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In today's society, many equate growth with success. That goes for churches, too. Many want more members and the finances to have bigger buildings, more programs and more staff.
But let's be honest. Before dedicating resources to anything, some critical questions should be asked. Questions like:
"What is the desired outcome?" "What is the motivation?" "Does it match up with God's will?"Why ask these questions? In this world, it is easy to get off track.
Human organizations set goals and objectives all the time. It keeps them focused. They carefully define their products and services.
However, consider this: A church's "product" transcends any human products. The desired biblical outcome reflects changed behavior in each of us. Paul wrote:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he [God] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Ephesians:3:16, New International Version, emphasis added throughout).Through the teachings of morality and revelation of the Bible, following the Head of the Church—Jesus Christ Himself—we look for renewal and transformation in that "inner man."
This is not easy. So what can happen? Here's a somber truth: Sometimes people will rationalize, allow themselves to be deluded, to achieve physical growth.
George Barna is the respected founder of The Barna Group, a market research firm that studies the religious beliefs and behavior. He recently asked pastors about their beliefs and preaching regarding the relevancy of Scripture to major issues of society. What did he find?
Here are his sad conclusions:
"What we're finding is that when we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, 'Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues,'" he explained. "Then we ask them: 'Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?' and the numbers drop … to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it" (emphasis added).How terrible!
Now, allow me to ask some tough questions: Do some ministers fall silent concerning sinful behavior so as not to offend potential members and limit growth plans? If so, does conflict exist between knowing what's right and not wanting to say it?
Certainly Jesus does not want harsh "spiritual sheriffs" mashing innocent sheep. God hates sin and cannot have anything to do with it, but at the same time, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John:3:16).
So certainly there is a balance in caring for people and presenting the truth with respectful loving honesty and understanding, but there is no quarter, no excuse for softening the Word of God and making it powerless simply for the sake of physical growth!
Is this not a modern 21st century replication of what the prophet Isaiah wrote about the clergy of his time? Here are his words. See if they apply today:
"His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yes, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand : they all look to their own way, every one for his gain , from his quarter" (Isaiah:56:10-11).In John:8:32 Jesus Christ stated, " The truth shall make you free ." Free of what? Understood and rightly applied, biblical truth frees us of the natural penalties of living a life otherwise doomed to emptiness, despair and death! Jesus Christ came to lead us to repentance. What does that mean? It means to honestly compare yourself against biblical standards and make a conscious and action-directed decision to change to match those standards.
The United Church of God fearlessly teaches the spiritual and moral values of the Bible. The Bible enthusiastically declares that with God's help we are to be victorious, to overcome the world, not have the world overcome and muzzle us! (Revelation:2:26).
We will never compromise with sin. In all of our public proclamations we will fulfill the admonishment of Isaiah:58:1: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression."
We stand with Paul: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans:1:16, NIV).
Where do you stand?
PS - To learn more about the United Church of God read online or request this informative booklet This is The United Church of God .
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