Plumber plumb pipes, accountants account for money, Pastors… sadly all to often we count… people and giving! It ends up being a way of measuring the success or health of a church. But are there more important things to measure? Not that people don’t matter, and we shouldn’t encourage meeting together on a Sunday, and not that giving doesn’t matter – it’s an essential part of being a disciple. But perhaps there are other indicators of spiritual health and maturity we could measure. Dale Stephenson from Crossway Baptist has helped our thinking here!
Our vision statement at Manly Life Church is to join God in bringing life to Manly… How would we measure that? What does life mean? Is the life Jesus came to bring (John 10:10) hard to measure…
But if we were to measure it, what would be good indicators – things that the scriptures and church history tell us matter to God? Maybe how many in our community have come to follow Christ anew or afresh? And how many baptisms? How many people are regularly meeting on Sundays and in Life Groups to grow in their faith? How many people have committed to the community through membership, giving or serving in a ministry team? How many of you are involved in mission, whether on a trip or locally? How many of you are disicipling a pre-Christian person in the faith?
Of course you could be doing all of these things and still be a real rat bag! It is hard to measure what is happening in a persons life as the Spirit changes us. But there is still a point to looking at indicators of spiritual health beyond bums on seats and dollars given!
We are a part of the big story of God. Not a meaningless story as atheists like Dawkins would suggest (we are just self reproducing robots…). We are a part of the renewal of all things. We are to join God in bringing life to Manly. That is what we believe – God is up to something today! The story begins before Jesus with the creation of the world, humanities fall and the formation of God’s people Israel… But is really comes to a focus with Jesus, he announces the kingdom of God is here…
So Jesus announces this exciting new reality (Luke 4, Mark 1), then he demonstrates it through teaching, signs and wonders. Then he gets his disciples to have a go! The big event is then his death and resurrection… A victory over evil is won and the forgiveness of sins is secured. Then we get to this commissioning again!
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So it is incredible story of God renewing the earth through sending us to make disciples! We get to play our part in this ongoing story of God bringing life to his world. So the things that Jesus first disciples have been involved in and transformed by is to be taught and practiced by people all over the world. Proclaiming and practicing grace, healing, casting out evil, working for justice…
The Acts 2 Community then gives us an indication of what the church is meant to look like! The Spirit comes, a defining mark in the birth of the church… the Gospel is preached… people are converted… yes it happens! And then this community forms and it has defining characteristics… markers of a growing community of disciples!
Acts 2:42-47 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who 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.”
Learning, sharing, praying, loving, worshipping, outreaching… So you get the sense of what the church is all about… what is important! And that community spreads into the ancient world with this message of radical grace and community!
So that is what we are about… and from there you can begin to guess why church takes the shape it does… why we do the things we do and encourage all of us to get in on!
At Manly Life these things are happening! On Alpha people are coming to know Jesus, in our Life Groups people are learning and doing life together. At Manly Christian Surfers young disciples are being made. There are local opportunities for mission and service with the Salvo’s, Street Pastors, the upcoming Halve Poverty event. On Sundays we gather to learn, pray, give and do community. Our ministry teams are serving the community as a body, all with parts to play!
So this Sunday we will ask how are you going in becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. Helped by Dale, we will look at measuring how we are going as a community. Have you made a decision to follow Christ? Have you been baptised? Are you committed to the local church? Are you in a life group? Do you serve on a ministry team? Are you involved locally or overseas with mission? Are you in turn discipling a non-Christian?
These are not the only markers of Christian maturity – but they are helpful indicators that we as a church are living out our calling to make disciples and join God in bringing life to Manly!
What do you think?