a church in Wellington know how to reach the people in our city with the gospel in their language? It felt to me that we were try to reach them with our culture. I mean, the main drew card was the Newsboys, who while massive in Christian circles (well, they are a bit past there used by date now, but they are still well known) are unheard-of by theses outside it. If we want to reach the non- church goers in Wellington with the gospel, filling the TSB arena with Christians to listen to the Newsboys play a few of the “church worship” orientated songs is not the best way of doing it. Sure, a lot of people went up at the end, as I praise God for that. But I feel confident to predict that most of them were already church goers. Which, by the way, raises another issue: what are there so many people in Wellington churches feel the need to respond to the message at an event like this? Are there no opportunities in regular church services to do so? Do we even know how to preach the gospel to those going to our churches, or by we need a big American preacher to come and do it for us?

So my challenge to the church in Wellington is this: How are we going to build on the gains of the harvest 2007 event? How are we going to move forward, to reach the people in this city in their language? How can we share the good knows that Jesus died to forgive them of their sin and that he rose on the third day relevant to them?


Lisa said...

Hi Nathan,

That is the most mature reflection I have read yet on Harvest. I think you raise some very good points especially about evangelism as a whole. I very much think it was an 'in' thing and like you I am very concerned about the number of people who felt like they had to go up and 'rededicate' their lives.

Nathanael Baker said...

Hey Nathan

I feel similarly to you on this issue, I personally did not go to the Harvest event for a number of reasons.

1 - I did not think that the message would be relevent to the group that I hang out with

2- I have issues with the "consumer" nature of Harvest. Why does the church in wellington need to fund a evangelist from america to come to New Zealand and minister. We need to learn to equip our church laity to be reaching out, this needs to take on the form of langauge that your typical kiwi understands. This may mean inviting people over for bbqs and just sharing in thier company. It may mean hanging out for coffee with your mates. What it does need to be is regular and often.

3- I have issues with the "if you accept Jesus you will go to heaven message." Not that I don't beleive it, its just it misses so much of the truth of the message. It also leads to consumer christians - christians who beleive becuase they are saved here and now, do not have anything to worry about, they can just sit in thier cushy seats, not really living. God saved us to change us, to shape us for his original calling, problem we are depraved, solution, Jesus died for our sins, we are called to come into 'relationship' with him, called to follow, called to grow in this relationship.

4- I have so so many issues with the number of christians who went to the message beleiving it was "just for them" - Hearing christians go "Oh I love the newsboys, man they are awesome" Man this event was for Gods glory, for using to reach non christians.

5- I have heard personally from the leadership of one suburban wellington church that they were given a list of names from the organizers of people who had committed to Jesus on the evening but when asked if they wanted to be involved in Church many said they didn't. There are real issues with the model that was used - its basically a version of the "bait and switch" You offer salvation, then switch to giving people a role in your church, rather than caring for people constantly, reaching out sharing and living an authentic christian life, them seeing what you have in community and letting them join no matter what thier life looks like and how messed up they are.

6- People don't relate to churchy langauge, or churchy songs - we are speaking in a langauge that people don't understand. We are speaking russian to them and they want clean plain english. We have to learn what it means to share the Gospel in ways that are relevant, otherwise all our hard work dissapears by the wayside, we get burned out and depressed.

Sorry for the long comment.

I ask that you keep seeking out what it means to share the gospel with the lost, and asking these questions, we need people wrestling with these questions, with a heart for the lost, becuase we have a treasure, and we need to share it with the lost

Nathanael Baker said...

This may not be the end of my list, but could we go back, look at the example of Jesus and try and humbly follow the way of the master, please!

Scott said...

Not commenting about harvest in particular, but I find the huge 'come to the front' thing almost R.Catholic in it's sacramental dishing out of grace - like you have to be near the stage to experience God's blessings or something. Bring back justification by faith I say!

Lisa said...

I don't think justification by faith ever disappeared... I just think that it isn't being preached properly.

In essence Scott Justification is the other half of the message about sin. You can't have one without the other.

This ties back to an argument over at frank Ritchies blog over at the moment about Baptism vs the sinners prayer.