Internal Security

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By Mark A. Taylor

Everyone serving the Lord struggles sometimes with tension between external actions and internal motives.

Am I singing or preaching or teaching because I love to be in front of people, or because I love to communicate God’s Word?

Do I give out of guilt or out of gratitude?

Do I approach Bible study, prayer, or weekly worship solely out of duty, or are they a delight to me?

And when it comes to ministers who lead growing churches, the tensions multiply. Am I seeking church growth to build the kingdom or to build my ego? Am I more concerned about my reputation or the needs of those we’re serving? Who’s glorified most because of our ministry, those leading it or God?

Ministers with the three largest Christian churches/churches of Christ in America talked about this in my Beyond the Standard discussion with them May 15. I asked them, “How do we balance concern for numerical growth with attention to spiritual growth?”

Dave Stone, minister with Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, said, “I prefer to talk about church health as opposed to church growth. When an organism is healthy, growth is a natural by-product.” But he pointed out that seasons of plateau or times for pruning are sometimes natural or necessary. And he admitted that he had his own struggle with ego when church attendance dropped by 1,500 in the first year of his ministry after longtime Southeast minister Bob Russell retired.

Don Wilson, who serves Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona, looks at three external indicators of internal spiritual growth for any Christian: Are you generous? Are you serving in ministry? Are you sharing your faith?

And Jud Wilhite, minister with Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada, referred to 2 Corinthians 5:12, where Paul speaks about external success contrasted with internal sincerity:

Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart (New Living Translation).

Wilhite’s interpretation: “Paul’s alluding to the fact that people in his day were bragging about numbers, if you will. If you just look at the numbers, he wouldn’t have a spectacular ministry. But he has a sincere heart.”

Each of these three fellows has what could be called a “spectacular ministry.” (Their three congregations are reaching a total of more than 60,000 worshippers every weekend!) And not everyone is comfortable with their success. Questions from those who called into the program all hinted at skepticism or concern about why and how megachurches achieve their numbers.

But as each of these leaders offered gracious answers to those questioners, I heard indications of humility and concern that underlie every ministry led by someone with a sincere heart.

 

Listen to the whole discussion with Wilhite, Stone, and Wilson, including how ministry has stayed the same for them, no matter the size of their congregations. Find the hour-long program here.

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1 Comment

  1. May 25, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    How many Paid Spiritual Leaders shoot for Growth because they are thinking about their salary and not thinking about what God’s Will for them might be?

    Just because your Fellowship is “Healthy” does not mean the numbers will grow. Noah preached for over 100 years and yet only 8 were saved. Noah’s family was “Healthy” but the Numbers Growth was not there. Yet Noah trusted God for the needs of Himself and his family. He was not selling tickets or recruiting “passengers” who would then “tithe” to him.

    I think American Spiritual Leaders focus too much on the Rich. That’s who they generally target as they are “eyeballing” the salaries of such people and in their minds have already planned how they wish to spend the “tithe” that these Rich Members will bring to them. This is counting your chicks before they have hatched.

    On the opposite end I see very little compassion for the poor who live abroad. I see little compassion for the poor in Christ abroad. American Fellowships spend Billions of Dollars on themselves to “attract” Rich people but they do very little real “Missional” work.

    I myself earn my living as an Engineer. I do not ask others to give money to Rich Churches so they can build Elaborate Worship Centers. Instead I ask that others to give to the truly poor as our Vietnamese sister in Christ below herself does.

    Vietnam – Kim Phuc – 2014, The Napalmed Girl who came to Christ

    Jesus requires the Rich to share with the poor. This is what I strongly suggest that we American believers do.

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