The Culture Around Your Church Determines How Best to Reach It

Emotional Relevance

A second principle behind contagious Christianity is emotional relevance.   The European Enlightenment taught that we human beings are unique creatures because we are rational creatures: while we still experience the emotions that we have inherited from our primitive forbears; education has come to lift us into the life of the mind.  With the fading of the Enlightenment, and the rise of postmodernity, it is becoming apparent that the Enlightenment was wrong by almost 180 degrees.  We are not basically rational creatures who sometimes feel; we are basically emotional creatures who sometimes think.  (Even what we think about is influenced by our background emotional state, and how we think about it is influenced by our feelings at the time.)

This discovery is more-or-less a re-discovery.  Even in the eighteenth century, when the Enlightenment’s onslaught seemed unstoppable, the romantics found ways to speak to, and awaken, the heart—through poetry, fiction, art, and music.  In that same century, Jonathan Edwards reflected upon the indispensable role of “religious affections” in Christian experience, and John Wesley defined Christianity as, substantially, a “religion of the heart.”

Today, we need a fuller recovery of a more holistic understanding of human nature, in part because many people in our communities are fighting an emotional war within, and they are being gradually destroyed by emotional forces—like pride, fear, sadness, anger, hate, jealousy, low self-esteem, and other feelings surging within them that are hijacking their lives.  Furthermore, authentic Christian conversion involves emotional healing, as well as deliverance from a destructive emotional world into the new emotional world of the Kingdom of God, in which such emotions as gratitude, love, humility, peace, healthy self-esteem, and joy enter the convert’s experience.

Effective churches begin where people are, including their emotional struggles and their aspirations for emotional freedom.  Teaching, counseling, preaching, liturgy, evangelism, and other ministries are expressed with emotional sensitivity and relevance.  Today, as the recovery ministries of many churches are learning to engage the emotional baggage that attaches to addiction, they are learning to minister to everyone with emotional relevance.

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George Hunter

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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