Concentrate on worship, discipleship and outreach just a little more
Being a part of a denominational church has its challenges. There are structures that have existed for a hundred years. There are political positions and there are power players. There are traditions that are amazing and there are traditions that are very out of touch and out of date. There are names that have become very dated, Sunday School, Sunday School Superintendent, The Sunday School Secretary, that is just a short list of names. The Communion Table, the little plastic church that sets on top of it, to take your offering for your birthday or your anniversary. The altars that are where people come to pray, before service or after service when there is an altar call given. Altar call is a time when people are challenged to make decisions during the persuasive end of the service. If you are going to move forward in your relationship with God it would be the place that you would tarry and hold on time the Holy Spirit encounters your life. All of this started with a group of people who were hungry to follow God and wanted to do it in an organized manner. Sometimes these traditions have become stronger than scripture and more divisive than the Red Sea!
The other side of the denominational journey is “like faith” across the states and even around the world. I was privileged to eat with the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Ireland and his assistant this past week. (They have changed their name to Christian Churches Ireland because no one in Ireland is in an assembly, ever) As we were eating a meal (another denominational tradition….one that I like), we are connected by a faith that is the same. We believe in the same purpose and the same Jesus. Our relationship is instantly rekindled even though there has been time in between our last meal and meeting. Our love for the lost and discovering a new way to reach people is always part of the conversation and rejoicing in the victories and hurting in the losses.
So, when I was reading in Martyn Percy’s very culturally aware book about the denominational churches and their ability to grow, I was very intrigued. I agree with his implicit theology and how it shapes every part of faith but I was incredibly encouraged as I read his very simple but very pointed strategy for even denominational churches to change and grow.
I will simply highlight what I thought was very insightful thoughts for churches within a denominational structure.
- What is the churches core message? What is it that gave the church life in the first place? Going back to the roots of the church and finding what is the good news for the neighborhood that it is in? Going back to this can cause the congregation to engage in a collective outreach that is energetic and explicit.
- Celebrate the different types of growth that happens with a churches life. Maturational growth, organic growth, and transfer growth are the three mainstays of growth. How does the church celebrate these different seasons so that each church sees itself as a place of transformation and energy? Always viewing the church as being in maintenance phrase is life draining.
- Each church must constantly confront the myth that only certain types of churches can experience growth. An established church can continue to grow. There must be a constant sense of the need to discover new ways in which to celebrate Christ and that growth can happen in the depth of discipleship and in the connectedness to the community and to spirituality.
- Instead of focusing solely on the numerical record, mainline churches need to worry about size a little less, and concentrate on worship, discipleship and outreach just a little more. Whoever planted and no matter who watered, it is only God who gives the growth. 
These four very straight forward and pointed points give a road map for taking what is considered sacred or traditional and turning it toward the positive instead of the negative. What has been the foundation in the past can continue to be the fuel to ignite a new fire into the future. The exploration of the depths of the past to find a reason for the future is so brilliant.
Martyn really has made me think differently about things that I have experienced in being involved with the church over the past half century. He simple put up some really clear signs to point out what has happened to the church. His insight into the international church was really refreshing and the conclusions drawn has great insight.
I know as I have explored discipleship there are always individuals who bring thoughts to the surface that help to transform and transition into the next generation. I am very thankful that my path has crossed with this brilliant mind to help me think differently into the future of my own ministry. This was a great book.
 Martyn Percy, Shaping the Church: The Promise of Implicit Theology, (Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010), 92-94.
10 responses to “Concentrate on worship, discipleship and outreach just a little more”
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Sorry this post is late. I have had banquets, graduations and multiple end of the year things that goes along with being a youth pastor. Thanks for your understanding.
Thanks Kevin , you may be a day late but you have written a great blog!
You mention in your blog about implicit theology and how it shapes every part of faith. Yes, it does because Implicit theology, is underneath the surface per se, and for that reason, it is much more difficult to determine. The term “implicit theology” refers to those beliefs that are held, but may not be fully expressed.
