it’s a question of church maturity

Let me run something by you.  I haven’t given this a great deal of thought.  Hardly any, actually.  But I’m going to throw it out there anyway — as rough, unfinished, and possibly wrong as it may be.

Background:

There’s a lot of discussion these days about spiritual maturity in our churches.  Some large congregations are being referred to as far-reaching, yet shallow.  Small churches are sometimes said to be unconcerned with the lost and how to reach them, demonstrating their own immaturity.  And it seems there have been a billion criteria suggested by which we should gauge a church’s maturity.  [I wrote the other day about biblically measuring kingdom growth, but I see that as different from the maturity of a single congregation.] How’s this for a thought?

Can we effectively gauge a church’s maturity by asking this simple question:

Who is doing most of the work, and is it being done in love?


What do you think?  And I don’t mind being wrong
.  I mind incredibly being told I’m wrong, but — just kidding.  Your thoughts?

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12 Comments

Filed under church planting, just thinking

12 responses to “it’s a question of church maturity

  1. randy morgan

    good question, brett.

    generally, yes, the more people (greater percentage) engaged in the mission speaks to the maturity of the fellowship. but doctrine must be a consideration as well. i think we (the church) tend to emphasize knowledge too strongly (when we should be leading people to relationship/intimacy), but paul clearly uses doctrine as a measure of our maturity.
    until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

    “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (ephesians 4:14-15)

  2. Gilbert Kerrigan

    I think Randy should have taken that passage a little further. Paul finishes his thought by saying, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

    It seems to me that Paul is saying spiritual growth in a church (or spiritual maturity) can be determined by the amount of work that is being done by “each part.” It is not a matter of how much work is being done by a church (although that is a good thing), but by how many people.

    • gilbert, thanks for typing out the rest of that verse. it almost makes it look like i read my bible before writing this blog post (which i didn’t, i completely just got a thought in my head the night before, and then posted it…).

      yeah, paul expects each person to use his/her gifts to build up the larger body. i’m with you, and that was more along the lines of what i was trying to get at with my question. i’d argue that a church in which the ministers are the ones who visit the sick and organize prayer events and teach and do evangelism is a church that is far from spiritual maturity.

      good thoughts.

  3. Linda M

    Hi jamesbrett,

    doctrine, work

    Perhaps we (the church) need to look closely at what these mean in the context of God and the Spirit and not in the context of what we interpret this to mean as we understand them in the world we live in. God says that his ways are not the ways of the world or the ways of men.
    Another question is the ‘work’. Can it be the kind of work we do as well as (or instead of) the amount? Our natural body has many different kinds of cells that are designated to do different kinds of building and functioning in our bodies. The parts of our body that show on the outside look different too and have different functions.

    I think it pretty well comes down to having to be a work of the Spirit. Something called a ligament has to support join and hold everything together.

    I think doctrine has become an issue in the church. By continuing on the way it is, it seems the church as a whole is becoming more and more worldly. Something has to change.

    We need spiritual discernment, a wisdom and knowledge that comes from God, we need revelation and understanding of God’s word as given by the Spirit. What I see in the Bible is that we can get alot from God by asking and seeking and knocking. This can be a quick work by God.

    All I know is, it is frustrating for me in the church. There is a ‘shut down’ mechanism that is employed quickly and efficiently by someone or something in the ‘church’ all too often.

    Does this mean that we open the floodgates and let anything and everything in ? I don’t think so, but if God can’t use the church today for what he wants to do where will he go? I believe that He will go outside the church. First perhaps to those who are His that are outside of the ‘church’ presently? or.. Will he move His people out of the church? or.. Will he totally destroy the church as we know it today? or.. Will he go to the impossible to get his work done? The sinner and unbeliever? or.. Can he do a soverign work alone without his people? I think that he can. He did it with Abraham? He did it with Paul?

    If we want God to use the church we have to be willing! I don’t really see that in the church as I know of it right now.

    • linda, you’re right to say we should assess maturity by the kind of work we’re doing, and not only the amount. in writing such a short criterion question (and without putting much thought behind how it would sound), i think my assumption in the question is that each church was doing the work which God would desire. that is an assumption i shouldn’t make about churches. but also, i wasn’t intending to say much to the amount of work done — as much as i was trying to suggest that the church as a whole should be responsible for kingdom growth, rather than sitting back and letting the ministers do it.

      what do you mean by a “shutdown” mechanism being employed in church? what is it they’re shutting down?

      i understand your concerns about the church today — i share many of them. but i’ve also been blessed to see churches that i think are doing exactly what God would have them do. and i think God continues to use those churches… and others.

