Sometime around 2010, I started to have some sporadic conversations with Craig Tackett (http://rhythmva.com), my friend/pastor/evangelist/student of the church who leads a ministry out of Roanoke, VA. We began to talk about what church is supposed to be, what it is supposed to “look like.”
Such conversations often evolve (or DE-volve) into Studies in Church Enlargement. Not church growth, but church enlargement. The American-ized version of Christianity has become a study into how to make the church bigger. Dialogue may start with the question, “What is a Christ-centered church supposed to be?” But it ends with, “How big can we get our church to be?”
In church-speak, size=health. If you can brag about how many baptisms have occurred or how many satellite campuses you have or how many people attended on a Sunday outside of Christmas and Easter, then you are successful and healthy. The problem is that bulk does not equal health. In fact, most doctors will tell you that too much bulk will eventually tear you down.
Again, this is not an effort to insult large churches. It is an effort to change the nature of the conversation. Rather than asking, “Why can’t we be bigger?,” we need to change the question to, “Why can’t we be more like Christ?” And even churches that do ask that second question have to be careful not to lose sight of it in an effort to add more bulk.
As Craig and I talked and emailed, he put me on to a series of sermons that he preached about healthy church. Like most sermons of this kind, he borrowed from other ministers and writings and worked the sermons towards his ministry situation. I did the same when preaching this series at Augusta Heights.
…full of individuals who believe the Scriptures are totally sufficient as an authoritative guide to the Christian life. The scriptures are sufficient, but not exhaustive. We read, study, debate and discuss to gain a greater understanding and work collectively to address those issues that are more indirectly addressed in scripture. We put our trust in the collective guidance of the Holy Spirit to understand what the scriptures are leading us to do.
…full of individuals who are pursuing Jesus as the ultimate treasure. It is time to put aside the “I” and put Christ at the head of all we do. We do not have “ownership” of the church because we do not even own ourselves. We belong to Christ, and we work to put all other things aside to move in a Christ-centered direction.
…full of individuals who celebrate obedience by practicing the ordinances assigned in Scripture. There are other valid religious practices, but we recognize Baptism and The Lord’s Supper as the two mandated ordinances. These remind us of two critical truths that we must understand if we are to maintain health: Jesus Christ died and was resurrected for us, and we belong to him through our commitment as symbolized in Baptism. These are powerful, life-giving symbols of Christ’s Lordship over our lives and the church.