Summary: This sermon is based on the book by Robert Schnase, focusing on the second chapter - Intentional Faith Development.

Philippians 2:1-5 NIV

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Intentional Faith Development

The Box (A box addressed to me with danger stickers all over it... what’s inside... the bible!)

Dangerous when opened

A young woman pulls into the church parking lot just before the session begins. She’s running a little late. Her son carries his schoolbooks into the church building. He’ll be doing homework while Mom does her “Bible thing.” She slips into the room as the video begins. She and a friend had signed up for this, deciding to “just do it” after years of wanting to study the Bible. She didn’t really know anyone in the class but she was amazed at how much she has learned from them as they’ve shared their thoughts about faith and God and Scripture and at how much she’s come to care for them.

Every day for the past week, she has spent time reading Scripture, sometimes lost in the archaic practices and customs and confused by the stories and characters. She wasn’t sure she had time for this kind of study, and sometimes even now she things she’s wasting her time. Then the leader talks about Moses’ call – the bush, the fear and humility, and the excuses given to avoid doing what God asks. Her stomach tightens as she hears people tell about times they’ve felt called by God. She looks at her own notes from her reading through the week and sees the questions she wrote: “How does God call people? Sometimes I feel called, but I’ve never heard voices or seen burning bushes. Am I being called?” She shares her questions with others and discovers that they wrestle with the same thoughts. That evening, after she drives home with her son, she finds herself praying and asking, “What would you have me do, Lord?’

Why does it matter?

Willow Creek Community Church located in suburban Chicago has become one of the most influential evangelical churches in America. Giving birth to the “seeker-sensitive” church model with its emphasis on attracting large numbers, it has helped shape the ecclesiology of a generation of pastors and church leaders. Willow Creek has also been the recipient of much criticism from many fellow evangelical leaders. Critics argue that the “seeker-sensitive” approach has produced the proverbial church that is “a mile wide and inch deep” referring to its lack of spiritual and theological depth. I tend to agree with this criticism.

Of course, this criticism requires some qualification. The phrase “a mile wide” implies that despite any other shortcomings the Church is still growing, when according to the American Religious Identity Survey; Christianity is actually shrinking in America and regardless of the numbers, there is no question that Christianity no longer exerts the same influence on culture that it once did. Furthermore, while mega-churches appear to be popping up on every corner, smaller churches are closing in record numbers. It could be argued that the mega-church rather bringing more people into the Kingdom is really only driving smaller churches “out of business” and consolidating Christian “consumers” in much the same way that Wal-Mart impacted small businesses.

Recently, Willow Creek published the results of their 2004 congregational survey entitled, Reveal: Where are You? The surprising results required the study’s authors, including executive pastor Greg Hawkins, to tell senior pastor Bill Hybels that “the church isn’t as effective as we’d thought.” In the Forward to the report, Bill Hybels makes an astonishing [and I think humble] admission, “…parts of the research did not shine brightly on our church. Among the findings, nearly one out of every four people at Willow Creek were stalled in their spiritual growth or dissatisfied with the church—and many of them were considering leaving.”

The Challenge

Intentional Faith Development.

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