I love Matthias Media. These guys produce such outstanding Christian material. For 23 years they have been producing a monthly magazine called The Briefing. Recently The Briefing went online for free. I can’t recommend this more highly! One of the feature articles of the September/ October issue looks at the state of the Anglican church in Sydney and why it isn’t growing as rapidly as some may have thought. The Anglican church in Sydney is largely Reformed conservative Evangelical in nature. The article is well worth reading. However towards the end were some real gems which I have reproduced here. Visit Mathias Media for the whole article.
1“Persuading people to visit and then remain at our churches in itself amounts to little. Some of the world’s largest churches numerically are among its most disgracefully distorted and heretical. The end goal is not ‘bums on pews’. The end goal is to see people transferred from darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son through the powerful work of his word and Spirit.
However, church is an excellent place for that to happen—for people to be exposed to God’s word as it is regularly preached and discussed. Church is a good place, in other words, for real gospel growth to happen, the kind of growth that the New Testament actually speaks of. Gospel growth is what happens when the word of God takes root in someone’s life and bears fruit, bringing them to repentance and faith, and leading them to love, holiness and godliness. This is the only growth worth having, and it only happens as we plant and water God’s word, and pray that God by his Spirit would “give the growth” (1 Cor 3:6).
Consequently, it would be foolish to conclude … that we should dumb down our church gatherings, shorten the preaching, reduce the Bible readings, cut back on prayer, and have lots more music in order to be more appealing to visitors. It may indeed be more immediately appealing—in the sense of non-threatening and non-challenging. But over time, lite’n’easy church produces lite’n’easy Christians (which hardly amounts to ‘authentic gospel community’). Our meetings should focus on a deep engagement with God through the Word and prayer, because this is how gospel growth happens.”
“… while gospel growth happens in and through our church gatherings, the purpose of church is not evangelistic as such. The Christian congregation is a gathering of the saved around God to hear his word and respond to him together. As Christians gather to do this, we can make our public proclamation of God’s word intelligible and accessible and welcoming for visitors. It only takes a little love and thought to do so. But this does not mean building the meeting around visitors, nor constructing the meeting to attract visitors—to press their buttons, to tell them what their itching ears long to hear. God’s word should set our agenda in church, not what we perceive to be the interests of the visitor.”
“If we really believe that it is through the word of God and prayer that genuine disciples are grown and genuine gospel community nurtured, then our response to the challenge will be to consider how each one of us may more effectively, more frequently and more challengingly apply the word of God to one another’s lives, praying that by it God would bring forth the fruit of his Spirit.
It must happen on Sunday, but it can’t be limited to then. It won’t happen through better structures and management and programs. It won’t happen through focusing on ‘community’, and doing things to help people feel warmer and closer to each other, or more socially connected. Authentic gospel community springs from the word of God, as we speak it to each other, exhort each other, pray for each other, and live it out with each other.”
1Source: Mathias Media “The Briefing” 28 August 2011
Photo credit: from Mathias Media (no credit provided)