GROWING BEYOND CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY IN THE
Please state whether you basically agree (A) or basically disagree (D) with the following statements concerning the mission and philosophy of the local church.
_____1. The purpose of the church is growth.
_____ 2. The church should be run like a business.
_____ 3. Growing churches are healthy churches.
_____ 4. The staff is paid to run the church.
_____ 5. Staff members should be evaluated on the basis of their performance.
_____ 6. The primary missions role of the local church is to provide financial support to missionaries.
_____ 7. The spiritual maturity of Christians is best measured by the things they avoid doing.
_____ 8. The more mature a Christian is, the more time he or she will spend at church.
_____ 9. Successful churches are large churches.
_____ 10. The pastor is the head of the church.
_____ 11. The more programs the church has, the more successful the church is.
_____ 12. The greater the percentage of its budget the church spends on missions, the
more successful the church.
_____ 13. Church programs must be led by the staff.
_____ 14. The happier church members are, the healthier their church.
_____ 15. The primary purpose of church budgeting is to control how money is spent.
_____ 16. Churches are in competition with nonreligious organizations.
_____ 17. The
purpose of Sunday School is Christian fellowship and integration of new members
into the life of the church.
_____ 18. Churches should be vision-driven.
_____ 19. Church conflict is bad and should be avoided.
_____ 20. Churches should do as much as possible for their members.
Total the number of "agrees" and the number of "disagrees." Use the following spaces to record your totals:
BEWARE OF CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY
The foregoing 20 statements
focus on church leadership philosophy--the basic purpose of the church and
orientation of its leaders. All 20 are phrased to reflect fairly traditional
patters of thinking and practice in many
The biblical mission and philosophy of the church are more complex than what is implied in this group of 20 statements. To the extent that you found yourself confidently agreeing with most of the statements, you unknowingly may be caught up in cultural Christianity.
Christianity is a deeply ingrained way of thinking that reflects the culture
surrounding the local church. The church becomes more and more like its
Let’s restate the 20 questions, this time broadening their focus to incorporate additional biblical perspectives:
A BROADER VIEW OF THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH
1. The purpose of the church is growth, both in number of members and in personal spiritual maturity.
2. The church should be run in a businesslike manner but not as an actual business.
3. Growing churches are healthy churches when spiritual growth accompanies numerical membership growth.
4. The staff is paid to train, equip, and lead members as a cooperative team in overseeing the church.
5. Staff members should be evaluated on the basis of their performance, which entails not only professional productivity but also spiritual role modeling and Christian character.
6. The primary missions emphasis of the local church is for members to personally engage in missions and help provide financial support for missions.
7. The spiritual maturity of Christians is measured by their obedience to Christ’s teachings, including reaching out in humble service to others.
8. The more mature a Christian, the more he or she will become personally involved in forwarding the mission of the local church. This mission entails working both inside and outside the church..
9. Successful churches are those that serve Christ through evangelism, discipling, and moral role modeling in the community.
10. Christ is the head of the church. The pastor is to be a role model of Christ to the congregation.
11. The more programs a church has to serve Christ (rather than to cater to members), the more successful the church.
12. The greater the percentage of its budget the church spends directly nurturing spiritual growth both at home and abroad through evangelism, discipling, and prayer, the more successful the church.
13. Church programs are to be led by the Holy Spirit, but coordinated through the staff and volunteers leaders.
14. The more sacrificial church members are, the healthier their church is spiritually.
15. The primary purpose of budgeting is to establish the ministry priorities of the church.
16. Churches compete with Satan to win the souls of the unsaved.
17. The purpose of Sunday School is to equip people for ministry through knowledge of the Bible and its teachings.
18. Churches should be Christ driven.
20. Churches should do as much as possible for Christ.
The Balanced Church
The above illustration depicts four major categories of activities critical to the church’s mission. They are based on combinations of inreach versus outreach and fellowship versus equipping. The spiritually healthy church maintains a reasonable balance among the four types of activities, resulting in four "boxes" of approximately the same size.
Body-building activities (inreach plus fellowship, such as Sunday School and recreational events) promote membership bonding and congregational unit Visitation also has a strong fellowship component but with an emphasis on outreach (primarily to church visitors and newcomers). Lay leaders can be equipped to minister internally (through Sunday School, counseling, youth work, and administration) or externally (through evangelism and community service).
Churches may have difficulty balancing activities in all four boxes because only so much time, energy, funding, and leadership are available to go around. Although a perfect balance among the boxes never can be attained, healthy churches nevertheless strive to attain excellence in all four areas over a period of time. They take all four areas seriously and make sure the boxes remain somewhat proportional in size.
Churches plagued with the malaise of "cultural Christianity" tend to overdo inreach and fellowship, as members (often at the staff’s initiative) spend most of their time serving themselves. The bodybuilding box becomes disproportionately large, while the right-hand boxes (evangelism, discipling, and equipping members for outreach) shrink and atrophy.
GETTING THE CHURCH BACK IN BALANCE
No church can break out of the pattern of cultural Christianity unless its leaders want it to happen. Leaders constantly must challenge the congregation to reach out, evangelize, sacrifice, and pray. Their commitment to outreach must be strong enough to keep the church from turning inward and becoming insulated. Volunteers must be trained, motivated, and mobilized to share their faith, invite friends to church, and follow up on new believers.
Spiritually healthy churches remain faithful to the basics: corporate prayer, witnessing, discipling, Bible study, and training. All programs and activities are built on these basics.
Energy comes to the local church through the Holy Spirit in the forms of prayer, revival, and servanthood. The more Christians serve, the more energy they get for loving. The more we reach out, the more we want to reach out.
Perhaps we have hit on the key principle for spiritual health in the local church. The closer we reside with God, the closer He resides with us. The godly church ultimately will be a spiritually balanced church.
SIGNS OF CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY
Some of the more common signs of cultural Christianity (unbalanced mission) in the church are:
1. Time for recreation and fun events but little time for evangelism and follow-up on new believers.
2. "Show-biz" worship in which staff members are expected to perform at higher and higher levels of competence.
3. Lack of congregational unity reflected by staff and ministry leaders fiercely competing for budget funding, volunteers, and priority on the church calendar.
4. People’s unwillingness to change and be flexible.
5. A drop in baptisms.
6. A drop in the number of church visitors and new members.
7. Anemic corporate prayer.
In short, churches become unbalanced when their members want to be served more than they want to serve. They begin to view the church as just another "consumer product" designed to serve them and to cater to their needs.