Oct 13, 2015

YOU CAN'T "STRATEGIZE" SPIRITUALITY

1 Corinthians 3:7 = "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (NIV)"
John 6:63 = "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life. (NIV)"
John 6:65 = "He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.' (NIV)"

We, the Church, indeed are in strange times when it comes to the lack of faithfulness of many people in going to corporate worship.  Also, the lack of openness of many nonbelievers to patiently wait while the Gospel is being shared with them is all the more abundant today it seems.  It is a sad and distressing sight to see so many empty pews on any given Sunday, especially when you are trying to be true to Christ's instruction and invite others to come worship with you continually to no avail.  Now, although we live in times where this is the case all over America, we should not die to the hope that we ought to have in Christ and give up on the Great Commission.  That being said, we should desire to connect with others wherever we go and find ways to invite and share the Gospel with our "un-churched" brothers and sisters.  Being creative with our invitations can be a good thing, but I would urge us to be very careful in thinking that we could "strategize" an increase in the numbers that darken the Church's doors and to not forget that we, in and of ourselves, cannot bring the "numbers" in anyway.  If that is what God Wills to do, then it Will be done in His Way and in His Time by the movement of His Spirit through His Church.

Once I sat in a meeting and quietly listened as one leader encouraged the group to think about how it may invite more folks into fellowship and worship.  One older person rather abruptly (in my opinion) asked for a "strategy" from the leader.  The person felt strongly about their point that the group needed some kind of plan for getting more people to come into our walls.  I, for one, did not appreciate the way they stated their point (they later apologized by the grace of God), but I also felt the need to make an argument for why there is no top "strategy" to get folks into the church, and to urge Christians to be careful not to forget about what should come after we are able to encourage others to worship with us.  The decline in numbers of people in churches has been happening everywhere in western society, but it is a nuanced issue that has to be carefully studied.  No one should think that there will be a one-size-fits-all type of plan that will get your church booming just because it worked for a well-known pastor in some big city or suburb somewhere.  I have read before that in many cases that many people fall away from the Church due to some relational issues in which they were hurt in some way.  Then, in my opinion, there are too many "churches" in one community, so people may not know where to go, or they go where they are most comfortable culturally or socially, and forget to do a spiritual (and biblical) check when they visit different places.  I live in the Bible Belt, a place where people will have "churches" side by side each other, right across the street, and where there can be up to 4 or 5 "churches" in a square mile of each other.  Huh?!  I do not believe that this is biblical at all, but I may argue this point at another time.  Also, people argue over insane things today, like should we sing contemporary Christian songs or straight out of the hymnal.  Then, churches may split off from one another because of the foolishness of the so-called "Pastor", who may be a wolf in sheep's clothing, but the "flock" would not know if you told them because they do not believe in the importance of knowing God's Word for themselves.  Yes, I could go on and on and on.  My point is that to want a strategy to gain numbers of people back in the pews is a bit dangerous to me, if that is the only goal in mind.

I know a plan is good to have to get everyone on board to see how we may best reach out to brothers and sisters that are not saved or do not have a church home.  But I would also suggest that in any given outreach "strategy" that the Church ought to be careful to not just go for Heads, but go for Souls.  I think in some ways it is not terribly difficult to get large numbers into churches, or something similar to a church (think "Joel Osteen" and many prosperity gospel preachers like "Creflo Dollar").  Think about it: there are many who claim to be servants of Christ and lead "churches" with attendance that could rival some sports venues, but when you check their theology, it sounds like something to celebrate in an end zone, instead of joyful celebration and living that is to be for a lifetime and into eternity.  What I'm trying to say is: "You can't strategize spirituality!"
Numbers can come week in and week out, but we must be careful to not allow for a great number of bodies in the four walls of a sanctuary to fool us in believing that lives are being changed.  I have heard people say before that if they could put on a certain event or run a ministry a certain way that they could have a place hopping with people.  Excuse me!  Let us not forget that it is God alone who enables us to come to Him and who gives the growth of any place of worship.

