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Depending on the wrong thing
Posted by: Charles
Church growth is arguably the biggest single buzzword in the lives of most churches. There is hardly a church that has no declared a commitment to church growth; although that commitment may be expressed in various ways. However, the most disturbing aspect of these commitments is that almost every one is expressed in a manner that ultimately demonstrates a dependence on human endeavour.
For example, many churches say that God alone will grow their church, yet go on to argue that such growth will depend on how much the people pray. Therefore, the amount of prayer from the people will be the effective means for church growth. In this article, six such dependencies will be considered.
Firstly, as has already been mentioned, is a dependence on prayer. While there is no doubt that prayer is vital in the life of the church, it cannot be the sole key to church growth. At best, prayer is only one of twelve (or more) spiritual disciplines, all of which are important in the life of the believer and the church. There appears to be an understanding that argues that if the number of people in the formal, once-a-week prayer meeting can be increased, then the church will grow. It is directly implied that, as long as this single meeting of prayer remains poorly attended, the church cannot and will not grow. This approach has three main weaknesses: the Bible does not support it, it ignores the degree of prayerfulness in the church, and it suggests that increased numbers in one prayer meeting holds the key to growth.
Revival often appears a second dependency for church growth. A large number of churches are searching and waiting for God to send revival. Now, it is true that when God has sent revival, the church has grown; however, it is hard to make a case for revival as the key to church growth. It has to be asked what would happen in a church that, instead of waiting for revival, simply commits itself to living out all the plain direction of the Bible. In too many cases, churches have become passive in their anticipation of revival, while equally passive in a commitment to a committed and genuine Christian lifestyle. If the church were to be honest in response to the critique of Christianity from non-Christians, the recognition of the need for simple change would be immediate. For example, while waiting for revival, how many churches have thought about and responded to the simple material, psychological and social needs of people in their communities? God must send revival and, until he dos, we don╠t care for the widow and the orphan in our midst.
A third dependency, that finds particular prominence in certain theological approaches, is that of the declaration and protection of the truth. It is argued and suggested that the key to growth is to ensure that the truth is never undermined, threatened or questioned. Of course, the immediate challenge is reflected in the simple question, Whose truth? Immediately, the response, from the proponents of this dependency, is that it is obviously biblical truth. Unfortunately, an open-minded study of the history of the church will reveal that those who claimed to hold to the truth, were also people who fought against the abolition of slavery, who supported the apartheid of people and gave it theological credence, and who upheld the cultural and social oppression of women - to name but a few examples. What history teaches us is that those who claim to declare and protect the truth, can never claim to hold to the so-call truth alone. It is more likely that they, together will all believers, hold to some of the truth; but, never all of the truth. Therefore, a commitment to declare and protect the truth is arguably a very poor dependency for church growth.
Leaders may be regarded as a fourth possible dependency. An examination of the attitudes of many church leaders is that if they were really set free to lead, then their churches would grow. There is an approach to leadership that, in reality, comes down to a spiritualised dictatorship. Now, it is important to understand that leadership is fundamental to church life; the real problem is the nature of that leadership. When Jesus washed the disciples╠ feet, he set the ultimate example of servant leadership; when people speak of leaders being the key to church growth, it is doubtful that they are referring to such leadership. When last did a church member truly experience feet washing, literal or figurative, from their local church leaders, be they pastors, elders or deacons? Simply put, it is highly debatable whether church leaders are a valid or legitimate key to church growth.
In contrast to the leaders, others regard the people as key to church growth. In many ways, this is, however, simply a variant on the preceding emphasis on leaders, where leaders place the responsibility for church growth on the people. In essence, this dependency may be expressed in any statement that includes the following, If only the people will..., then the church will grow. In other words, there is a fundamental assumption that the problems with the growth of the church lies with the people, and of they would only be or do something, then growth will follow. Problematic is the underlying understanding that church growth lies in the hands of the people, and is therefore dependent on the people. However, the history of the church has shown how even the most godly of people have not been able to make the church grow; while amazing growth has followed in contexts of lukewarmness.
The sixth and final dependency is that of programmes and programming, built on the understanding that the correct programme will result in church growth. When the correct programme has been implemented and growth does not follow, then it is suggested that the programme was not implemented properly or that there are other unknown problems in the church. The consequence of this approach is very often that pastors and leaders spend their lives chasing after the elusive problem that will work; when growth does not follow, disillusionment and anger can follow. Simply put, there is no programme that is guaranteed to grow any church; while most programmes, that appear to work, only do so in a few select settings.
Every one of the above dependencies is ultimately a human endeavour, couched in spiritual language. While every one of these dependencies have a healthy expression in a local church, not one of them should be depended on for the growth of the church. Rather, it is necessary to realise again that God alone who will build the church; Jesus Christ declared, ¤... I will build my church ...Ë (Matthew 16:18). God alone is to be depended on, when it is our desire to see the church of Christ grow.
Good grief de jong! What are you talking about? Are you then saying that when the church does not grow Jesus is either incapable or unwilling to build?
Does realising then build the church?
I mean what does it mean to say that jesus will build his church? Does it mean that we abdicate responsibility?
Just teasing de jong!!!! Its Townsend writing(your old classroom buddy) and I just wanted to pull your socks :Dreply to this comment