We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Measure of Church Health - Seven

In a recent posting entitled, "Eight Diagnostic Questions for a Church's Health," Dr. Chuck Lawless of the Billy Graham School of Missions & Evangelism lays down what amounts to a set of standards by which churches can measure themselves.  If they measure up to the standards, they are healthy. Sixth on his list of questions is:
"Does the church have a strategic plan for future growth? One reason the Enemy so readily succeeds in attacking churches is because he is often a better planner (Eph. 6:11) than most church leaders are. He methodically and strategically attacks the church while most churches operate from Sunday to Sunday. We are not prepared for his attacks. In the same way, most churches would not be prepared for significant growth if God were to grant it. What would the church do if God sent a genuine awakening? Does the church have a vision around which their plans-including facility, staffing, and programming-are developed?"
Once again, I don't want to get lost in a contrarian critique of Lawless' dualistic spiritual warfare perspective.  There is a more important point here, and we should read "through" the devil stuff to it.  The question for mainline churches is whether or not they pursue an agenda that will lead to the "genuine awakening" envisioned by Lawless.  I've already made the point in previous postings in this series that mainline churches need to work on such things as faith-development and faith-sharing.  We need to balance our enviable record in social outreach with an increased emphasis on teaching, practicing, and sharing spiritually—the life of faith.  We need to promote a healthy, vital small group life in our churches, one that will encourage members to share in deeper relationships built on their shared faith in Christ.  Thus, the pressing questions for us are these: are working on developing a deeper faith in our congregation?  Are we prepared for the possibility that the Spirit might superintend efforts in that direction?  Do we have a vision for growing in faith?  Are we pursuing it?  Are we ready for it to make a difference in the life of the church?  These are the questions for us today.