About twenty years ago a Christian friend sent me an excellent expose…critical of the “church growth movement”…pointing out in specific details the shortcomings of this evangelical approach. Since that time I have given thought to this issue.
My recent discovery or revelation of the vertical graph-line spectrum of goodness and light…where everything falls somewhere on this scaled continuum…with brilliant pure light and absolute goodness at the very top…and gradually dimming light and decreasing degrees of good descending down this vertical line…helps me visually understand some issues in terms of relative light and darkness…using our very human capacity to categorize and to group things.
Within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…quite a distance down the vertical spectrum of goodness and light…and comprising a considerable line-segment length of blended light and darkness…we want things to go our way…to lead to success, security, and material wealth…on our timing and our terms.
Jesus Christ reaches down into our darkness and lifts us up into heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-6). Jesus does not lower the salvation experience and a challenging journey of faith down to our level to make it more appealing and to suit us. On the contrary, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount appeals to us to seek to enter in at the narrow gate and to avoid the broad way (Mt. 7:13-14). Jesus honestly tells us that if we are to follow Him as disciples…that this will involve taking up our cross…meaning that our way must give place to God’s way in the new course and direction of our lives (Isa. 53:6).
Everything in biblical salvation and in journeys of faith are about coming up…coming upward on the vertical graph-line spectrum of goodness and light. A God-composed journey of faith life-script…as recorded in the Bible and as experienced today by Spirit-born Christians…in order to have genuine transforming power…is designed to displace our lower ways with God’s higher ways and plans…within a zone higher on the spectrum graph-line…above worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33)…is worldly conventional to the core. It is an issue that has to be in balance…and resolved within our minds and hearts…on God’s terms…in any genuine biblical-quality adventure of faith following Jesus Christ.
Leaving aside the issues of well-groomed landscaping on the church campus, new carpeting, comfortable seating, an up-to-date sound system, people coming into the sanctuary 15 minutes late carrying coffee and donuts from the foyer, and Sunday sermons that are not stuck in stale, old doctrinal percepts and rules week after week…the church growth movement makes sense on some level within worldly conventional thinking. It tailors the church experience to be lower down on the vertical spectrum of goodness and light…so as to be more appealing and accessible to more people…the so-called “unchurched.”
All of the physical improvements in the church growth movement are commendable and admirable. We appreciate it when people care enough about us to clean their homes before we come to visit. This is simply a matter of respect and thoughtfulness.
But the “salt” of the gospel message should never be compromised in our outreach efforts. If we ourselves are not higher up on the spectrum line of goodness and light, then we have little to offer in terms of transforming salvation.
Coming upward on the spectrum of goodness and light involves giving up our own way. Journey of faith life-scripts enlist our willing participation…but the script storyline is all God’s.
Peter’s transformation is a biblical case in point. Peter insightfully objects to his initial calling to discipleship by Jesus: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8).
Yet look how far Peter has come up the vertical graph-line spectrum of goodness and light…as he stands before the Jerusalem populace on Pentecost and preaches a bold message filled with Holy Ghost power and truth…that converts thousands of people to the Christian life on that historic day.
The avenue to obtain words of life that will draw-in the unsaved…is first to live the life ourselves…to possess something to give to others…along with all of the traits that every missionary of the gospel has had to master…patience, perseverance, hope, trust, faith, and most of all…love (1 Cor. 13).