  4. Who is doing the most work and is it being done in love? According to the sermon that is the book of Hebrews, if your church leaders (and many churches are forgetting the Biblical Rx for church leadership) stress the original confession of the Christian and consistently teach Christ crucified, all the other stuff will fall right into place. I don’t measure the success of a church by the number of congregants, rather I measure it by a question of if each and every person in that church service heard the correct dosage of law and gospel, being convicted of their sins (a bad word in many churches now) and quickly being informed of how Christ is the only way to have peace from the conviction the law places on you/me. If the church leadership would make this their primary mission (feeding their sheep) everything else will work out. At least that’s what scripture tells us.

    • dave, i hope it didn’t come across as if i’m measuring success by the number of members; i didn’t intend that in any way. but i also wasn’t necessarily talking about the “success” of a church. i was just thinking about how to gauge the maturity of a church. you’ve given some good insight into what leadership might do to bring maturity, and i don’t want to argue against those things. but i wasn’t so much thinking about what to do to bring maturity — as i was what it looks like in congregational form.

  5. so i’ve been thinking about my own question. and i need to add something to it concerning unity. definitely that’s one of the key signs of a mature church.

  6. James

    Been enjoying your blog and (hope I’m seeing this correctly)
    the questions and challenges your seeing in today’s “so called church.”
    What it is, what it is doing and accomplishing.

    Lot’s do NOT seem to line up with scripture. Yes?

    So, with a little tongue in cheek…

    You ask…
    “Can we effectively gauge a church’s maturity”

    Doesn’t that depend on which church we’re talking about?

    ***”The Church of God?” Also known as…

    “The Ekklesia of God.”
    “The Body of Christ.”
    “The Called Out One’s of God.”
    “Servants of Christ.”
    “Disciples of Christ.”
    “Sons of God “Led” by the Spirit.”

    ***Or, “The Church of Man?” Also known as…

    “The Institutional Church”
    “The Denominational Church.”
    “The Non-Denominational church.”
    “Pastors – in pulpits – preaching – to people – in pews – church.”

    Here in the USA, “The 501 (c) 3, non profit,
    tax $ deductible, Religious $ Corporation. (the church.)”

    Hmmm? Should we call a “$ Corporation” the church? Don’t think so…

    I’ll answer for the former…

    Can we effectively gauge a church’s maturity by asking this simple question:

    Who is doing most of the work, and is it being done in love?

    In “The Ekklesia of God” Love is major factor in all things.

    Work – Well we enter into “His Rest” when we cease from our own works.

    Maturity = lot’s of love = ceasing from our own works.

    Be blessed and be a blessing…

    • thanks, amos, for your thoughts. i like that you imply we seem to focus on work when we ought to be focusing on resting in Him. that’s a good challenge to me. thanks for stopping by, and for commenting.

      out of curiosity, do you think it’s wrong for a church to have status as a non-profit organization? i don’t guess i’ve ever given that much thought.

  7. James

    First off – thanks for your service and lifting up the name of Jesus.

    Alabama – Tanzania. Both foreign countries to this northern yankee.

    Sounds like your having quite and adventure.

    Adventure – Dictionary

    A bold undertaking, where hazards are to be encountered,
    and the outcome is based on unforeseen events.

    A unique experience in one’s own personal history.
    Often of a romantic nature.

    You ask…
    “do you think it’s wrong for a church to have status as a non-profit organization?”

    Hmmm? Is the Bible our standard?
    We often say it is; but, do we speak and think as the Bible speaks?

    Jesus warned us about making “the word of God”
    of non effect through our traditions; Yes?

    Mark 7:13 KJV – Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…
    Mark 7:13 ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    Mark 7:13 NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    IMO -“Church” is a very important word. What does it really express?

    Computers are great. Just enter the word church/s, print them out,
    read the verses, over and over again, until you “see” what the Bible says,
    until you believe what God says about, “The Ekklesia,” “The Called out one’s.”

    What is popular is not always “truth.”
    What is “truth” is not always popular.

    Did Jesus die and shed “His Blood” for a building, an institution,
    a non-profit organization, a denomination, or a $ Corporation?

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When

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