I have been thinking a lot lately about Colossians 1, where Paul writes: "We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this reason I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." It strikes me that this comes close to a creedal text for those of us involved in church ministry. Sometimes we get so immersed in the X's and O's of church work that we forget to step back and ask what 's the real reason we're doing all this. Paul has great clarity on it, and is more concise than usual: "so that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
If your church is looking for a big hairy audacious goal, this will do for starters.
The scale: everyone.
The outcome: mature in Christ.
That's not common language in our day. So recently I have asked church leaders in a number of settings to take a few moments to describe what someone who is "mature in Christ" looks like. Certain words always make the list: loving, joyful, peaceful, forgiving, serving, courageous, loyal, humble, generous.
And when "mature in Christ" is explained in those terms, there are not many people who are uninterested. This offer has remarkably broad appeal. I went with a friend to see Avatar last week. The 3-D thing is pretty cool. The writer does not actually attach a denominational label to the script, but it was pretty obviously not produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. However, the qualities in the heroes are remarkably consistent with many of the words listed by church leaders: courageous, loving, giving, loyal, generous. What it means to be a good person has been embedded by God pretty deeply into human consciousness.
How we get there is another matter.
Then I'll ask this question: do you think the average unchurched person in America thinks of these characteristics when they hear the word "Christian"? Not so much.
Here's another question (you can try this one at home, or with your elders if you're feeling perky): on a scale of 1-100, how is your church doing at producing this kind of person? It's a funny thing how often we're aware of our attendance trends or how close to budget we're running, but we often have not worked much to assess the real target we're aiming at.
Sometimes we're not even clear that this is the goal. I was talking to a church leader from a European country recently, who commented on a difficult dynamic where he lives. It is expected that the state will pretty much care for all human needs—the alleviation of poverty, provision of care for the sick, needy, and elderly, and so on. There is little or no expectation that the church will be involved in such issues.
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