I have been in and around church leadership for almost 15 years now. I have been part of building committees, led youth groups, started newfangled worship services, and for the past few years I have been the pastor of a church-plant. All of that is to say that I have sat through my fair share of “church” meetings. The underlying theme for most of those meetings was “How can we get more people to believe the Gospel?” I believe this is probably the underlying theme of most meetings taking place in Christ’s Bride, that is, unless a church has truly lost its way.
The problem is, once we phrase our purpose for gathering that way, we are left to quantify whether or not the current endeavor is working. Therefore, “How many people will believe the Gospel if this works?” And since we rightly say we cannot know a person’s heart, we have to make even more concrete qualifications, such as baptisms or weekly worshipers. Then, if what our doing doesn’t meet our expectations we move on to something else, and if it does meet our expectations we have probably set them too low, so we move on to something else or revamp what we are doing (whatever “it” may be). When it comes down to it, and please someone correct me if I’m wrong, the reason why churches constantly look to do something else is because the people whom set the quantifiable parameters feel as though time and resources are being wasted on the current endeavor. And as good stewards, we should always try to use the resources we have been blessed with to their utmost usefulness.
This leads me to piggyback on a thought from Ryan’s post Validation and Clueless Sheep. Given the current way of doing things (I phrase as such because it is not the only way) those who are entrusted with making decisions about the use of resources can easily fall into justifying themselves before God and man by quantifiable outcomes. So elders, deacons, the wide range of professional church workers, and pastors validate their respective vocations by how many are baptized or worshiping on account of elements under their direction. Can you sense the danger in that?
What does Christ have to say about validation or justification (it may help to look at Paul as well)?
Is there a difference between ‘getting more people to believe in the Gospel’ and ‘advancing the Gospel?’