Thursday, 23 May 2013
Psalm 1 - a model for church growth?
I have always been of the impression that Psalm one is the model for church growth and the more I think of it, the more convinced I am. My reasons for this are that as it lists the three stages of falling into sin I assume that satan, having neither invention or tactical awareness merely chooses to use that which God has made for his own ends. This means that he has merely taken what works and used it and the psalmist tells us this:<br /><br />
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Here we have the three elements of church growth:
Walk in Step
One of the hardest things for many of those in church is for them to get out of their buildings and get involved with those outside their doors.
'But we are a welcoming church,' they cry,
'We sit here and wait for them, but they never come in!'
So they stop and have a think and then they try again with a different strategy . . .
and see no new people come through their doors; and so they say:
'We became an 'inviting' church. We invited everyone, putting leaflets through door and we even put an advert' in the local paper. But no one came!'
Of course they didn't, because they needed someone to 'bring' them to church and the only way that happens is by building relationships with the people outside the church doors. We need to go out there and get in step with them; but not to adopt their attitudes and practices (and not to criticise and attack them either) but to build relationships.
If people get to know us and find that we're not the pains they thought we were then they build relationships and it is these relationships that will eventually (and 'eventually' can be a very long time indeed) lead them into the church building with a degree of confidence that they are not just 'scalps'; for the great evangelistic machine. Unless we relate and become relevant to the people in our community then regardless of how welcoming or inviting or anything else we are, we are not (generally) going to see growth.
This is the next stage and it's important because it means that they've stopped to engage. They are no longer tabbing on through but have considered you to be worth a stop and chat. This is where some of the important stuff happens for this is the place where you are Christian but you don't push, press or proselytise. So often I find people going for the jugular because they've stopped to talk and to do so is to encourage them to not just walk, but probably run (in the opposite direction).
I had a conversation with a well-meaning and kindly Christian who told me that whenever they saw a neighbour they gave them a tract telling them how they were sinners and outlining the ways they might repent and be saved. When I tried to explain that the concept of needing to be saved was not only alien to many, but was also highly offensive for it said, 'You are not a right person!'
And we all like to hear that don't we?
That said, I don't think we can ever deny Christ and if mentioning Jesus in some context that applies to us occurs we don't actively decide to divert the topic or circumstance - do we? We just do not push Him to the point of alienating or embarrassing others.
If people have allowed us to walk with them (it's them that controls the engagements, not us) and have decided to stop and engage then we need to handle that offer of relationship gratefully and gently; and if we do, they end up sitting and chatting, drinking tea, coffee and dunking biscuits wit us.
It is here that we can engage more fully. This is the place of Fresh Expressions and START courses (eventually) and is the place where Jesus, God, the cross, resurrection and most importantly - forgiveness and love - are to be found.
When people are sitting comfortably, then we can begin (how I miss the Home service and 'children's hour').
In Step, Stop and sit - a three-part model for church growth that demands time, engagements, the ability to share the story of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the cross and new life (they called it the kerygma [keruggma] in the early Church - everyone learnt it and shared it with others). Being an evangelist isn't the job for someone in the pulpit, a tent or a football ground mission event, it's what we are called, each and every one of us, to be and do.
So congratulations if you have a welcoming, inviting and engaged church, but if you don't - get outside of your church building and leave it open for the community and get down and alive with the world outside - and you, and others will be like a tree in the desert which is tended and cared for and planted by streams of living water.
Perffick picture - innit?