Sunday, June 14, 2009
A Growing Church - Building People
Church Growth and Health
Written January 10, 2007
The church growth movement defines the mission as proclaiming Christ so as to persuade men and women to become his diciples and members of his church. Many view the mission as simply proclamation. In other words, when the church has proclaimed Christ, it has fulfilled its mission regardless of the results. The church growth movement maintains that seeing results, that is, proclaiming so as the persuade is crucial. How much responsiblity should the church take for the results of its proclamation?
The author, Donald A. McGavran in his book, Understanding Chruch Growth, states, "When existing Christians, marching obediently under the Lord's command and filled with his compassion, fold in the wanderers and feed the flock, then churches mutiply; but when they indolently permit men and women who have made costly decisions for Christ to drift back into the world, then indeed churches do not grow. Faithfulness in proclamation and finding is not enough. There must be faithful aftercare. Among the found, there must be fidelity in feeding on the word. quality goes hand in hand with quantity." (p. 6) This statement sums up the entire purpose of the body of Christ. There has to be a balance. While some may see "only" numbers, it does no good if the individuals only line a marginal Christian life and/or return back into the world. In a chart enclosed in t his book, it shows an outline of the world. It sates that 30% of the world is Christians. In that 30%, only 200 million are commited Christians, but 979 million are nominal Christians needing to be evangelized and renewed (Mc Gavran, p. 49). This statistic gives evidence that while the numbers were gathered, there also needs to be teaching and equipping for the mission, which was set by God.
It is also important that the church not be satisfied with the giving of the message "only". A better understanding of the mission is need to ensure that men and women are effective at what we are to do. A good illustration of that is given in the book, Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies, by Gailyn Van Rheenen, which states, "God orginated the mission - reconciliation between himself and his fallen creation, Jesus enacted the mission - (my input - he did more than give the mesage, he became the message when he died for sinful man), Holy Spirit gives power to the mission, the church carries the mission and the world hears (receives) the mission" (14-18). This important reminder is that God calls for the church to carry his mission and it cannot be aborted or ignored. This also reminds us that God's mission is more than the world hearing, but the mission, "therefore, is the work of God in reconciling sinful humankind to himself...missions is the plans of committed believers to accomplish the mission of God." (Van Rheenen, 20).
Then, how much responsiblity should the church take in terms of her proclamation? There is great responsiblity. In one of the online readings, there was a short statement, but it carries a great truth, "healthy churches grow." There should be growing both in number and in spiritual character and maturity. Jesus as our example showed us how we as individuals withing the body should look. Jesus did not call everyone, but he called a few to come and walk with him (the twelve). His purpose was to train them, teach them by his example, and allow a close one-on-one relationship to grow. He also hada result in mind. That result was to equip these twelve to go and od the same, reach others. Yet, there is another part of this message, and that is that we should continue the process. When we have taught the few who are close to us, we are to repeat the process again and again. If everyone is doing this, what growth we would see both in number and in the maturity level of equipped believers ready to go into the white fields ready for harvesting (this also shows us that the responsiblity is not just the pastor's, but the responsiblity of every believer). The scripture uses an example of how important the individual is with the story of the shepherd that was ready to leave the ninety-nine sheep to gather the one. This shows how important it is to God that we mentor those in our care. He places great importance on our service, indeed.
I end with this quote written by Robert E. Coleman, from his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, "Everything should be leading these chosen men and women to the day when they will assume by themselves a ministry to their own sphere of influence. As that time approaches each one should be well along in a training program with those won to Christ by his or her witness or who have been assigned to him or her for follow-up...We are not living primarily for the present. Our satisfaction is in knowing that in generations to come our witness for Christ will still be bearing fruit through them in an ever-widening cycle of reproduction to the ends of the earth and unto the end of time" (114-116). The body of believers (the church) must have a great desire to see men and women saved and equipped for service. We must "reach" and "teach" so that these new believers are able to do the same. When we do this, we have a futuristic outlook and not on the here and now. We look to see the fulfillment of the great commission that men and women would be saved.
Assignment #5 Book Reflections of "Death of the Church"
Church Growth and Health
The book, Death of the Church by Mike Regele was a hard read. However, the information contained within the pages was such that it makes you think. One of the first quotes of interest is "Simply, we can die because of our hidebound resistance to change, or we can die in order to live." (19). Regele was making this statement to stay that the churchmust decide if it is going to die to it's traditions so that it can live to give the message in today's society or if the local churches refuse to die, they will suffer death eventually anyway because they will lose their importance to the people.
Regele also states, "And where is the church in all of this? It is simply one more of the many alternatives reality constructions available in the marketplace of beliefs, which is why it resorts increasingly to marketing techinques. It has no premier position...The church's message is simply one more voice in the cacaphony of created realities competing to attract a following. This will not change. It is in engaging what this means that the church again comes face-to-face with its own death. However, it is also in this place of death that its greatest opportunity dwells, and nowhere else" (80).
Regele states that the church has lost its place of honor and now has become one of many voices in a choice of alternatives for individuals. Because of this, many churches result to looking for marketing plans, without realizing those things are only band-aids to something greater.
Regele uses the wording that the church must die to live several times, and it also brings you to the thought of the individuals within the church. You and I must be willing to die to what our expectations are for "our churches" and allow what God wants to live to be birth into our hearts. The church, the Bride of Christ will forever be it is the local congregations that must look to see how they can be vital in today's world. One last point I would like to make is this, no matter how much we change in our world the message of God is still fresh and needed for the people. We cannot change the church in such a way that it is not giving "TRUTH". If truth is changed for the sake of change, we are no longer the church, but a gathering of people as the author says, our stories becomes just another story in the sea of stories. When in fact our story, or better yet, God's story is unique through all times.