Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Monday, September 18, 2006

growing in christ

There's quite a discussion going on in the Methodist blogosphere.

It all started nearly a month ago when fundamentalist megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll posted a rant about his perception of the mainline churches. In short, Driscoll thinks all mainline Christians are liberal pagan potheads who deny the deity of Christ, and even go so far as to (gasp!) ordain women to the ministry.

The discussion began when Beth Quick posted her thoughts about Driscoll's assumption that church success should be measured in terms of church growth. Jason Woolever objected to Driscoll's stereotyping of the mainline.

John Battern weighed in with his own assessment of Driscoll's post. Then John the Methodist added his thoughts about the decline of the mainline and the role of bad theology in that decline.

Then Joel at connexions offered a definition of liberal theology, so people on both sides of the discussion can use the same terms. PamBG added her voice, noting that it is possible to be "liberal in process and orthodox in doctrine."

But I want to touch on Beth Quick's original point: The church's success cannot be measured solely by the numbers. There's a danger in the 21st century USA to measure church by our culture's secular standards. Those standards, which include growth at any cost, are no doubt one of the factors that have led to the rise of the megachurches. But is this a biblical measure of success?

To be sure, we see in the beginning of Acts the nascent church of 120 adding 3000 members at Pentecost. But after that, what do we know about the church's growth? Certainly Acts describes a church that continues to grow as new congregations are added throughout the known world. But exact numbers aren't given again.

Paul's letters -- and the other NT letters, for that matter -- have a lot of advice for churches on resolving problems within the congregation, on settling doctrinal disputes, on Christology, on pastoral matters. But do they give a prescription for church growth?

Perhaps the size of the church should be considered less important than the commitment of church members. What if our churches did everything they could to get every member involved in ministry? It seems to me that if every church member were encouraged to put his or her spiritual gifts into practice, we'd be a lot closer to fulfulling Jesus's vision of the Kingdom of God on earth. As a byproduct, we'd probably see church growth, too.

But if numbers are the most important measure, the church will face the temptation to cut corners, water down the teachings, and ignore spiritual growth. Increased discipleship is not a natural byproduct of large congregations.

There's a story about an old abbey that had once had a thriving monastic community but had now been reduced to five monks. The abbot, seeking guidance, went to a rabbi to ask for advice. The rabbi didn't have any advice except for one cryptic sentence: "One of you is the Messiah." The five monks each pondered what this could mean, wondering which of them was the Messiah. Each faced the possibility that he himself might be the one. Without knowing which one the rabbi meant, the monks began giving each other extra respect. And as visitors came to the abbey, they saw the change in the community. Slowly, younger members began to join and the abbey was once again a thriving community.

Isn't that what the church ought to be?



At 9/19/2006 11:02 PM, Blogger Art said...

Amen. Good post!

At 10/04/2006 2:41 PM, Anonymous luthsem said...

Here's my rant on Driscoll


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home