Thursday, May 09, 2013

What Does Success Look Like?

How do we know if "church" was a success on Monday morning? We often ask questions like: Was the sermon good? Did people pay attention? How was the music, uplifting and tailored to the sermon? How many people showed up? What was the offering?

Dave Black offered some pertinent thoughts last Sunday on the critical importance of what happens after Sunday:

If, then, the ministry of the laos is God's means of fulfilling His mission in the world, it is necessary that we view what we do on Sunday mornings as merely the beginning, not the climax, of our work. In other words, we need to change the basis for evaluating the effectiveness of the ministry of our churches. The question is not "How many attended on Sunday?" but "What did those who attended on Sunday do during the week to advance God's mission?" This is what it means to be the People of God. It is a people who understand that the mission of the church is to fulfill God's redemptive mission. Our calling is to join God's army and become aggressively involved in His mission in the world.

My point was that God's call to salvation and His call to mission/ministry are one and the same. To follow Christ in this way is not optional for the one who is truly born again. It is to this life of mission/ministry that we must respond. Not only is this possible and practical in this day of over-professionalization; an emphasis on anything else is, I think, a perversion of the Gospel.

That is a powerful but accurate statement. God does not call us to salvation and then expects us to run out the clock sitting in pews until we die or Christ returns. As Dave says the call to salvation and the call to mission are one and the same. No one who is called to saving faith in Christ is not likewise called to ministry. To truly know if the gathering of the church accomplished what it should have on Sunday we should look to how the church lives Monday through Saturday. A major reason we are exhorted to gather together in the first place is not to "worship" but to "stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24). if people are not encouraged, equipped and exhorted to mission work when the church gathers, you might as well stay home.

There has been some backlash recently against the calls for a more "radical" Christianity. In the response to the Platt/Chan radicalism, which isn't really terribly radical, I fear that many Christians are having the "show up, pay up and shut up" model of "church" reinforced. For example a recent article in World magazine, The 'new legalism', seems mostly designed to comfort people who are content with "going to church" as the sum total of their Christian life. The problem with the "new radicalism" is not that it makes people who live comfy middle-class suburban lives interspersed with a couple of hours of "worship" feel bad about themselves, it is that the definition of radical doesn't go nearly far enough! What passes for the life of disciples of Christ in the west is so radically (pun intended) different from what being a disciple meant to the 1st century church, to the Reformers and later the Anabaptists and for all of those who live in places of the world where being a disciple often means laying down your life, that those saints who went before wouldn't even recognize it. Can you imagine an Anabaptist who watched friends tortured, drowned and burden at the stake for their faith being told that a suggestion that Christians don't need multiple iPhones was excessively radical and "legalistic"? I don't think they would be very sympathetic.

Calls for radical discipleship, every member ministry must be coupled with a proper theology of justification so that we don't confuse exhortations to ministry and good works as somehow aiding our justification but that is no excuse to not call every Christian to engage in the privilege and solemn and sacred duty of being on mission for Christ. The church exists for mission and the mission is too big for any by-standers, too all encompassing to be subcontracted to a select group of professionals, too critical to be left to chance. Our faithfulness in this generation of the church will not be judged based on political victories or bank accounts or membership statistics. It will be judged on how faithfully we carried our the Great Commission and lived out the Great Commandment. If the Lord was passing out mid-term grades to this generation I am afraid we would all be looking at summer school.

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