Sometimes we are confronted with others who are hostile to the concept of sin. Not that they do it, that anything is sin. Their worldview is rooted in some concept that prevents them from accepting the truth of moral absolutes. Continue reading “On Witnessing to Moral Hostiles”
I read this article by Neil Cole, author of “Organic Church” several other books, and it set off a chain reaction in my brain. Neil was reacting to the idea of church mergers and talking about whether the church is a “business”. I posted on facebook, a got a slew of reaction from both churched and unchurched friends. Continue reading “Church-as-a-Business Metaphor”
In the North American Evangelical Church in the last 30 years, there have been several emphases on worship, corporate worship, worship experience, especially around worship music.
Worship is the act of surrendering your (time, money, thoughts, abilities, praise, fill in the blank) to God because He is Worthy. Yet in practice, we can become “dissatisfied” with the worship experience. It seems to me a complete subversion of the meaning of worship, to make something that is essentially about giving, and to say that one is dissatisfied with the experience of it.
The worship experience that we talk about in church is really about praise, adoration, and the recitation of truths, in prose and song. It is this part of the experience that we sit in judgement of. Whether the quality of the musical performance is adequate, the style is to our taste or whim, or whether those presenting or performing were somehow distracting us from our experience. We experience dissatisfaction when we are not induced to surrender our praise to God.
That said, I wonder what the corporate worship experience can do to improve our fruit production. I use the worship experience at church to bring my heart to a place where I am ready to hear a message from God through the preacher. I try to focus and empty myself of my selfish desires and focus on Him. I submit that the purpose of the corporate worship experience is not to induce us to surrender our praise, but to teach us how to surrender in different ways and circumstances.
If you want to build a church that worships in spirit and truth, then I expect that ministry participants will need to learn how to worship. While one does not need to be at church to worship, church is a great place to learn to worship. I am convinced that worshiping together should be about helping participants learn to worship. So elements of the worship should be designed to appeal to different types of worshippers so that all can learn how to worship in different ways and find those that are the most conducive to each of them entering a deeper state of surrender.
Worship in some churches appears more to be about “going through the motions” – whether it is an old school liturgical service, or a new breed rockin’ service, people are just doing what everyone else is doing, either so that they don’t look out of place – or because they think that doing it like everyone else is the right thing to do. Of course, the Holy Spirit can work in both styles, and mature believers can be deeply affected by the spirit regardless of the style, music, venue or process. Yet, what is our corporate worship doing to help newer, less mature believers to grow in their ability to worship?
In my understanding, the purpose (fruit) of corporate worship is to encourage and teach believers how to worship (surrender), so that they translate the corporate worhip experience into private worship, and their private worship becomes more meaningful. Design your church’s worship experience towards that goal, and your fruit will increase.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do is to take people out of a comfort zone. People find Jesus and get saved… and they are comfortable with that. They participate in a small group… and they are comfortable with that. They help in a childrens ministry…
How does one encourage/enable others to experience a deeper faith, increase their dedication in discipleship, use their gifts and talents, develop a hunger and thirst for the Lord.
They need an example to follow. They need to see these things lived out. They need to rub shoulders with more mature believers who have been there (where they are now, and who have progressed and grown). They need a mentor.
If you want to produce the fruit of growing deeper, you need to take the most mature believers in your organization, and develop a ministry, so that others can see how someone at the next level or subsequent levels is. How they handle trials. How they approach their relationship with God. How they spend their time. What they struggle with.
Then if you want the fruit to multiply, you need to construct the ministry so that as each one matures, he or she also becomes an example to others who are not there yet.
Every believer should have be Timothy to some Paul, and every believer should be Paul to some Timothy.
This is why the Christian Life is not to be lived alone. This is why believers are commanded to not stop meeting together. This is why pastors need to be accountable either to a local board, or to a denomination. Because none of us are fully mature, all of us continue to grow – either deeper in our relationship with God, or apart from God. It is our connections to other believers that help us stay on track, as the world and the enemy try to derail our faith.
