This Should be Interesting:
For about 15 years, I taught a couple of church planting classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity Seminary in Deefield, IL. As a part of one of those classes, I did the following thought experiment with my students.
I begin by telling the class that I don’t believe there is extraterrestrial life on other planets but for the purposes of our little thought experiment they are all Martians. They have visited earth and run into some Christians who tell them that they worship the creator of everything that is seen and unseen. He created this third planet from the sun and he created Mars. The Christians tell the story of redemption to the Martians and then say,
“Everything we do, we do because of what Jesus told us to do before he went back to heaven with the promise that he was coming again to judge the living and dead.”
For the next month, the Martians travel around America and visit Christians. When they come back they tell the Christians that they have figured out what Jesus’ last words, the Great Commission, must have been based on what they have observed Christians doing.
Before I tell you what the class comes up with every year, let’s let this run out for a few days here. What would you say the Martians have concluded after a month of observing the American church?
Weigh in with your own opinion and give your friends (maybe some of your non-Christian friends) this address and ask them to weigh in on the question.
17 thoughts on “Martians Have Visited Earth: What do they think of the Church?”
Afraid to comment first… b/c… answering the question potentially works like a mirror…
Maybe I should start us off. Let’s do it this way. e.g. The Martians say, “he must have said something about building buildings.”
Finish this sentence:
1. “He must have said something about doing events and running programs inside that building.”
2. “He must have said something about …”
I’m shocked. 95 people have seen this post today and only one has commented! I know there is more opinion out there. Give it a try people.
Probably lots of people hesitant to critique Jesus’ bride. You’d probably punch me in the mouth if I said something awful about your wife.
Using my own words to critique my post — ouch. ; )
This can be done without having a critical edge. Give it a try. Maybe saying just one or two lines at a time would be good.
I think the question for the “real” world, outside of seminary students (some I know are in the real world, but I went ot Trinity “later” in life and sat next to alot of young very intelligent academic “boys” who had never been outside of the academic setting or had a real job yet – HS to college to Seminary) see this question and it becomes very self-reflective.
As in, we start wondering, “What am I investing in that is really not the Kingdom of God or the great commission?”
I did that when I read it, that’s why I commented on a “mirror” perspective… I wonder about this a lot… and I am 2nd guessing all the time. Sometimes I just want someone to say, “Hey, it’s all right if you build a building or do the old traditional stuff b/c doing it or not doing it is not the real issue. Love them in it all.”
I admit our church situation in my culture is very hard for me, but I see others who don’t ask these tough questions and just move along with no concern. I’m really struggling between “organic/mechanical” methods and deciding what to invest time and energy in. Sometimes I think the 2nd guessing, though, is just making me always hesitate.
I wish I could say, with passion, “We need to sacrifice to buy a building” b/c I am watching another church plant leader do that and he’s lost half his congregation, but he’s getting the money. And he will buy a building and, yes, in our culture “people will come.” We are a traditional culture and building a building may very well be a way to get people to come and hear the word of God. They will probably come from small churches, maybe even mine b/c I don’t want to go into a 10, 15, or 30 year debt yet. Not sure how much of the gospel we are getting from our churches – bible/church rich, but Gospel poor – “everybody” is a Christian if you ask them.
What is the church doing wrong? What will I do wrong? A lot… that’s all I know… thanks be to Christ… I just pray he gets me through this day to share and live the gospel well…
fear of oversharing….
back to work… 😉
Completely agree with your first paragraph, having had some of the “boys” in my classes.
Let me push you into the head of the Martians. They have no prior knowledge of Christ, the Bible — anything–except the natural revelation that all sentient beings would have. They meet Christians who worship God, tell them the story of redemption and then set out on a quest to find out what Christians do.
How do the Martians describe the Great Commission based on what they observe Christians doing?
I don’t visit a lot of churches, and that is the only “protection” that I will give myself here.
He must have said something about….structure.
It seems to me that every church has the same basic order in which they make a Sunday morning service happen. Music, welcome, more music, offering (often with music), message (hopefully Scripture based), final music, benediction, and finally snacks & coffee.
Even if this example is not what every church does, the point is that the same order happens the next week, and the week after that. Hopefully once a month the church throws a twist at us, adding communion, and/or a special offering of music. Something along those lines. It’s comfortable, easy to do, and has a low amount of pressure. Just a thought….
I cannot resist this question being comic book and sci-fi guy. I think the Martians would say churches did a lot of preaching, but too little dialog. I’ve never been to a church service where there was a question and answer period about what was said. The disciples often asked questions of Jesus about things he had said, like a friend to a friend or a brother to a brother. I myself went to a church regularly up until I was a teenager. The questions that I was thinking were not being answered, so I fell away from the church to seek my answers elsewhere. I didn’t really find those answers until my thirties. What drew me in was radio talk shows in which ordinary people called up with everyday questions. I think the Martians would say we don’t dialog enough.
Do you really think the Martians would have the value of dialog or is this a critique (on target) from within?
Let me suggest to everyone, that MARTIANs would be making observations, not analysis. What would the Martians describe us as doing?
I think the Martians would say that Jesus’s last word were “Make yourself comfortable here while you’re waiting for me to come back to get you. Hang out together and keep yourself apart from those who need Me but might drag you down. Remember, it’s all about you not Me!”
I was thinking this too, but didn’t know how to put it. We try to not have a socio-economic status, and we read James about not favoring the rich, but often the programs and stuff we do does often favor the rich even though we don’t know it.
So yes… I think they would say, “Jesus must have taught them to work hard and be honest and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, helping those with less stuff/money/economic buying power, but not living with those with less; only help them to get up and out of the less situation.”
In other words… I don’t think we preach/teach prosperity gospel (in general) but I think we model it (in general).
Pretty pathetic picture you paint.
He must have said, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me for those who get it exactly right.” That’s the only plausible explanation for the earthling’s various sects and denominations. They don’t seem to like each other very much.
Here is an example of a “socio-economic” divide…
I know those who read have differing opinions on methods and models, so not everyone may support the Willow Creek Leadership Conference. But, as I’ve been before when it was paid for, it was inspiring for leaders, had good global outreach ideas, and had impacted me and encouraged me as a leader.
I would LOVE to take my leadership.
But an individual ticket, just to show up, is $245 or more. That would be 4 leaders, over $1000. As my wife said, “Do you now how many people we can feed or get through another month of being laid off with that?” That is half the cost of my mortgage/rent and half the cost of most of my people’s monthly rent/mortgage.
Maybe I’m just in a different mind set, but that is a huge amount of money for me personally and for our body. We are not lawyers, doctors, etc. I don’t have many college grads even.
I’m grieved I can’t take my leaders. We could benefit together, just from the discussions.
I’m with you. The Martians might look at how we “make disciples” and conclude,
“He must have said something about running lots of conferences and teach people in settings far removed from their local community.”
But let me encourage you brother. The word of God can make you adequate to every task (2 Tim.:16-4:2). Take your leadership, grab the word of God with confidence, and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple for your men. I also would recommend a book like Will Mancini, Church Unique. It is a great resource for shepherds to work through with their leaders.
Slow process (week by week investment in lives) as opposed to fast process (conferences) can be very productive. That isn’t an anti-conference sentence. It’s a hope filled statement of the power of the word.