Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Church - where to now?

Today [attention] is on church growth on the mega-churches, epitomized by the recent explosion of churches that have more than three thousand members.
All innovation is open to question and different assessments. And the darker side of this innovative genius is the church's proneness to compromise with the spirit of its innovate and adapt for the sake of the gospel...innovation is not a problem. If Christians would use the best fruits of the managerial revolution constructively and critically, accompanied by a parallel reformation of truth and theology, the potential for the gospel would be incalculable.
Whatever criticisms need to be raised, this point is beyond dispute: the church-growth movement is extraordinarily influential and significant... At its best, it should be applauded. Where it is not at its best, it requires criticism so that it might be. The church of Christ concerned for the glory of Christ needs more - not less - of the best of true church growth.
.. the church-growth movement is a grand mixture of things good, bad, and in-between. The good is worthy of praise, ... however, it is not the good, but rather the bad and the in-between, and in particular the range of problems that grow from the movement's uncritical use of such insights and tools of modernity as management and marketing.
.. [Is] the term growth to be understood quantitatively, in terms of size and numbers, or qualitatively, in terms of depth, character, and spirit? .. qualitative growth does not exclude quantifiable growth. Nor does the quantitative growth exhaust qualitative growth.

...[The] church-growth movement has...deficiencies..its theological understanding is often superficial, with almost no element of biblical criticism. As a well-known proponent states, "I don't deal with theology. I'm simply a methodologist" .. But in fact, theology is rarely more than marginal in the church-growth movement and discussion of the traditional marks of the church is virtually nonexistent. Instead, methodology, or technique, is at the center and in control. The result is a methodology only occasionally in search of a theology.
.. the movement relies on a minimal sense of historical awareness. It is particularly unaware of comparisons with earlier periods that could throw light on the possibilities and pitfalls we face today.... earlier 19th century change was not so much from Calvinism to Arminianism as from theology to experience, from truth to technique, from elites to populism, and from an emphasis on "serving God" to an emphasis on "servicing the self" in serving God.

.. [The] church-growth movement has flaws through which the confusions and deficiencies become more serious... it employs an unbalanced application of a biblical principle. Known technically as "contextualization," or more simply as "relevance," this principle is indispensable to communication and obviously rooted in Scripture. The supreme pattern of the contextualization and relevance is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, and such passages as 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 capture its full dynamic perfectly (climaxing in Paul's summary: "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some").

..[Here] is the main doorway to idolatry many in the movement employ an uncritical understanding of modernity and its insights and tools. "Truth is truth," as George Macdonald put it, "whether on the lips of Jesus or Balaam." .. it is amazing to witness the lemming-like rush of church leaders who forget theology in the charge after the latest insights of sociology-regardless of where the ideas come from or where they lead to. Carelessly handled, innovation and adaptation become a form of corruption, capitulation, and idolatry.

..Through these weaknesses and above all through its uncritical use of the "new ground" of modernity, the church-growth movement has the potential to unleash a deadly form of idolatry and practical atheism in the churches. The result would be one more contemporary testament to the extraordinary power of religion that has no need for God.
Critical discernment is essential
. ..If the church makes anything else the principle of its existence, Christians risk living unauthorized lives of faith, exercising unauthorized ministries, and proclaiming an unauthorized gospel.
..It is most dangerous at its best - not its worst - when its benefits and blessings are unarguable. No civilization in history has amplified the temptation of living "by bread alone" with such power and variety and to such effect. In today's convenient, climate-controlled spiritual world created by the managerial and therapeutic revolutions, nothing is easier than living apart from God. Idols are simply the ultimate techniques of human causation and control - without God.
One ..pastor with a 7000 member mega-church expressed the fallacy well: "I must be doing right or things wouldn't be going so well."

If Jesus Christ is true, the church is more than just another human institution. He alone is its head. He is its sole source and single goal. His grace uniquely is its effective principle.
The church of Christ is more than spiritual and theological, but never less. Only when first things are truly first, over even the best and most attractive of second things, will the church be free of idols, free to let God be God, free to be itself, and free to experience the growth that matters.
The problem with this mentality is that quantity does not measure quality. Numbers have little to do with truth, excellence, or character.
[The] exaggerated half-truth about the church's "needing to meet needs" once again breeds unintended consequences. Just as church-growth's modern passion for "relevance" will become its road to irrelevance, so its modern passion for "felt needs" may turn the church into an echo chamber of fashionable needs that drown out the One voice that addresses real human need below all felt needs.
The challenge of modern church growth is the problem of modern discipleship writ large - how to engage in the world freely but faithfully. Clearly, a tough blend of attributes is required: integrity and effectiveness, enterprise with humility, spiritual devotion along with common sense. God is not only against the idolizing of alien gods, God is against His own gifts when idolized. The fate of the tabernacle and the temple are both a warning to mega-churches built not on rock but sand.
From Sounding Out the Idols of Church Growth by Os Guinness


At 8:09 am, Blogger Bene Diction said...


I saw your comments at Signposts and this post here at your blog.

I thought you might want to read this.

Blog on!

At 11:11 am, Blogger Lord Veritas said...

What a brilliant compilation bene diction! A majority of that info I have seen at various places but not all in the one bundle - excellent work. A lot of unsubstantiated claims about alleged purported possible indications of maybe a threat. The whole saga reminds me of the Warnke issue a few years back.


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