Tuesdays are for posts on church development and leadership.
Remember this song?
If faithfulness is what God longs for what we do with what we’ve been given matters, and not necessarily the end results. It reasons to say those given more, more is expected. For example, are well resourced churches being faithful with what they’ve been given, or are they using the vast majority of resources to cater exclusively to the already churched?
Usually a good measure of faithfulness is how a budget is used. We live in a time when the best many churches can muster is a mere 10% of annual budgets going towards activities not for the membership. Is this faithfulness?
If not, then what should our measure of faithfulness be? Attendance? Outreach? Money? Building? Size? Or something else?
If faithfulness is what God longs I believe it should look like the calling found here: Ephesians 4:1-2. Trouble is, many leaders measure faithfulness in two different ways: the individualized relationship with God, and corporate definitions based on free-market metrics.
For most contemporary churches the ABCs (attendance, buildings, cash) are THE measure of success (no thanks to the widely popular National Church Development craze). Thankfully, Jesus didn’t care much about the ABCs, he yearns for faithfulness to this call: love one another.
This call doesn’t mean the race for more and more, or bigger and bigger. I think it means, particularly with established churches, DEEPER with what you’ve already been given.
[tweethis]Deeper in the right things doesn’t chase the continued commoditization of church services, programs, and events, but seeks depth in existing relationships (discipleship) and presence (parish). [/tweetthis]
What if we seek the embodied characteristics of deeper Christian experience? Experiences found notably in a re-orientation to faithful presence in our place (neighborhood), and the renewed attraction towards robust discipleship coupled with deeper Christian spirituality in worship.
The rhetoric is out there for this shift, but we’re still struggling to find a rhythm of embodied Christian spirituality in an age of rampant consumerism. Nonetheless, here are some pragmatic responses.
Leaders can shift towards DEEPER but it will come at the cost of losing some certainty. Certainty is what a religious consumer expects in the sterilized religious experience. Certainty breeds a system that needs the ABCs. Certainty denies mystery–the space where we can profoundly encounter God anew.
Another rhythm of embodied spirituality returns to how we live out the gospel in our neighborhoods. The measure for the things we loudly preach on Sunday is found in decades of faithful neighborhood presence and practice, not in decades hanging out with Christians. Jesus knew all about the power of localize place and depth, which is why God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Simply yet profoundly, perhaps a faith measure isn’t what we can do in front of other Christians, rather who we are when those Christians aren’t looking. Perhaps our impact isn’t in the numbers but rather our faithfulness to embody Jesus in the slow arduous meandering of the few deep relationships found in our space and place.
Perhaps that’s all Jesus asks of us because that’s all we could handle if we were to take his call seriously.