I know the western church has many idols, but I am frequently confronted by one which seems to be too easily and uncritically erected where Jesus belongs. That is the idol of church growth. When the bottom line of your church is growth, when your church exists primarily to grow (whether that is through church planting, multiple congregations, multi campuses or multiple services or just a really big auditorium) then it is inevitable that eventually you will find yourself doing what works to promote growth rather than what God is really asking you to do, and by that stage you wont even realise it.
Does the Body of Christ need to go on a diet?
The bottom line of any Christian church should be faithfulness to Jesus. Pastors and the people they lead need to get over the idea that they are here to do something or acheive something for God's benefit. God doesn't need you. The bottom line of church, the sine qua non of Christianity, is not to do something but to be what Christ has made us; is not to acheive something but to receive what Christ has given us. Our focus on technique and "leadership" takes us away from the source, for "neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." Churches that are faithful to being and receiving will likely see growth, but when it happens they will know it is God's work and not their own and they will know that what is being built is a living temple and not a tower of babel that God will have to knock down at some point. Even if they don't see growth they have still fulfilled their purpose, "to declare the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light."
Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.
He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice…
The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.
I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.
One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.
So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…