Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Methodists See Clues For Growth In Thriving Churches

Recently and article in USA today listed four reasons for church growth in Methodist Churches.  The story begins by explaining that the UMC commissioned a study to discover what growing churches are doing that makes them so successful.  The study yielded these results:
1. Small groups and programs, such as Bible study and activities geared toward youth. 
2. Active lay leadership
3. Inspirational pastors who have served lengthy tenures at churches.
4. A mix of traditional and contemporary worship services.
I read the article the day it came out and have been pondering for a few days and here are my views, which in no way represent the church I serve, the district, conference or the UMC.
The first thing that struck me was an often heard Latin phrase that some of us pastors kid about- "post hoc ergo propter hoc".  It basically means, before it, therefore because of it.  It's a logical fallacy.  Temporal succession does not always imply a causal relation.  There is your Latin lesson for the day ;0)
It's a way of saying that you can trace outcomes to the sources.  In other words, if I look at a bunch of successful churches I can hopefully determine a pattern for why they are all successful.  For me I look at the study, knowing the questions they asked because I filled out the survey, as more wide than deep.  One of my favorite logical fallacies I lift up is this- All successful churches have preschools so therefore, to be successful you need a preschool.
Cause?  Effect?
I see the list of four things and I then read the comments section of the article on USA today and agree with them more than the article.  They basically say that we a majoring in minors.  Small groups, lay leadership, inspirational pastors and a mix of traditional and contemporary worship services lead to success?!?
What about God honoring worship?
What about missions?
Did they all pursue a vision from God? (oh wait, we all try to do that)
What about the fact that most growing churches are in suburban affluent areas?
Every church was once a small church.  Many small churches were once large.  What I want to know is what were the steps these churches took to reach their communities for Christ.  Sadly, there is no four point plan for church growth.  There are not twelve keys to successful churches.  One of our largest and most successful church's here in Missouri only does contemporary worship. 
People will sell hundreds and thousands of books about church growth, and some of them are absolutely amazing reads and will deeply help pastors and laity discover several paths to growth. 
What about the preschool factor ;0) (kidding!)
The worst we can do is try and copy successful churches so we can be successful.
The best we can do is honor God in Jesus Christ through out thoughts, words and deeds.  Shine brightly.  Bloom where you are planted.  Love God with your heart, soul, strength and mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Go therefore and make disciples...
We are a light in the darkness...aren't we?
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Bit of Grace

One of my favorite Bible passages can be found in the letter to the church in Ephesus.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".  Ephesians 2:8-10
Grace means: unmerited favor, kindness, mercy, unconditional love, esteem, beauty and a bunch of other words.
We are called to receive God's grace and to share God's grace.  The Christian, not just pastors, are to share the love of God and speak as if we are speaking the very words of God.  Our thoughts, words and deeds should be free of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, did I mention anger, and many other unholy attributes.  There are tough days out there.  During those tough days I hope and pray that you are not swayed by the winds of sin.  They come and go, temptations come and go, but the Word of God is forever.  Stand with Him and continually work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Do not allow others to dictate your mood or attitude.  Open your heart, soul and mind to the one who provides the path of salvation.  And please remember to offer God's grace to others as you would have them offer it to you.
Go in peace and go with God.