From Darryl Dash‘s new article for Christian Week:
It was a proud moment. The church had just welcomed eighty-three new members. The pastor began his sermon. “This is great, isn’t it?” he began. “But before we get too giddy about new members, let me ask you a question: Why should we bring eighty-three new people into something that isn’t working?”
The pastor, Bill Hull, describes this as the first time he had unmasked himself in thirty years of ministry. “Something his wrong,” he said. “All the formulas, strategic planning, mission statements, and visionary sermons are not making disciples.” In his book, Choose the Life, Hull comments, “We were stuck in the same rut in which so many churches find themselves – religious activity without transformation.”
…Dallas Willard, author of numerous books on discipleship, argues that there is only one solution to the crisis facing the church. It is to make “spiritual formation in Christlikeness the exclusive primary goal of the local congregation.”
It is to move beyond all the discussions on architecture, styles of music, and structures, and focus all of our energy on bringing “all those in attendance to understand clearly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be solidly committed to discipleship in their whole life.”
This goal, he writes, would have to be approached gently and patiently with existing groups where “people have not understood this to be part of their membership commitment.”
Willard is right. As Ray Stedman wrote years ago, “God’s first concern is not what the church does, it is what the church is.” A post-Christian world, skeptical young adults, and God himself will not settle for anything less. (Link)
I was going to comment on this, but Randall has already weighed in and Leighton talks about it all the time on his blog. This troubles me—that Christians generally aren’t any different—but I don’t have the answers. I can’t even seem to figure out how we could be different, given that love and good works exist outside of the faith. Food for thought.