Friday, October 5, 2007

Good Trees or Bad Trees?

This discussion regarded Natural Church Development and which of the eight quality characteristics was the most difficult to improve.

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions (Mt 7:17-20).

Passionate spirituality is the lowest quality characteristic in most of New England’s Lutheran churches. It seems that this may be the most difficult to improve, at least for someone in the leadership of the church.

Questions in the survey that indicate the level of spirituality are, “Times of prayer are an inspiring experience for me”[1] and “I am enthusiastic about my church.”[2] Many Christians do not have as vital a prayer life as they should. Despite teaching, prayer meetings, Bible studies etc., can the leadership really know a person’s private devotional life? Our members are enthusiastic and deeply committed to our church, but how much spirituality is at home is debatable.

Schwarz states “… whether prayer is viewed as an ‘inspiring experience’ or not has a significant relationship to the quality and quantity of the church “[3] Results were similar concerning “personal use of the Bible and other factors affecting personal spirituality.”[4] A church cannot be any stronger than its weakest members. The church is made up of families and individuals and its health is dependent upon theirs.

However, each quality characteristic is crucial and should be present, passionate spirituality seems basic. Warren advises, “…don’t confuse primary issues with secondary ones. The primary issues of church health and growth: Who is our master … What is our message …What is our motive?”[5]

[1] Christian A. Schwarz, Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches (St. Charles, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 2006), 28.

[2] Ibid., 29.

[3] Ibid., 28.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 71.

The Bible. New Living Translation.

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2 comments:

LutheranChik said...

In my lay ministry training we had a speaker come to one of our workshops and talk about Natural Church Development. I found the information about a church's -- how can I put this? -- soulfulness interesting, and kind of exciting; but as you note it's a challenge to find ways to nurture that. I think that giving laypeople opportunities for spiritual formation -- something my Episcopal friends seem to have a better handle on -- is a factor; as is encouraging an atmosphere of service and real caring for one another both within the congregation and in the greater society.

Ivy said...

Agreed.Thanks for your comment.It seems that not only the Episcopal church, but also the Catholic church has a better handle on those disciplines that encourage spiritual growth: meditation, lectio divina etc. We are late comers to this.

I must say the church I am a part of does encourage an atmosphere of service and is a very caring place. But if there is a Bible study or prayer meeting, people run the other way!