Final Episode: Growing Part III
As I stated in my last post, Rick says the question that we need to ask is "What are we doing that is preventing us from growing?". Just as a reminder, the Independent Christian churches have grown by 18% in the last 10 to 15 years, while the churches of Christ have lost 4%. There was only one group that was growing faster than the Christian churches..........you guessed it, the Mormons. And they were at 19%. So, of all the fellowships that have a restoration heritage, the Christian churches are growing by FAR faster than any other group. And again, we are talking about numerical growth........not other types of growth that are also important.
Ok, here is the difference Rick and others see in the two groups, Christian churches and churches of Christ. One word: Leadership. Being more specific: Elders or Shepherds. If they both have male leadership, then what is the difference?
Being even MORE specific: One group has a goal to EMPOWER it's members and staff.......the other group has a goal to set policy and keep the peace. Guess which is which?!?!? See if you think this is a fair description. Many of our Shepherds are full time professionals that work 50 and 60 hours a week. What is the LAST thing they want at an elder's meeting? Conflict. How do you avoid conflict?
You make sure everybody is happy, and therefore you keep the peace. Guess what that means? Your goal is basically to maintain the status quo. It has been observed by many that our present way of Shepherding allows Shepherds to stay in control....keep everything somewhat peaceful....if they keep the congregation at around 1,000 members or so. After that, it's really difficult to keep the status quo. Have you noticed how many congregations we have at around 1,000 and then they just seem to plateau? To "Plateau" is a common denominator in our fellowship. Maybe in your area it is more than a thousand, or maybe a little less. But with that as the goal of the leadership, there is SOME number that fits. Keeping the peace and status quo is NOT the goal of the leadership in Christian churches.....evidently. They let the minister and staff lead, and the Elders are in a SUPPORT mode......not control mode. They empower the members to dream big, and then give them the support to go after those dreams! And I doubt if it is always peaceful. Like I heard Randy Harris say once, everybody is happy to see a 16 year old come in as a stranger to the congregation......until it is one that comes in looking like he just fell into a tackle box! Right? That can upset some apple carts! One question that was asked of us in these classes at Pepperdine was this: "What is your church praying for that you KNOW the only way it is going to happen is if GOD does it?" That is a powerful question, would you agree? And an even more powerful prayer. What kind of leader was Jesus? Think about it.
Ok, when all is said and done, none of us can play the victim in all of this and therefore pass on the accountability that needs to be addressed. Until I look at the guy in the mirror and ask him what he has done to help spread the Gospel to the 190,000,000 in the USA that don't believe, then I don't need to be pointing any fingers at any Shepherds or anybody else! The fact of the matter is, I haven't done diddly squat. Oh sure, I have given contribution, and that is important! And I have prayed, which is VERY important. But other than those two things, I really haven't taken the Great Commission personal. That is my confession to my blogging community. So before all 3 or 4 of you, I want you to hear me saying that I am repenting! Here and now! I want to be about the same kind of work Jesus was all about...."seeking and saving the lost." How many unbelievers am I attracting with my blog post? DUH! How about NONE! Maybe I should spend a little more time with that as my motivation. Reckon?
I am excited about something I have committed to in regards to evangelism. I don't have the time, nor do you WANT to hear me tell you all the details as to how God has worked amongst the student body here. But, there has been a revival amongst several groups of sports teams on campus. A group of Bison football players are meeting every Wed. night in a Bible Professor's home, and I met with them once this Spring before they got out of school. What a BLESSING it was to be with them and see them interacting with each other on a spiritual plane! I requested that next fall I wanted them to identify some members of the football team that are not believers so that I might try and get to be their friend, and let God impact their life thru me. I am excited about that, and I want this community to hold me accountable in my efforts. That's one thing community does, right? From time to time next fall email me and ask me how that is going. I need your encouragement!
God bless our leaders to have vision, and to have the wisdom to lead by empowering. God bless each of us to be light and salt to a dark and lost world. On my BEST day all I have is 5 loaves and 2 fish, and He has shown us already what He can do with that amount. My guess is many of you have way more than that! Give them to Him and see how He uses them.......and you.
"With God, all things are possible".