Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More musings about churches

I think Songbird is onto something when she says we are different than the 1st century. And we are different across denominational lines. I have Baptist collegues who don't feel they are sucessful unless they have "saved" a certain number of souls per year. (hmmm, doesn't God "save souls?")

In my denomination, we hear "moving onto perfection," "discipleship," and "spiritual transformation." A little harder to quantify.

I'm in an unique position -- I'm part of a fairly moderate church body that's growing so very fast that keeping up with all the congregants is a challenge. My job isto guide them on the right track for certain things and to facilitate their spiritual growth in others. To help plan relevant and spiritually transforming worship. It's exciting.

People here yearn for the Word, for relevance, for spiritual growth. We have had maybe 3 or 4 spontanous baptisms already this year when people at the end of the service (almost always someone who we've been counseling to begin with) just walk up and say "I'm ready!" This is really pretty unusual in a Methodist church.

Then I go to some of the churches of my peers here in North Georgia (mostly student pastors and people in their first appointment) and they seems so discouraged. Not that they should expect the same sort of response we get, but I was talking to a friend yesterday and he got the comment from a congregant "just preach on Sunday -- and do my funeral." His congregation is not into spiritual formation and transformation. It's almost a spiritual hospice. Which is a legitimate need but -- we are not prepared at Seminary for this.

We closed 7 chuches last year in North Georgia -- maybe one percent. And we started a few as well. There seems to be a life cycle for a congregation -- birth, adolescence, maturity and death. We are trained for the middle two -- and the first and last are usually not even discussed.

Not only do I not know how to close a church -- I don't know how to plant one either.

My job is/will be/has been to help people down the path of discipleship, spiritual growth, spiritual transformation. That is the charge I accepted as a minister. How can that be measured? To what plumbline do we hold ourselves? It's not my place to judge a person -- that's beyond my payscale (or anyone else's for that matter). We need to know how true we are being to our charge to baptize and make disciples. How then can we measure effectiveness? Of a church or a pastor? I know you cannot look for external validation in the ministry -- you validation must come from within. But is validation the same as measuring effectiveness?

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