Your Church Doesn’t Need to Be New to Grow.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News about the kingdom, and healing all kinds of diseases and sicknesses. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them because they were hurting and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Jesus said to his followers, “There are many people to harvest but only a few workers to help harvest them. 38 Pray to the Lord, who owns the harvest, that he will send more workers to gather his harvest.” Matt 9:35-48 NCV.
Finally, I use these biblical, ancient roots together with insights and practices from Christian history to constitute the foundation for addressing the third issue faced by today’s church: how do you deliver the authentic faith and great wisdom of the past into the new cultural situation of the twenty-first century? The way into the future, I argue, is not an innovative new start for the church; rather, the road to the future runs through the past.
These three matters—roots, connection, and authenticity in a changing world—will help us to maintain continuity with historic Christianity as the church moves forward. I hope what I cull from the past and then translate and adapt into the present will be beneficial to your ministry in the new cultural situation of our time.
858 The first step towards bringing others to the ways of Christ is for them to see you happy and serene, sure in your advance towards God.
In my “different” (some would say twisted) experience in the church, more than once I have come across those who are focused on Church Growth. Originally, church growth theory came from those who saw abundant numbers of conversions on the mission field, and sought to replicate it now that they were “back home”. Now church growth is more affected by statisticians and pollsters, men who observe and make judgments based on what they see, trying to replicate what worked in Texas in Missouri, or what worked in Atlanta in San Diego and Boston.
And the cry today is not to grow the church because that doesn’t work! The idea today is that new starts, new missions, new ideas make the greatest difference, and therefore deserve the greatest talent and the greatest money.
Churches that are forty years old or older and are in decline? Give up on them, let them die the experts say. We’ve consulted with them, we’ve given them surveys and tests, we’ve tried to transform them, and they continue to dwindle. Just give up on them, merge them into bigger churches, sell their properties and use it to start new churches.
There is a greek technical term that describes such advice, taurus skubala! Translated into English, it is easily seen as bullcrap. ( I would type bullshit, but some people might be offended!)
The reason the experts, the consultants fail to transform churches is simple. They aren’t part of the community. They come in on a wing and a prayer, they don’t understand the dynamic of why God put a congregation in that place, ( see the dedication of the Solomon’s Temple for the reason) they try to create a vision where there already was a vision, where there has always been a vision.
And the community struggles to adopt its new identity. It isn’t them, it isn’t authentic, it’s an act. And sooner or later they give it up, and give up the hope that was given to it! They wander around like sheep without a shepherd, simply following what is in front of them, and the shepherds, tired and weary, plod on after them.
But what if the church went back to what it treasured, and from their roots, used what they treasured in Christ and allowed Him to transform them and the world. That was Webber’s plea, with his Ancient-Future Church series. That is what Escriva considered the Opus Dei – the very work of God.
We can shepherd people toward the God we know, that is our call in a new church plant or in a church that is 1700 years old. It is the work of the 80-year-old retired pastor caring for the inner city church that can’t afford a full-time guy; it’s the work of the 26-year-old, fresh from seminary. It is the work of the lay people, who are shepherded by their pastors and priests. For as we do our job, the people know the happiness and serenity that is found in the presence of God. There, in His glorious presence, they find all they need, and it is contagious.
Bring people to Jesus, show them His way, reveal to them His love through word and sacrament. That is how you apply the Bible to their lives. That is how you give them hope, bring them healing, teach them to love as they are loved.
This is what we’ve always done, though somehow we lost that in doing that. It is the reason for the liturgy, for the praises we sing, for our homilies and sermons, for the sacraments we invite people too, knowing that they can and do experience God as they are washed and absolved and fed. As they have always been. Whether they realised it or not, whether we realized it or not.
As we gather tomorrow, may we shepherd the people to Jesus… may they respond as they find healing, peace and joy, and may others come to see Him as well. AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3040-3041). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on May 6, 2017, in Ancient Future, Devotions, Poiema, The Forge and tagged Church Growth, church planting, consultants, fuller, Jesus, Ministry, presence of god, revitalization, shepherd. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.