22 August 2008

How's church in the UK?

A friend in Florida just asked me this in an email; I thought I'd answer the question for everyone. In context, the question means, 'How is church life going on for you personally', not, 'How is the church doing in the UK as a whole'. So this post answers the first, personal question, not the second, general one.

The fact is, things are going well, very well.

Am I happy with the state of affairs? Yes I am, I have a sense of peace about it all, like the peace in the scene in this post. Can I see where it's all heading? No, not really. Does that mean I lack a vision for the way forward? No, not in the least!

Let's unwrap that a bit.

It all depends on your point of view.

Let's start with the premise that church growth depends on running the church efficiently day to day, planning for the future, building up numbers, bringing in the necessary funding, putting up buildings, and growing people in maturity through teaching and discipling. That is the standard institutional model that most of us work by. In that case church growth can be measured in the same way that success in business can be measured. Set some targets, aim at them, and then measure success as achievement against those targets.

But there is a problem with that approach. Nowhere in the Bible do we find anything that looks remotely like the 'standard business model'!

If we begin with the premise that church growth depends on Jesus living in his people and guiding them individually and together, we get a very different definition of success. Success must now be measured in terms of the quality of relationship we have with Jesus and with one another. If we are rightly built into the body we'll see that Jesus does indeed build his church. Paul understood this when he wrote Romans 12:1-13. We are to work together in a new way, a totally unexpected way, and it's assuredly not the way of the world or of business.

Paul writes several times and at some length about life in the body and how we should expect to be built as a natural outworking of love. This 'building through loving' requires Jesus' love towards us, our love towards him, and finally our love towards one another. It couldn't be simpler. Does Paul ever (even once) write in terms of setting targets or having goals for building the church? No he does not.

So, in the light of all that, how's church been going for me recently?

Well, I've met some new people in the last few weeks and it seems to me we're likely to be keeping in touch and meeting together as and when we have the opportunity. I suspect we're going to find ourselves built and encouraged in unexpected ways.

At the same time we have a friend who was ill, had no reason (medically) to expect to survive, yet has been told he seems, remarkably, to be in the all clear.

Then there's the difficulty explained in an earlier post. I haven't had a reply yet, so I'm continuing in prayer and will keep thinking about the various issues involved. What I can say is that through some of my new friends I'm now aware of a man who is seriously interested in contacting the young people involved, and has the faith, the personality, and the experience to engage their interest. And I also know other friends on the edge of town who might be keen to help with that.

All of this is encouraging and exciting, so I think the answer to the original question is, 'Oh yes, things are going along very nicely thank you. Jesus is in control, and I have no specific targets because I have no idea what he will do next. But it will be good!

My personal targets are to get to know Yahshua better day by day, and to grow increasingly in relationship with my brothers and sisters.

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