Is it time to change our operating system?
Gary Gibbs argues that we need to rethink how we measure the effectiveness of our churches
I believe it was Rick Warren who made the observation that the health or effectiveness of a local church is not primarily measured by its seating capacity but rather by its sending capacity.
Even though Saddleback Church in California gathers many thousands to its worship services each weekend, Pastor Rick realises that the true efficacy of the church is measured by producing fruitful Jesus followers and by planting out new communities of faith all over the world.
By and large, most of us in the body of Christ default to ‘big = healthy’. We forget that it can also be that ‘big = fat’!
Just in case anyone misunderstands me, I am glad that within the Elim family we have some large urban churches which can shine the light of Christ strongly in towns and cities and even influence the lawmakers and politicians.
My point is that we make a mistake if we believe that size is the deciding factor in being a successful church.
Recently, Sally and I celebrated 40 years of marriage; woohoo! It was also her birthday and since it was all very special, I bought her a new iPad. The one she had been using was basically steam-driven and had long since stopped doing software updates. In short, the previous operating system was not fit for purpose; it needed a different mode of operation.
Here’s the point: even though on a global level we are seeing massive, unprecedented growth in the Christian church, here in the West we are in serious decline. It’s true that the Pentecostal/charismatic/evangelical churches are doing better, but in absolute terms it is still marginal growth.
So what’s the answer? One part of the answer is that we need a new operating system which will internally change our hearts and vision and will externally cause us to restructure how we live both individually and together as the people of God.
All of this must start where the Lord Jesus began and actually where he finished his earthly ministry, namely by ‘making disciples’.
There is some debate going on both about what this means and how we do it, but the bottom line must be; are we ‘doing church’ in such a way that people are enabled, trained and empowered to become more and more like Jesus?
If we make disciples we will end up discovering more leaders. If we discover more leaders, we will plant more churches. If we plant more churches we will send more people to the nations.
Our four priorities as the Elim Movement will have the potential to flow out from this operating system!
Forgive me if you disagree, but it seems obvious to me that if our focus is mainly on what happens on a Sunday morning for an hour or two, we will at best form truncated disciples.
Now I love the gathering of God’s family for powerful worship and teaching/preaching, and I believe in those moments of encounter and life change which can and do occur.
But unless we have an operating system which offers accountability, challenge, mutual encouragement, transparency, authentic community and a compulsive call to reach lost people with God’s good news, well…
Thank God that we are seeing signs of a fresh commitment in our churches to change the operating system! I am full of faith that in the next five years or so Elim churches and leaders will grasp the nettle more than ever and change whatever needs changing for the sake of the King and his Kingdom.
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