Four Indicators for Determining What Your Church Values–Part 1

Talk is cheap.  Walk is telling.  No matter what church members say or believe, their values are easily and objectively identifiable by four indicators:  believers, bystanders, Bible study, and budget. I’ll address the first two today.
 

Believers

Cultural relativism has truly blurred the lines about belief because it suggests that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something.  Not so for Christians. To be clear, believers are individuals who have entrusted Christ as their Lord and Savior. They are Christians–followers of Christ by word and deed–and model their lives like the Apostle Paul who declares in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (KJV).
 
You can tell a lot about a church based on their views about the doctrines and principles of Christianity along with their practical application of the Word of God.  Expositor Steven Lawson puts it this way: “A high view of God leads to high worship and holy living, but a low view of God leads to trivial worship and low living.”   1
 
By the same token, Kyle Idleman warns us about a disturbing trend among churches:  “My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ.”  2
 
Your church should value believers who bear fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and multiply disciples (John 15:8).  If your church does this, you are truly blessed.
 

Bystanders

Bystanders fall into two categories:  church members who are not actively involved in church ministries (both believers and unbelievers) and visitors (both believers and unbelievers).   I’ll touch upon these briefly.
 
Admittedly, it’s difficult to understand how and why believers choose not to be involved in at least one ministry at their church.  This isn’t dogmatic, it’s doctrine.  James 2:14-26 clarifies the important distinctions between works based righteousness and faith based righteousness.  It’s not about doing things just to do them, it’s about doing things that please, magnify, and bring glory to God.  
 
Ironically and sadly, the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) also applies in churches where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the congregation. How your church responds to non-active believers and lovingly moving them to roll up their sleeves for the work of the God truly reflects what Christian living is about.  Jesus’ declaration to His disciples should be a rallying cry for your church: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37).
 
By the same token, bystanders who are visitors should also have tangible evidence of how your church demonstrates the love of Christ for them, particularly those who are unbelievers.  Does your church acknowledge and love on CEO visitors (those who attend Christmas and Easter Only services)?  3
 
In many cases, non-believing visitors must belong before they believe;  they need to feel valued, appreciated, and included in non-pressured church activities which are perfect opportunities for establishing relationships leading to discipleship opportunities.  After all, you don’t have to be a believer to go to a movie or be invited to dinner by believers. 
 
Larry Gilbert describes these intentional activities as Acquaintance Making Events (AMEs):  “AMEs are social gatherings, picnics, cookouts, parties, hospitality events, afternoon teas, etc. They usually take place outside the church. Their purpose is simple: to help develop a three-way relationship or friendship bridge between you, the non-saved or non-churched friend you invite, and the regular members of the group.”  4
 
In contrast are Relationship Strengthening Activities (RSAs) described as follows:  “RSAs are any activity for the purpose of developing, cultivating, strengthening, and building trusting relationships between your non-churched friends and other church members. These activities usually take place in smaller groups (four or less) or one on one and are more informal in the sense that they are less planned and more spontaneous.”  5
Both types of intentional and sustainable activities are essential for your church’s well-being.
 
Another consideration is how your church views and treats those who are both believers and visitors.  O. J. Bryson explains how the Rule of Seven helps build and nurture relationships:  “When a church member has seven close friends in a church, he or she will never leave it.”  6
 
Two of the four indicators of what your church values are believers and bystanders.  I’ll talk about the last two–Bible study and budget–next time.
 
1   Lawson, Steven. “‘A Puny God.’” Ligonier Ministries, ligonier.org
 
2  Idleman, Kyle. Not a Fan Updated and Expanded: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (p. 25). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
 
3 Stevenson, Mark.  “Discovery Class Session 6: Member Expectations.” New Life Community Church, 24 Jan. 2020.  Youtube.com
 
4  Gilbert, Larry. Your Gifts: Discover God’s Unique Design for You (p. 97). ChurchGrowth.org. Kindle Edition.
 
5  Gilbert, Larry. Your Gifts: Discover God’s Unique Design for You (p. 98). ChurchGrowth.org. Kindle Edition. 
 
6  Gilbert, Larry. Your Gifts: Discover God’s Unique Design for You (p. 96). ChurchGrowth.org. Kindle Edition. 

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