On 21 July, my message on the measures of a great church contained a lot of information that I asked us to be in prayer about over the coming weeks. In an effort to make this information available and to refresh our memories, here are the key points of the message.
The Measure of a Great Church
Great churches understand their mission as transforming the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ.
A great church is one that is intentional–that is, deliberate–about everything it does.
Great churches do not have to be large in size, neither do they have to live up to other people’s expectations regarding programs or facilities. They do have to meet God’s expectations for them, the things that matter to God.
What matters to God is being the best church we can possibly be right here, right now, for the people whose lives we touch in the name of Jesus Christ.
The only size that matters to God is the size of the heart we have for God and for others.
Great churches practice the fundamentals of the Christian faith just as great sports teams master the fundamentals of their sport, and as concert violinists practice their fundamentals.
One framework for understanding how we can answer God’s call to do our best for God comes from the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase. Some of the things he identifies we are already doing, and doing well. Others probably need some work.
But the point is for us to be constantly striving toward God’s standard, reaching toward the heavenly goal set for us by Christ.
So what makes for a great church?
Great churches bear fruit for God’s Kingdom with five fundamental practices (the key is in the adjectives):
– Radical hospitality: Actively inviting and welcoming people to discover an abundant spiritual home in Jesus Christ.
– Passionate worship: Coming eagerly expecting to meet God through all the components of worship: song, prayer, Scripture, preaching, and Sacrament. We respond by allowing God to shape our lives.
– Intentional faith development: Great churches offer opportunities for people to learn together to better understand Scripture, faith and life. This follows the pattern established by Jesus when he took them aside to teach them about God’s Kingdom.
– Risk-taking mission and service: Offering opportunities to engage in life-changing encounters with people outside the four walls of the church, locally and globally.
– Extravagant generosity: Growing in grace by becoming extravagent givers in such a way that we are transformed from self-centered individuals into an other-centered community of faith.
To sum up, great churches are churches that understand their highest mission as transforming the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Great churches know that size matters only in the degree to which we enlarge our hearts to love God and to love other people and God’s good Creation.
Great churches bear fruit for God’s Kingdom by practicing the fundamentals: radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity.
When we do all these things, we glorify God by producing good fruit for God’s Kingdom.
I want to invite you to be in prayer over the coming weeks and months to ask God where God is calling us as a church to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom? In what ways is God calling you to bear fruit for God?