Managed spiritual care


by Stan Mitchell

To hear some people speak, you would think that all it takes to make a church grow is to advertise, let people know about “product benefits,” and be nice to newcomers. Now the latest church growth study on the effective use of parking lots has its place, but this should never take the place of an examination of the church’s earliest church growth study, the Bible.

Os Guinness recalls a Japanese businessman visiting Australia who made this observation: “Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager” (Dining With the Devil, page 49).

The poor man didn’t know the half of it. In Modern Christianity, ministers pose as coaches, entertainers, counselors and corporate CEO’s. Church growth gurus are obsessed with statistics and data, often at the expense of eternal truth. Churches exalt numbers, and fall down before methods in a manner that verge on idolatry.

I like the way the Apostles referred to their particular ministry. “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God…but we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2, 3 ESV). In its desire to meet a market or build good self-images, the church is in danger of forgetting its major function, to know God’s word and to proclaim it.

Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles, told her boys: “Either this book (the Bible) will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” It is the church’s peculiar function to spend time in examination of God’s word, and in presenting it to the community.

If the church does not take the time and effort to study the word of God, then who will? If the church does not proclaim God’s word, then who will?

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