I’m concerned about a book about the church that uses the word enterprise in the title, a word borrowed from business. But I sure want to reach the unchurched. Thus I read The Jesus Enterprise: Engaging Culture to Reach the Unchurched (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004), by Kent R. Hunter. Here are some quotes from the book that caught my attention:
Landa Cope, in her excellent book Clearly Communicating Christ, says it this way:
[A] dynamic aspect of [Jesus’] communication was His servant
At some point in history the Church forgot this. We became focused on
our message rather than on serving our audience. The burning question wasn’t,
“Where are people hurting? How can we apply the Gospel to meet those needs?”
Instead it became, “Are we being faithful to Scripture? Is that the exact
meaning of those words? Are we communicating in balance with the whole of the
…Jesus didn’t come to defend the message. The message of God’s
eternal truth is just fine, thank you. It stood before the creation of the
earth, and it will stand when all heaven and earth have passed away (Matthew
24:35). It’s people who are in danger! God so loved the world.
[The gospel is not simply about meeting my felt needs. Sometimes Jesus
gives me needs I never had until Jesus met me!]
…When asked why they return to a church they visited, most people respond that they did so because it was a friendly church and the worship services seemed relevant.
…On the front end, they are more interested in knowing if Christianity
works. In other words, they want to know if God makes a difference in your life.
[Friendliness? A faith that works? Is this all that Jesus
Christ is Lord means?]
An enterprise ministry can be
defined as: identifying and meeting felt needs in the culture, genuinely caring
for others, building relationship bridges, and communicating the gospel in a
[Sometimes the gospel sounds as if it is ‘irrelevant’ when it is simply
true. We live in a culture of deceit so sometimes we don’t know what’s
‘relevant’ until the gospel tells us. We are not the ones to judge what our real
needs are or what’s truly ‘relevant’ to our lives. That’s God’s business.]
Is it just me? I find all of these statements extremely problematic in the light of the biblical witness. True, I’ve taken these out of context but they seem to me to be dangerously, exasperatingly out of touch with the Christian faith. We are to reach people, not just in order to sign the up for our volunteer organization, but we reach people in the name of Christ, reaching them to be part of a countercultural, divinely initiated community called church. The purpose of the church is not friendliness, or meeting my needs, the church is not a means of getting what I want but Gods appointed, created means of getting what God wants.
The church is God’s enterprise, if you must use that language. It is not the result of our savvy communicative technique but a work of a triune God who is determined to have a people.
William H. Willimon