The ability to love others unconditionally is certainly a fruit of the spirit. The Bible talks about love quite a bit, and it is clear, that one of the outward signs of spirituality is love. So is love something that can be measured as a fruit? Is it something that our ministry can produce?
I think the answer on both counts is no, not really. As far as measurement goes, outward displays can be motivated selfishly – only God knows the intentions and the motivations of the heart. And for production, again, we really rely on the Holy Spirit to transform hearts to produce love.
So what can a ministry do? How can a ministry be organized to produce or to optimize love as an output?
I think that the best we can do with the personal fruits of the spirit (peace, love, joy, etc) are to model them. That is, our most mature members should be the example that other, less mature brothers and sisters need so that they can see, feel, and smell what these fruits are.
In order for this to happen, we must organize our ministry, so that as many of our new and immature believers have opportunity to spend time with more mature believers, both working side by side in ministry and getting close to them in social settings. Mature believers must understand that it is their role and responsibility to encourage newer, less mature believers by being an example.
Measuring is something that we tend to be afraid of. We feel that it is so corporate, so business like, so unspiritual.
If measurement is unspiritual, why in Acts 2:41 – does it count the believers who were added to the body at Pentecost? Because measurement is required for celebration.
When God talks about the harvest, He doesn't talk about a puny, pathetic, barely able to keep us alive harvest, He talks about abundance. If God is talking about an abundant harvest, why are we satisfied with puny, mediocre, adequate harvest? How can we tell the difference?
All of the words that I used to describe the harvest are words of measurement. When the harvest is abundant, we celebrate. We celebrate the works of God in delivering a bountiful harvest. How do we know whether the harvest is bountiful or mediocre? We measure it.
Is measuring fruit biblical? I think it is. I am not talking about measuring incidentals, but real fruit. Incidentals are things that may or may not correlate with real fruit. BIPs is an incidental measurement – what are BIPs? Butts In Pews. Sunday morning attendance is not a good measure of fruit. You can get more people to attend by putting on a good show, than by preaching the truth of the gospel. Small group attendance is not a good measure of fruit. You can have a lot of small groups and many people attending, but no discipleship or personal growth.
So how do you measure evangelistic fruit? How do you measure discipleship fruit? The measure is more about completion than showing up.
How many people made decisions for Christ? How many were baptized? How many completed a "foundations of the faith" class. How many completed a 2 year intensive discipleship program. How many are serving on a regular basis? How many are serving out of their giftedness? How many have met the qualifications of deacon or elder? How many have been sent into a mission field?
I would be willing to wager that your church or ministry does not keep great statistics about these things. So how can your congregation celebrate the fruit if they are not aware that it is being cultivated? The celebration of God's results is where we rejoice in the evidence that God is alive and at work in our midst. It is when we all get to say, "If God can do that for [him/her] He could do it for me? Our faith is encouraged, and we are challenged when we see God at work in the lives of others.
There is nothing better than counting the fruit to inspire us to participate in the harvest!
We have all heard the phrase, "the end justifies the means". It is a blanket rationale, when the ultimate outcome is worth any sacrifice, or expedience. It is used by governments to justify actions, and by good people to justify questionable actions.
How does fruit play into this? Well, the apostle Paul said "…I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." 1 Corinthians 9:22… What does this mean? This passage from 1 Cor 9:19-22 is all about fruit. It is about maintaining empathy for those that you are ministering to; about making sure our ministry remains relevant to those we are ministering to, so that we " by all means may save some." It is about ministry methods. How you conduct the ministry that you are engaged in. Because people get hung up on methods – specific ways of doing things that may engage some people, and turn others off. Again, it is about the fruit. God will bless methods that are aligned with His will by making them fruitful.
If we conduct ministry the way we did in 1970 or 1950 or even 1850, we probably will not get people engaged. Is it because those methods were not biblical? Probably not. Is it because people perceive them as archaic and out of date or step with "the times", most likely.
The bible doesn't really have a great prescription for how to conduct a church service, run a youth ministry; a women's program; a men's ministry. God left it up to us, each generation of believers to relate to our generation, our culture so that we would figure out how to cultivate the soil around us to produce fruit.