Simply changing the explicit theology (such as a doctrinal statement) will not change people’s hearts. Ministry needs to go deeper than what is espoused, so that heart issues, including what is assumed, can be sanctified for God’s glory. Therefore, the reading of Percy’s book has given us a lot to think about for our upcoming endeavors.
Great work! Blessings Rose Maria
Thank you for the response tonight. I know I am late this week. I have had a graduation or a banquet every night this week including parties and other things that I get invited to attend.
I really know that people live by what they know and outward things that are supernatural can radically change what they know but not much else can move us from what is ingrained in us. I do still believe that the Holy Spirit in just a moments time can change trajectory even one degree. But can I tell you that even one degree of change can land you in a complete different location than you were headed to. That is my hope, that I can inspire one degree of change by speaking the truth in such a way that it actually makes sense. What about you? What has changed your trajectory?
Percy did it again…..amazing us and causing us to stand back and examine ourselves. In the “shaping of the church”, in your world, you have acknowledged your journey and the need to stand back assess.
What are a couple of items that you see that needs to be “re-shaped” in your world? I believe we need to have non-negotiables. Do you see any of your “re-shaping” that challenge your non-negotiables?
Thanks for the response. I know I am late this week. I have had to address the issues of gender. That is not an easy topic within our denomination and it is not an easy one within social media. On the bus after picking up a group of eight graders, they are talking about “it.” A student who has decided to be trans. It is a harsh world at school but what about at church. Does the same language and attitude line up at church? Is it okay to have hatred based on being a Christian and being right?
Those who so strongly want to not be identified with any group are slowly but surely becoming a group. Nones and agender are becoming a group that we as a church are going to have to love and figure out how to address and relate with them. This is not easy but is challenging.
Sin is the issue that has such a curve on it. What really is sin today? Can I still know what sin is and still be a preacher of the Bible? Do these things so strongly contradict that I have to choose to love people and forget about sin or do I hate sin and hate people who do those sins? Or do I figure out how to love people and God and still stand for truth and against what is labeled sin by the word? Such questions that I felt were raised by this book.
I always enjoy reading your blogs that are so spiritually deep, vibrantly expressed and fully insightful. Your blog captured the essence of Percy’s book which is about shaping the Church universal in all Christendom Spiritually and I love the way it is powerfully developing and transforming you. Percy is correct that “churches that are spiritually alive, radically inclusive and justice orientated have a real future provided they are clear about identity and purpose . . .” I think it is very important that the Church learns to celebrate “varieties of growth and transformation” rather than being absorbed with maintenance and being contentious with one another. We can’t put God in a box—to operate in only one way for His glory and the growth and edification of His Church.
Thanks, Kevin. Your blog has caused me to experience an even greater appreciation for Percy’s brilliant work.
Being clear about purpose is the one thing that I believe this book really brought to the forefront. What is implicit and what is explicit? How do we communicate what is implicit? Some people do not have it internally. How do you “catch up ” those who don’t know? What is the language that will fully explain yesterday to those today? That is what I see in our future. How to do this simple thing.
Great blog! I really liked you journey down memory lane with the traditional church, oh do I remember. As I was ready Percy and his thoughts on implicit and explicit theology I thought of you and your thesis of your dissertation on how culture is shaped and formed by words. Where you able to use any quotes or resources from this week’s reading in your dissertation?
I will be able to use some of his language. This section that I focused in on for this blog is an area that I will use. It goes on and breaks down discipleship for a church that goes back to its roots. What was important and how do you communicate it today. The disconnect of old language and the invention of new language or translation of new language is the task at hand. We must figure out how to disciple others who do not have the deep history that we might have. How do we help that learning curve today. All things that I have contemplated from this weeks reading.
Great insight and you rightly identified that “What has been the foundation in the past can continue to be the fuel to ignite a new fire into the future.” We sometimes have the tendency to replace the past in our pursuit of innovation instead of learning from it or even seeking a collaboration. I love the story of how the superintendent in Ireland realized that culturally, the term assembly wouldn’t work but I’m sure the biblical values would remain.