What is success in the church?
I have always been concerned with efficiency and effectiveness in the church. My undergraduate degree was in organizational management and I often look at the church through those eyes. It has been exceedingly popular to mimic the business/management world within the church setting, and there is some wisdom that we can glean from there. But we must never lose sight of the centrality of the cross. I truly appreciate all of the works of D.A. Carson that I have read, and this book is a must read. It is a refreshing prophetic reminder that all the wonderful sociological tools that are available to us today can never replace the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s inerrant word.
Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how "vision" consists in clearly articulated "ministry goals," how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements–but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing. Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (pp.25- 26) D.A. Carson The Cross and Christian Ministry
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