Mistaken Measurements of Ministry

January 13, 2017

The modern church-goer measures ministry by standards that are impervious to authentic scriptural growth. It is unfortunate that we have somehow misconstrued and minimized success to building size, administrative structure, and well-organized programs.  These things can certainly be results of spiritual growth, but they are never replacements for authentic spiritual health.

Duplicate or Define?

I suppose that is really the point that needs to be made: There is a fine line between growth and health. A church may be “growing” but not necessarily in the right way. Too often we try to replicate the results of “successful” churches or ministries without having the proper foundation or fundamentals in place.  You see this everywhere, not just in churches.  If something works down the road, why not try it here? Why not do it like they do it? This is the mindset of corporations, businesses, charities, academia, and every other stratum of society.

For the church, however, the great danger is not duplicating another congregation (that may or may not be admirable); rather, it is failing to define what “success” means.  We have been evangelized by secular influences to the point that we measure our successes and failures by worldly productions.  What we feel, what we see, and what we like replaces the truth of God’s Word; and so “what we hear” becomes secondary to everything else. This creates an environment that is driven by emotions, spreadsheets, lights, feelings, preferences, and culture. Again, those items may have place in our congregations, but when they become the selling point, then we have crossed over into a different business – one unrelated to the kingdom.

True Success is Likeness to Christ

Historically, the church always thrives when it is in step with the world; and this is a problem. When I say “thrive” I am speaking of growth. It is when the Constantine’s of this world popularize Christianity that apostasy always fills the pulpits and pews.  When Christianity is bought and sold and repackaged, it may have a strong presence, a populous appeal even; but such an entity dies out with every trendy wind that blows into town.  Eventually, it must reinvent itself again and again and again until it becomes totally unrecognizable from its original state.  Reinvention of the church leads to erroneous measurements of health.  What seems healthy today may or may not be healthy tomorrow based upon drifts, leanings, and yes, even fashion.  A church is not healthy because it has blue lights on the platform and a skinny-jeans-wearing pastor. But neither is it healthy because it has 1970’s wooden-panel on the walls and a man of God who wears a three-piece suit.  What makes a church healthy is its likeness to Jesus Christ.

Misplaced Identity

Ironically, likeness to Christ involves suffering, affliction, and persecution.  Historically, these items have always purified a church to great health and holiness. But who is willing to “market” these characteristics to a world that is looking for the “cool” effect? I do not know of a church, including my own, that would advertise their ministry as one that endures affliction, carries a cross, battles spiritual wickedness, and walks out of step with the world.  We do not advertise our congregation in that way because the world is looking for something else.  And this, in totality, is what the greatest problem of our day is: we are allowing the wrong measurements to become the identity of our places of worship.

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