Most churches want to be great. Rarely do you find a church that wants to fail, close, or bring dishonor to the name of Christ. Most churches want to be great, but how do you know when a church is actually great? We have learned in this sermon series that it is God who determines greatness. We have discussed:
- Our Mission (What we are supposed to be doing). Jesus left no doubt when He gave the Church The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. We are to Make Disciples of all nations and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.
- Our Values (Why we do what we do). Once again, Jesus left no doubt when He gave the Church The Great Commandment in Matthew 22:36-40. We are to Love God & Others.
- Our Strategy (How we do what we are supposed to be doing). A helpful way to summarize our strategy for disciple making is that we Enlist (Evangelism), Equip(Discipleship), and Entrust (Leadership Development). These three are inseparable.
In our final sermon, we will dive deep into the Measures (When we are successfully doing what we are supposed to be doing) we use for discipleship. These measures must reflect our commitment to our mission and values. Traditionally, churches count “nickels and noses” (In other words, how much money was given and how many people attended.) While those two numbers are important, they do not always give an accurate picture of the health of the church. We need measures that address spiritual maturity. Pastor Tim Challies provides what I believe to be a very helpful guide in his book Visual Theology. Challies uses four key areas to gauge spiritual maturity/growth: Grow Close to Christ, Understand the Work of Christ, Become Like Christ, and Live for Christ.
Grow Close to Christ
We are successful when we see people growing close to Christ. We celebrate professions of faith and baptisms. We celebrate when our members have gospel conversations with others and pray for them. We celebrate every step every person takes closer to Jesus. Challies wrote: “As Christians, our first and most basic discipline is cultivating and growing into that personal relationship with Jesus as we hear from Him, speak to Him, and worship Him.” Our main work in this life should be to know Christ and to love Him. We love the good news of the Gospel and we find our identity in Jesus Christ and we pursue Jesus with a sacrificial life. We were made for a relationship with Him and the only fuel that will sustain our work in this life is a close personal relationship with Jesus.
Understand the work of Christ
We are successful when we see Christians grow in their understanding of who God is, what He is accomplishing in the world, and of the basic content of the Christian faith. We are successful when we articulate that we understand the basic doctrines found in our Statement of Faith (The Baptist Faith & Message 2000). Challies wrote, “There is content to the Christian faith—information and facts we need to understand.” We need to know what God teaches us in the Bible so that we can believe it and live it. It is a fact that as you grow close to Christ you grow in your knowledge of Christ and as your knowledge of Christ grows you will grow closer to Christ. It is not the mature in faith that remain ignorant of Christ’s commands. Just as it is not natural for a person to remain a child, it is also not normal for a Christian to remain spiritually childish. When Jesus said we should be like children (Matt 18:3), He was speaking of childlike trust in Him, not that we should remain immature and childish. Let us grow in our understanding of the work of Christ.
We are successful when the work of Christ is understood and accepted and becomes our work as well. Jesus’ mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) should be our primary mission in this world. It is not enough to know what Jesus commands, but to obey what He commands.
Become like Christ
We are successful when we see people conformed to the image of Christ. A disciple, based on Matthew 4:19, is one who: 1) follows Jesus, 2) is being changed by Jesus, and 3) is committed to Jesus’ mission. The second part of our definition shows that Christians are to be regularly changed by Christ to become more like Christ. We want to think like Him, speak like Him, and act like Him. Challies writes: “We do this by putting away old habits, patterns, and passions and replacing them with new and better habits, patterns, and passions.”
As we understand the work of Christ, we must become like Christ. We are successful when we see victory over sin in our lives that comes through submitting ourselves to Jesus and obeying His commands. We celebrate relationships that are reconciled. We are successful when we mourn over our sin and display the fruit of the Spirit.
Live for Christ
We have learned thus far that we have a personal relationship with Jesus. We have learned that there is content to our faith. We have learned that we are called to be like Jesus. Finally, we shall see our need to surrender our lives to Christ and live for Him. His goals become my goals. His mission becomes my mission. His purpose for my life overrides my selfish pursuits. Challies writes, “We need to learn to live for Christ from the moment we wake up each day to the moment we fall asleep, to live in such a way that we draw attention to Him and bring glory to Him.”
We are successful when we see people live for Christ in their home, their job, and everywhere they go. This is measured in faithful stewardship of their time, talent, and treasure. They are sharing the love of Christ to their family, friends, and strangers. We desire to see all of us committing our lives to Jesus and not being distracted by anything else.