Besides, people "accepting" Christ and getting baptized out in the open, may not be a true and exact image of what has taken place in their hearts.  Some people think that in going before the Church and saying that they accept Christ as Savior and getting baptized that their work is done.  It is as if some so-called Christians think that just accepting the Lord is enough in this walk with Christ.  Not even close by a long shot.  Obviously we do not work for salvation, because it is through Grace Alone that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8), but we work because of this gift of salvation given to us.  I have not heard of many being effective in sharing the Gospel by way of staying bolted to the pew.  We are to be active in our praise and worship of and our living in Christ.  Therefore, the life in Christ is an active and a joyful one of sharing the Good News to anyone that we come into contact with, while we are continually being transformed into the very image of our Savior.  Again, how can anyone do this activity while sitting is beyond me.  But, here is the kicker: how can they, those who are new to Christ or new to the Church, know better, unless we train them better.  It is beneficial to letting new believers and new members that finding a ministry to be involved with is vital to being in the Body of Christ.  It should be encouraged that to keep the Life of Christ flowing in you, you must be actively attached to the Vine (Jesus) and abiding in Him.  For a person to not be active in the Body of Christ, a person will appear to think it to be of no importance or that person has a huge lack of understanding of what it means to be in Christ.  This goes back to my point that you cannot strategize spirituality.  We should desire to not just increase tithers in our churches, but desire a deeper love of the Lord ourselves, which should spark in us a need to value others so much that we pour our lives (as we imitate Christ only) into them to help them see that without Christ they can do nothing and are doomed to Hell and the joy that they are missing out on.

So, to strategize, or not to strategize?  Is that the question?  Not necessarily?  A better one might be: "How do we strategize in a Spirit-guided and Christ-centered way for God's Kingdom and His Greater Glory?"

6 comments:

Jerome A. Danner said...

This response comes from Mrs. Ellen Dyal - a lady that I work with at my job! She had emailed me her response.

"Jerome,
Your post is "right on." One can't really strategize bringing people to the church, let alone to Christ, as you rightly said, because it is only as Christ leads that anyone is saved. But to argue the other side for just a moment, if a church prays about outreach, and decides to actively pursue a plan to invite people to their church, it may be God's way of reaching some of the unchurched and the lost. If the plan stops once that person is in the door, then the plan will fail, because those who are seeking must be discipled (taught), mentored, and encouraged into finding and doing God's will both in and out of the church.
Our "I love Sunday's" outreach has not shown fruit in the way, I'm sure, as our Pastor has hoped. (Although he admits that planting the seed is the only true goal and the harvest is up to God). He is, and has always been, a constant witness for Christ and is teaching us to do more, as the Lord leads.
There is no perfect answer to your question. To embark on any endeavor without seeking God's blessing is to doom that project to failure. If we aren't sure of God's will, but step out in faith, the result will be His, whether it is the result we expected or not.
Keep listening for His guidance and keep asking the hard questions. They need to be asked and "argued" from a Biblical perspective."

Ellen

Joyce Ashley said...

WOW! OH, WOW! OOOOHHHHH, WOW!!!!!!!!!!! In my ministry, I've had the privilege of being invited into many different churches...both large and small. No one strategy would work for all, that is a given. What I have observed as a common characteristic of the "on fire" churches is the sincere, obvious love for the Lord and others in their church family. They have the "indescribable, glorious joy" that Peter talks about. And it all boils down to personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thank you, Jerome, for this honest, bold post!

Jerome A. Danner said...

This comment comes from another coworker, Ms. Kelly Gilliard:

Nice, Jerome! Yes, we have to be careful not to try and grow a church with a strategic plan like a business would use. Reaching souls for Christ is different from marketing a product or service to a customer. We can’t market and advertise God like we market and advertise a product or service. “Try this, it will change your life!” We must set ourselves apart from the world and let the world see God in us. Love others. That’s the best way for people to see and experience God! Yes, outreach is important and definitely plants seeds that God in His almighty power can water and grow. But he needs us to plant those seeds and make disciples! So no, there isn’t a strategy that we as a church can follow step by step that is going to cause our pews to be filled again. We must pray and be intentional with our actions."

Jimmy Littlejohn said...

Well Good morning Brother,
Not sure where to begin. First let me say that I really appreciate your desire to exercise your mind, by putting your thoughts and opinions into words to share with others. In fact it is one of the reasons I am a fan of Dr. Ben Carson, he has stated on a number of occasions, one of America's biggest problems is ignorance {a lack of knowledge or understanding} . He has also stated Americans have become afraid to voice their opinions or engage in a conversation for fear of being politically incorrect. To which I whole heartedly agree, exercising your mind and conversing your thoughts is the where the process of learning and growing begins. If Americans knew and talked factually as much about our country as they knew about sport figures and Hollywood personalities, we would be far better of. Likewise if children of God, people of His pasture, sheep of His hand, members of the body of Christ talked factually about our Lord and His Word. I dare say we would be radically changed overnight, the Church and the society in which we reside while awaiting the return of our Savior would all greatly benefit.
With all that being said I respectfully disagree with you. I Love and appreciate you Brother keep thinking and writing. In Christ Jesus!
Jimmy Littlejohn

Jerome A. Danner said...

Brother Jimmy,

What is it that you disagree with? Do you believe that we can strategize spirituality?

Thank you for reading and your honest comment!

In Christ,

Jerome

Laura Chord said...

Very good points! This actually goes a long with the problem of busyness, doesn't it? It seems everything really comes back to listening to the Word and God's voice. :)