Monday, 4 March 2013

What Makes church valid? (post the third)

Over the past years I have continually been assailed by some whose key indicator of a church's validity has been the ability to pay. That same old same old assessment that:

Those who can pay can have - those who cannot pay cannot have!

And I have never disputed that we all need to pay our way and make ends meet but I have said, on many an occasion, that there are also charity, mission and the impact of that congregation under the microscope on the people and community it was established to serve.

All too often we (the Church) appear to be more taken up with numbers than we are the Gospel and making it known. 

Whenever clergy meet other clergy or encounter those from 'head office' it appears almost mandatory that the question, 'And what's your ASA or how many do you have in your church?' will arise.

All too often I meet with people who want to look at a Mission Action Plans (MAPs) or get their church into mission with the prime mover eventually coming down to numbers rather than a desire to be effective. Now I don't care what gets the church moving as long as it gets moving, but we have a Gospel to proclaim (a good opening for a song there I reckon) and when we focus on numbers we struggle to focus on Jesus, the cross and restoration of relationship with God - and that's what is central, not numbers (unless you're thinking of how many times we are forgiven and likewise forgive).

That said I do have to (quite hypocritically perhaps) have to admit that there are some numbers that I think do matter; one of these being the percentage of a church's congregation that is effective and engaged. My reason for placing import here is that the those who are 'doing' are also (usually) 'owning' what is happening and the only way we will make our message real and known is by a real 'all member ministry' model. I don't mean those who are directed and treated as drones but those who do what they do in partnership with others. Where the whole body is connected to the next member and the whole acts in concord with the individual. (1 Cor 12: 'Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.' springs to mind)

This is one of the elements that makes church (and Church) valid and leads to perhaps the first part of the definition I am seeking to create:

A truly active all-member ministry where the person with the ultimate responsibility is primus inter pares (first among equals) rather than the monarch (despotic or benign)  which seeks to celebrate Christ in the midst and make Him known outside of the body.


ps. Thank You for the comments and emails I have received regarding the 'valid church' posts - extremely helpful and for those whose pain I both understand and feel - be assured of my prayers)

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