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Lowering the Bar or Extending God’s Grace?

As a former Catholic, you can tell a lot about the direction of a church based it’s leadership.  Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is now calling for priests to forgive any woman who has terminated a pregnancy.  During a recent interview on cable news, a member of a local archdiocese summarized this theological change.  In the past, female Catholics who had an abortion were excommunicated from the church, viewing this act of killing an innocent life.  Today, Pope Francis wants to focus on love and forgiveness by extending grace to those who have fallen short of God’s glory.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

When I heard excerpts of this interview, I wasn’t sure what to think.  However, now that I have had time to digest this new stance, there are two possible explanations.  First, the church is lowering the bar by altering the expectations of what it means to be a modern day Christian.  Just as public education has changed the standards for a passing grade, clergy is now more accepting.  As godliness diminishes within society it’s hard to find willing servants of Jesus.  Thus, many churches are being forced to overlook past transgressions to fill half empty buildings and worship services.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace, Romans 11:6.

The other logical explanation is a shift from an Old Testament view of God’s wrath and judgment toward a New Testament approach based upon the love of Jesus.  This theological position points to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  God is already working in the lives of the righteous according to Matthew 9:9-13.  It’s the rebellious, lost and those wandering in the dark who need help.  Instead of emphasizing church growth, pastors have become more evangelistic to reach out to a generation of people who have not grown up in the church.  Depending upon your theological beliefs, you may lean toward one of these two positions.  Nonetheless, the church is suppose to be the hands and feet of Christ, like a beacon of light piercing into the darkness of a spiritually dead and dying world.

by Jay Mankus

Spicing Up Church

Church history tends to go in cycles with one generation often forgetting the mistakes of the past.  Church growth experts substitute previously failed measures with cutting edge facilities, programs and technology.  Thus, if you attend modern church services you will find many replicate a concert with loud music, some sort of light show and overhead projectors that replace hymnals.  Only time will tell if spicing up church is successful.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13.

My spiritual background is a like a blended family.  I grew up in the Roman Catholic church, attending CCD until my confirmation.  While in high school, I began to attend a Methodist youth group.  During my college years I spent time at Baptist, Pentecostal and Non-denomination congregations before graduating.  Six months later I participated in a Lutheran dominated Youth Ministry Trade School.  I could go on, but for me the only thing that spices up church is developing permanent meaningful lasting relationships.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, James 5:16.

I can recall one night walking for miles, spending several hours pouring out my heart to close friends Dave and Liz.  The earthly brother of Jesus is correct when he states publicly confessing your sins leads to healing.  In fact, a teenager in England ignited the second great awakening by asking his congregation for forgiveness, revealing his deep and dark sins.  Perhaps, if the leaders of modern churches begin to practice the biblical principles which led to previous spiritual awakenings, communities would notice what it means to spice up the church.

by Jay Mankus

 

Genuine Spiritual Growth

There is a fine line between learning and teaching.  Sometimes a speaker can be entertaining without conveying any true substance.  Others may communicate a wealth of knowledge, yet do so in a dry and boring manner.  Based upon biblical accounts, genuine spiritual growth occurs when the Holy Spirit moves individuals to preach about the resurrection of Jesus.

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this, Acts 3:15.

Today, church growth is inflated as crowds flock to the most popular worship center until something more flashy, hip or trendy comes along.  Thus, as one congregation takes on the unhappy from another church, the numbers are like a shadow game, staying the same despite the appearance of growth.  Under pressure to perform, the leaders may compromise, lower their standards or water down their message to keep their critics happy.

But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand, Acts 4:4.

Although there are several good books and resources on the subject of church growth, history reveals 3 essential ingredients which inspired individuals to embrace faith.  First, a commitment to prayer church wide sets the stage for spiritual revival, Acts 2:42.  Second, accountability and fellowship produces intimate relationships, encouraging individuals to make Christianity a lifestyle.  Finally, teaching must be consistent, based upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  When a body of believers embraces and practices these principles, the next Willow Creek Community Church will be born.

by Jay Mankus

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