Weekly Thought – March 26, 2019
Fred respected the mission of the church. He refused to join into sarcasm and public criticism. He was not unaware of the soft spots, but he addressed them as a member of the family, not a critic. He was the fourth born child of a Southern Baptist pastor. He saw the gloriousness of the God and the goriness of mankind growing up. However, he always kept his eyes focused on the ultimate nature of the Bride.
Thank you for covering us in prayer. Would you consider joining our prayer network and lifting up Christian higher education month by month? No memberships, no fees, no meetings – just a coming together of men and women whose hearts are attuned to the purposes of Christian education.
The Big Three
Within the life of any church, there are three broad-based umbrella areas speaking to the purpose of the church and the mandate which is drawn from that purpose and vision. 1) The salvation of the lost 2) The maturing of the saints; and 3) The spiritual community and fellowship of believers. All evaluations of a local church’s mission and activities need to proceed from these three fundamentals.
Each local church may put more focus on one or another of these three legs, but they should all be visible. How they weight them will affect their mission statements and strategic planning. For example, a church with the belief its mandate is evangelism will develop tactical action steps turned toward the unsaved. They will develop outreach programs. They will ask questions like: “What actions are we taking to win the lost? What are the specific programs which focus on evangelism? How are organizing and evaluating those programs? How best can we speak to the nonbeliever?”
According to church consultant Lyle Schaller, as much as 85% of “church growth” is actually transfer growth. Sadly, there are churches who wave the banner of evangelism who are really just spiritual poachers, robbing members from other congregations.
The maturing of believers requires its own strategic plan. The first step is to define “mature Christian.” Then the church must look at ways which this can be accomplished. The measurement of maturity isn’t clear cut. Certainly there are Scriptural examples of men and women who follow Biblical principles and help grow others. Leaders must design not only a plan, but an assessment. “Is the congregation growing in grace? What tells us we are stronger followers of Christ? What sermon series helped in the maturation process? How did our other programs point believers to Christ? What are the outward signs of inward change?”
It is too easy to think of fellowship as food and get-togethers. It is easy to confuse social activity for spiritual fellowship. Even small groups are prone to deteriorate into social gatherings without direction and specific goals. The idea of connection and community is central to Scripture, but it is to be focused around the Word and the moving forward in faith. There is nothing wrong with a good casserole and a big piece of pie (I wasn’t known as Fat Fred for nothing!), but it is key to differentiate between Biblical fellowship and just good old down-home socializing. Spiritual fellowship should have elements of accountability, strengthening, and belonging. And most of all, fellowship should be about encouraging one another to strive for Christlikeness.
Finally, it is important to distinguish a program from a mandate. Programs come and go – as they should. Leaders should always be looking at programs in light of the proper relationship to the mandate. If they aren’t pushing the mandate forward, they should be cut.
This week carefully consider: 1) How am I helping my local church clarify and follow the mandate? 2) What do I see as the central focus of my church? 3) Which programs in my church do I find most helpful in my spiritual growth?
Words of Wisdom: “It is important to distinguish a program from the mandate.”
Wisdom from the Word: “When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all the things God had done with them.” (Acts 15:4 NET Bible)