Pastor's Blog

Being A Member: Growing In Community

Think of the Wegman’s cookie aisle. Varieties of flavors and sizes. Range of prices. The relative health benefit, or negative health impact, of the cookies. But who reads those labels? Some do. Not me. A cookie is a cookie is a cookie. I know what I like and what I don’t. I’m not a child who stalls out in the presence of too many choices. Make the choice and check out. It’s just ... cookies.

Church Growth

Missional. Attractional. CoWo. Multi-site. Mega. Emergent. Diffuse-Cell Network. Radical Plant. Neighbor Friendly. Ancient Orthodox. Sunrise Traditional. The varieties, positives and negatives of church growth are mind-boggling. I will neither criticize nor affirm any particular church growth model in this limited space. Biblically, theologically and ethically they are not all equal. Discernment is needed.

Overwhelmed by the variety of approaches to Church Growth what’s a local church to do? We are not children. Church Growth is not the perfect bowl of porridge. The local church is not Goldilocks simply picking between too little, too much and just right. I suggest going further back up the decision-making trail. We need to make a prior commitment.

Jesus commissioned His apostles to make disciples throughout the world and to the end of the age. His was an open-ended command: “Do this until I return.”

The ultimate cause of growth is the determination of God: “only God ... gives the growth.” (1 Co. 3.7) The sole means of disciple-making is the gospel message of Jesus: “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 3.12)

The New Testament offers different motivations for gospel proclamation: obedience, gratitude, compassion, ambition, love for souls, fear for souls, responsibility, obligation. History reports different rates of growth, from ‘barely’ to ‘robust.’ Not all church growth lasted for multiple generations.

When considering church growth we are not Goldilocks sampling bowls of church growth porridge. Standing solely upon the gospel, we will Biblically and prayerfully determine the strategy we will pursue. But first we must embrace this Biblical truth: God wants His kingdom to grow.

We must want this, too.

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

Being A Member: Do you know Jesus?

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“Do you know Jesus?” A person with a Christian world-view will probably understand the question. For those without a Christian world-view, asking if they “know Jesus” is kind’a like asking Amelia Bedelia to ‘dust the furniture.’

Miss Bedelia is a fictional character from a series of children’s books who takes life literally. She knitted little wool jackets for books. She hosed the ladies at the wedding shower. Amelia Bedelia must be told to “un-dust the furniture” and to "put the wet towels in the laundry and replace them with clean dry ones" rather than ‘dust the furniture’ and ‘change the towels.’

Amelia Bedelia did not lack raw intelligence. Her capacity to process meaning was locked into a very narrow way of thinking.

A “darkened” mind and heart (Ro. 1.21; 1 Co. 2.14; 2 Co. 4.4; Ep. 2.3) does not mean a lack of intelligence. It does mean a view of reality in which all explanations must ultimately satisfy human rational thought and experience. No place for mystery. No place for spirituality. No place for faith, that is, except an ultimate faith in human thought and experience. “I believe ultimately in myself ... because ... well ... what’s the worst that could happen? And besides, I am pretty smart.”

Knowledge about Jesus can be the sketchy memories from early childhood days of being dragged to church by significant people in your life. At that time you absorbed a whiff of ‘Jesus’ the way your clothes absorb smoke by being in place where people smoked.

Knowing about Jesus can be post-doctoral research and writing; dissecting the smallest granular evidence that a person named Jesus existed, or was thought to exist, by some people at some time.

Knowing about Jesus can mean I construct a Jesus in my mind who bears a striking resemblance to how I would like to see myself on my best day: the “Jesus” who is my “best self.”

“Do you know Jesus?” is the question answered only by faith.

The only way to know Jesus is by faith. Knowing Jesus is a spiritual mystery.  It is not a leap of faith into the vague unknown. It is a surrender in faith to Jesus who is ultimately real, yet Jesus who transcends all attempts to ultimately explain Him. Knowing Jesus is both a one-time event and a life-long process; a journey and a relationship; intensely private and experienced in community.

“Do you know Jesus?” is the question answered best by the person following Him in community with others who are following Him in community. Jesus is best experienced ... with others.

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

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