The Success of the Church
Most biblical characters were not successful by the world’s standards. Moses, the chaser of The Promised Land, never reached his destination. Jeremiah was thrown into an ancient port-o-potty for preaching the ever-offensive message of repentance. John the Baptizer was beheaded. Jesus, God’s own Son, died a criminal’s death. With this said, how does church measure success? How does the Emerging Church measure success? In the following discussion, explore the differences between how the conventional church and the Emerging Church view success.
Conventional Church Measuring Stick: Buildings, Budgets and Bodies
Whether or not it is explicitly stated, the conventional church defines success with the three B’s: buildings, budgets and bodies. If a congregation is growing in numbers, it seeks to build a bigger building. If a church is healthy, this is interpreted to mean more bodies sitting in the pews on Sunday. If a church is thriving, it means it has a large and vastly dispersed budget. The three B’s are the “unspoken” measuring stick of the conventional church.
Again, Luke the evangelist shares with us the life of the first Christians, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:45-47) There was no need for a capital fund drive or a new building campaign. The church lived dynamically different than the world and She thrived.
Application #1: The Emerging Church measures success missionally
Ever since Jesus arrived on the scene, heaven has been radically unfolding itself on earth. The wonders of heaven, the Words of heaven and the sounds of heaven came through the Prophets, then God’s Son and now His Church. God is constantly bringing heaven to earth. However, only some can see it. The Church brings these signs from God to the ends of the earth. The Church trusts that God will open the eyes of the world to join in faith, doing heavenly deeds to the glory of our King ruling in heaven.
Application #2: The Emerging Church seeks to make God famous
As long as the church tries to compete with the world, it will certainly lose. The church was not designed to be in competition with large business corporations or to match the political correctness of government and the media. The Emerging Church recognizes full well that she thrives on the Spirit of God, the Spirit that is not tempered by the world. As a result, the Emerging Church appreciates small house churches with extremely focused service projects. The Emerging Church grows not by expanding its building size, but through planting clusters and pockets of Christians that seek to make God famous. The Emerging Church forfeits the world’s individualistic tendencies and prizes intimate community–Christians faithfully living life together.
So the church is not a building, a budget or a mass of bodies, but a heavenly dwelling that is spreading like wildfire. Paul told the Thessalonian church, “And so you became a model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). These Christians did not seek a larger building to gather in worship, but they did seek to make God famous outside their building. Like the Thessalonian church, the Emerging Church wants nothing less than to make Christ known everywhere in the world.