Want Church Growth?

4 New, Attractive Strategies To Reject 

Evangelical Church Growth Skids To A Stop.

The Evangelical Church in Iran grows at a rate nearly 24 times as fast as in America. (1)

Ouch!

omf.org/thailand/2015/03/09/fast-growth-of-the-church
omf.org/thailand/2015/03/09/fast-growth-of-the-church

The Evangelical Church in America faces a crisis. Its members flee it in droves. Young people, once the foundation of the Church, no longer remain as in the past. (2)

American church buildings, once alive with activity, set empty and silent.

“Not to worry,” say American Church growth experts. They have plans to reverse the trend. Emergent Church proponents offer a range of ideas to stem the tide and promote growth. In addition, the mega-church activists emphasize a different approach to growth.

Declining Church growth, however, indicates a deeper problem than mere lack of numerical growth.

Where does one turn to find analysis of the Church’s problems that lead to its decline? Frank Schaeffer, son of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer, summarized some of the current recommendations in an article, “Progressive Christianity Is As Broken As Evangelicalism: Here’s How To Fix It.” (3)

Frank’s approaches appeal to many looking for solutions. Will they resolve the problems that cause the decline of the evangelical Church in America?

Read and see why they will not solve the Church’s troubles and discover the truth from Jesus’ life that provides Biblical direction for the Church.

1: Attractive Evangelical Church Growth Strategies To Reject: Definition Of The Problem

In Frank Schaeffer’s review of the status of the American Evangelical Church, he described the Church as:

  • apathetic;
  • impotent;
  • unloving;
  • homophobic;
  • and
  • misogynous (anti-women). (4)

Although the politically incorrect sins describe many in the Evangelical Church today, it only depicts their outward manner of life. It does not address the root cause of these manifestations.

Further, the popularity of listing prevalent sins in the Evangelical Church will not promote growth. Frank advocates the elimination of these sins, but provides no suggestions on how to accomplish it.

In fact, the trendy Emergent Church rejects any emphasis or even mention of sin in their meetings. I have attended services in Emergent Churches, and they refuse to call sin…sin. Mistakes, yes, errors, yes, but sin, no.

However, the Emergent Church does not stand alone in its refusal to mention sin. In similar fashion as with Emergent Churches, I have attended proud, Bible thumping, fundamentalist Church services that do not mention sin either.

Until the Evangelical Church confronts sin in the lives of those who attend Her services, condemns it, and calls for repentance from sin, She will continue to decline in attendance and Biblical spirituality.

2: Attractive Evangelical Church Growth Strategies To Reject: Deletion of Crucial Doctrine

In Frank’s opinion, people need liberation from Church doctrines that stifle them. According to Frank Schaeffer, the Church must discard the theology of retribution, i.e., the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners.

Apparently, Schaefer rejects the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for others. Frank suggests that the Church must remove this particular doctrine and its “ill effects upon people,” which will free them to find themselves in others. (5)

Removal of Christ’s atonement from the Evangelical Church’s doctrines will not enhance Church growth. Its absence, again, prevalent in Emergent Churches as well as many mainline churches, may appeal to some people who desire a religious experience or even to some immature believers.

However, in the end, its privation creates problems rather than solves them. How then will sinners experience salvation from sin? Schaeffer provides no answer.

Unbelievers have no hope without the substitutionary death of Christ on behalf of sinners like them.

 3: Attractive Evangelical Church Growth Strategies To Reject: Eucharistic Sacramental Traditions

Frank Schaeffer recommended that the Evangelical Church return to the Eucharistic Sacramental tradition of worship. This rediscovery, Frank said, coupled with its Liturgy, fosters the application of New Testament freedom in people’s lives. (6)

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www.patheos.com

Schaeffer said that a gospel of inclusion emerges from this open-mindedness in doctrine and practice. The Church, then, would include leaders from the presently disenfranchised:

  • homosexuals;
  • women;
  • and other minorities. (7)

This proposal permeates the Emergent Church and increases in popularity among Church Growth Proponents as a means to attract people. In its rejection against modernity and the Fundamentalist Church, the Emergent Church attempts to differentiate Herself from the Fundamentalist Church with this appeal to a person’s aesthetic nature.

Mere appeals to emotions and traditions miss the mark, however, as valid contributors to meaningful Church growth. They emphasize doing more than believing, and concentrate upon outward behavior rather than upon the inward condition of mankind.

