The one where Phil might step on some toes (including his own).
As some of you may not know, the congregation I attend, Otter Creek Church of Christ, has recently moved into a new building. It's moved us from a 600 (on a packed day) seat sanctuary to a 1300 seat one. It's enabled us to go to one worship service and it's generally a full one. Apparently there have been quite a few people who have been waiting for Otter Creek to get a larger building to come visit and/or place membership.
Our church is following a standard set up for churches in America.
On one hand, I'm proud that people can come to Otter Creek and find something that they need there. I'm proud that the church I've grown up at is somewhere that people can find encouragement and challenge and good teaching and good worship. I like that people like this guy can come and have a good experience.
But then I wonder...
I wonder if the measure of our success as a church should be the number of people that attend. That's an easy number to count and an easy way to measure "success," but I don't think that's the measure that we as followers of Christ should use. What we should use is a much, much harder standard to measure by any objective means. I believe the standard for church growth is how the people of that congregation are embodying Christ in their lives.
And like I said, that's a hard standard and one that we're not used to measuring. We're used to the measure of a good Christian being how often they attend services and if they're basically good people. But God calls us to such a higher standard than that, that I really think we settle for way less. You see, being called to follow Christ really means to be an imitator of Christ. And that's not so much to do exactly what Christ did, mainly because we're not first Century Jewish Rabbis. What that means is that we try to live our lives as if Jesus were living them. How would Jesus live as a usability engineer, mother, teacher, lawyer, receptionist? If Jesus were confronted by the jerk in the cube on the other side of the wall from me, yakking on his phone all day much too loudly, how would he respond?
We are called to be Christ's disciples in this world. We are called to be the Body of Christ, and the measure of a congregation's success should be the zeal that her members have for carrying to love of Christ to every corner of their lives. It's not enough to punch the church clock and be a good person. It's not enough to believe that Jesus is the Christ. It just isn't. If our lives don't mirror Jesus, we're not really following Christ. And if a congregation doesn't promote that lifestyle to its members, then that church can only be counted as a failure.
It may have huge numbers. It may have great worship. It might have great teaching. But without the person of Jesus being mirrored and lived out in the fabric of the members, it's a nice building with nice people. But not really followers of Christ.