Some churches are seeker-driven. A growing number are purpose-driven. But one church in Denver, Colorado has positioned itself as jaded-driven. Dave Terpstra, teaching pastor of The Next Level Church, shares how his own disillusionment with ministry made him question the wisdom of targeting the unchurched rather than pursuing the increasing number of church dropouts, like himself, filling our culture.
C.S. Lewis once said, "One courts a virgin differently than a divorc?," (or something along these lines; I've had trouble tracking the exact quote). Even back in the mid 20th century, Lewis recognized that reaching people with a jaded perspective of the church (divorc?s) would require a different strategy than reaching those without any church experience to begin with (virgins).
Certainly there are still some in our culture who are "church virgins," but it seems increasingly more common to find people who have had some church experience or interaction with the Christian sub-culture that has left them jaded. The dominance of Christian media, marketing, and political influence in recent years has only increased this likelihood.
By now we're all familiar with Willow Creek's mission statement: "to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ." Clearly, they are trying to reach the irreligious church virgins. The question is, how long before there is no one left who is "irreligious" or "unchurched"? I'm not suggesting that every American is actually religious and churched. Instead, I'm suggesting that whether they have attended a church or not, most Americans have formed an opinion about Christianity, and are far more jaded toward the church than we might want to admit.
So, is it wise to continue wandering the countryside in search of the increasingly rare church virgin, or should we be finding strategies to reach the herds of church divorc?s roaming our culture? At The Next Level Church we have chosen to go after those who are jaded, not only because of their number, but because most of us in leadership were in that place not too long ago.
During my first year at seminary, I successfully blew up two youth groups. I couldn't get along with the pastors of the churches I was serving, and it was messy. I can't in a few words describe my pain and shame about those failures. Despite bearing some of the responsibility myself, the experience left me with a jaded perspective of the church and its leaders. Deciding to leave the church altogether, a mentor and friend recommended that I attend a church instead of work at one. He connected me with TNL (The Next Level Church).
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