 4: Attractive Evangelical Church Growth Strategies To Reject: Deeds Not Creeds

According to Schaeffer, these popular strategies, which he emphasizes, lead to non-judgmental churches, which promotes Evangelical Church growth. (8)

In fact, many prominent protestant denominations founded their core beliefs upon the very same ideas that Frank suggested. For centuries, they have emphasized deeds not creeds.

Multitudes of present day churches implement this emphasis, which promotes inclusiveness and non-judgmental attitudes toward people, which Schaeffer attempted to popularize.

Yet, these organizations experience spiritual decline, too.

Summary: Attractive Evangelical Church Growth Strategies To Reject

In his article, Frank Schaeffer made a fundamental error. He misdiagnosed the nature of the problem, which the Evangelical, Protestant, Emergent Church in North America faces.

Mr. Schaeffer stated that the Church needs to concentrate upon doing, not being. He described numerous actions that the Church must take to correct its faults. (9)

In essence, Frank Schaeffer emphasized outward behavior instead of inward change. A multitude of Evangelical Church critics make the same error as Schaeffer.

Yes, the Church needs a revival, but not one based solely upon a change of outward behavior. These mere superficial adjustments indeed bring changes in practice but do not change the hearts of those who adopt them.

In fact, without a change of heart no true change occurs.

Jesus’ Recommendation For The Evangelical Church: Rejection Of Reliance Upon Outward Appearance

Jesus Christ taught this truth many times throughout His earthly ministry. For example, Jesus derided the religious leaders of His day, the Scribes and the Pharisees, for their emphasis upon outward appearance.

Meticulous in their pursuit of Law breakers, the Scribes and Pharisees placed heavy burdens upon people’s behaviors but did nothing to remove the problems caused by their demands. (10)

These religious zealots even elevated their own rules above God’s Law by excusing children from their God ordained responsibilities to honor their parents. (11)

Jesus called them whited sepulchers. They appeared righteous to others, rigorously following religious liturgies and practices, but hypocrisy and lawlessness filled their hearts. (12)

Jesus identified what defiles humanity and the Church. It begins in the heart. Jesus said that the wickedness of mankind proceeds from within a person, out of the heart.

Therefore, all attempts at mere outward behavior modification, no matter how apparently religious, end in failure. (13)

Application of Jesus’ Solution For The Evangelical Church

Contrary to Frank Schaeffer, Jesus did not become human merely to provide a worthy example for humanity to follow. He took upon Himself human flesh to become an atoning sacrifice on behalf of sinners.

He came to give His life a ransom for sinners like you and me, ones helpless to change our sinful natures. (14) In His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty that people like you and I deserve to pay.

The revolution that the Evangelical Church needs that will produce true growth of the Church must begin in the hearts of its members. Those who trust upon Christ possess new hearts that God gave to them by His Holy Spirit.

We who believe upon Jesus must allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable us to live in victory over our sinful desires and to bring forth in our lives that new life that He planted there.

Perhaps you, too, follow the error that Frank Schaeffer espoused in his article. However, contrary to Schaeffer, Evangelical Church growth always begins in the heart.

Jesus calls us to forsake our self-righteousness. Instead, He calls us to trust Him exclusively.

If you have not trusted upon Christ, come to Him now in faith upon His provision on behalf of people like you, and you will obtain eternal life. (15) Jesus said that every one who comes to Him in faith upon Him, He will not cast out. He will accept each one. (16)

Jesus Christ urges you and me to turn from our self-reliance, and trust Him as our Substitute for what He accomplished on the cross as payment to a holy God on behalf of sinners like us. We will experience a change of heart.

Therefore, True Evangelical Church growth will become a reality as previous and new believers rely upon the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower them to live God honoring lives.

References

  1. http://www.operationworld.org
  2. Ibid
  3. To read Frank Schaeffer’s article, “Progressive Christianity Is As Broken As Evangelicalism: Here’s How to Fix It,” in its entirely, click this link: http://www.redletterchristians.org/progressive-christianity-is-as-broken-as-evangelicalism-heres-how-to-fix-it
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Matthew 11.28.
  11. Mark 7.11.
  12. Matthew 23.27-28.
  13. Matthew 15.10-20.
  14. Matthew 20.28.
  15. John 3.16.
  16. John 6.35-40.

© Thomas P Hill. Website: www.masterministries.org.

Personal Information: Thomas P. Hill, M. A. in Ministry, Luther Rice Seminary; author of 3 books: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Homosexuality, Christians, and the Church; and Keys To A Revolutionary Life (available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Tom’s web site). To invite Tom to speak at your college, church, or group, contact him by email at hill_tom@att.net.

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