Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!

Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
For those of you who would like to support the vision & ministry of Woodland Hills Community Church (the faith community I serve that continues to encourage me to minister outside the box), please click on the link just above.

Thursday, May 28

Today’s Readings: Psalm 27; Ezekiel 6:1-14; Luke 10:38-42; Romans 8:1-11; Psalm 79

As the mainline denominations began to experience a noticeable decline in membership during the 1960’s and 1970’s, many denominations bought into a very specific approach to reverse the membership declines and initiate institutional growth. They adopted what many have called a programmatic approach toward congregational life. The basic philosophy went something like this: “If you want to grow a congregation, develop programs that will attract new members. It’s the programs a congregation offers that will ultimately grow the church!” In order to attract families, for instance, local churches were told to develop programs ranging from parenting classes for parents to activity groups for youth. And in order to attract young people, local churches were pressured to create programs for single persons. You name the demographic, and programs were created to attract new members from that group. It certainly sounded like a reasonable approach toward church growth. And for many local churches, the strategy worked; their institutions began to grow numerically. But at what cost? You see one of the dangers of a programmatic approach is that it is predicated on growing churches by appealing to one thing: self-interest. Just as the programmatic approach predicted, new folks came into our local churches and stayed as long as they got exactly what they wanted out of them. As soon as the local church failed to meet their demand(s), however, many of the new members quickly disappeared. That dynamic left many in the church growth movement very disillusioned. I was reminded of this as I read today’s passage from Romans, where Paul cautions: “Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what God is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored” (Romans 8:6-8 from The Message). The challenge for our local churches in the 21st Century is to break their bad habit of appealing primarily to people’s self-interest, and instead begin to cultivate a culture where individuals are attracted to a local church because of its ability to help facilitate the growth of their personal relationship with God. So where are you at with all of this in terms of your own spiritual life? Is your relationship with God predicated on your sense of what God can do for you; or is it predicated on something else – something much deeper? Til next time…

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