Jeff Christopherson is a missiologist, movement catalyst, and author. He leads Church Planting Canada and Canadian National Baptist Convention and is the founder of Send Network and co-founder of Church Multiplication Institute. He’s authored a new and unique book, “Once You See: Seven Temptations of the Western Church – a Novel.”
ChurchLeaders had the opportunity to interview Christopherson, asking questions about the message of the book and how he hopes it will help pastors and church leaders break away from the status quo and “relearn” an ancient vision for church as laid out in the New Testament.
The choice of a novel is an interesting/unique medium to get your message out to Christian leaders. Why did you choose to go this route?
Many books have already been written on many of these subjects, including several of my own. But somehow, despite the numerous discouraging trends, the status quo seems stubbornly resistant to change.
Taking a page from Jesus’ teaching methodology, I guess I wanted readers to “see” and “feel” the striking difference between approaches—and the consequences of continued allegiance to the status quo. I believe that stories have staying power—they roll around in our brains giving the Holy Spirit opportunity to “change our minds”—which is biblical metanoia/repentance.
Briefly, what are the “Seven Temptations of the Western Church” that you weave into your novel’s storyline?
I would list them as contrasts because the very things that we often celebrate as marks of faithfulness might in reality be the very opposite. Here is what I mean…
- Philosophicalism: “We are a Bible-believing people.”
Kingdom Corrective: Essential to a sincere belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word is an assumption that God calls his disciples to become a Bible-obeying people and not merely intellectual stakeholders of theologically orthodox positions. We understand that true orthodoxy affirms that biblical belief is a verb—doctrines that we humbly live and practice—rather than a noun—theoretical precepts to which we philosophically subscribe. Therefore, we choose to measure spiritual maturity and doctrinal integrity with the benchmarks found in our everyday obedience to God’s Word.
- Professionalism: “We have a gifted pastoral team.”
Kingdom Corrective: The gospel is every disciple’s calling—not just a chosen few. Because of this, we seek to multiply Jesus’ disciples by developing and deploying the body of Christ into a diverse and infinitely reproducible co-vocational mission-force. Therefore, our vocational leaders see their primary assignment as equippers and multipliers of Jesus’ disciple-making insurgency.
- Presentationalism: “Our worship is inspiring, and our preaching is strong.”
Kingdom Corrective: We are the functioning body of Christ in community, not a well-tuned Sunday service. Though we value the weekly gathering of believers for corporate worship and biblical instruction, we also understand that Jesus’ purpose for his body cannot be contained in that hour. Therefore, what we most highly prize, publicly celebrate, and consider as our ultimate act of worship is preparing the entire body of Christ as sacrificial servants for Jesus’ 24-7 mission and his imminent return.
- Passivism: “Everybody is welcome.”
Kingdom Corrective: We actively search for lost sheep—not hope that lost sheep look for us. Therefore, we happily inconvenience our personal comforts and disrupt our religious preferences for the sake of effectively participating in Jesus’ selfless and courageous search and rescue mission.
- Pragmatism: “We are one of the fastest growing churches.”
Kingdom Corrective: The kingdom of God is our only goal, and not the advancement of our individual brand. Because of this, we choose to measure growth in terms of city-wide gospel impact rather than excelling in a competition for an evaporating market share of the evangelically predisposed. Therefore, for the kingdom outcome of gospel proximity, we prefer to selflessly invest in united efforts of gospel collaboration rather than pragmatically contending for our own interests.