There are great spiritual dangers when a church is run as a community center [Please click the link to read the article].
How do we size up a church to discern whether it is Christ-centered, built with solid gold foundation or merely community-centered, built with hay and straw that has no chance to survive the smallest test of fire?
I am not talking about how a church is named. There are churches carrying the brand of “community church” that are very Christ-centered. There are churches calling themselves “church of Christ” but run like community centers. But we can tell by the fruit. No good tree bears bad fruit. No bad tree bears good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit (Luke 6:43).
Sharing with you at least seven indicators that I find helpful to get a sense.
#1. By Congregational Worship
Does the congregation worship in Spirit and in Truth? A Christ-centered church is made up of Jesus worshipers and Jesus lovers. A community-centered church is made up of religious attendees regularly coming to worship as routine religious activities.
When the congregation comes together to worship, do you see the congregation worship in Spirit and in Truth, with their very being and from the bottom of their hearts? Or do you see the congregation participating in disengaged emotions, treating corporate worship as (Sunday) routine religious rituals, with passivity that is too obvious not to notice?
#2. By People’s Stories
Are there regular life-transforming testimonies shared in vulnerability and transparency? A Christ-centered church is made up of people whose lives are transformed because of their encounters of Jesus, not just on first encounter of Jesus, but as regular, day-to-day walk with Jesus as the Lord of their lives.
Jesus’ aged-old strategy of making disciples of all nations is for His disciples to be His witnesses by telling others what He has been doing in our lives (Acts 1:8).
Stories of people from community-centered churches are typically impersonal or superficial, They share their experience in terms of church events: how there was such a great turn-out, how much fun people attending had, how happy they were when people in the community showed up. But beyond the hello and the chit-chat acquaintances, there is no vulnerability, no transparency into the deeper lives of people.
#3. By The Programs
Do people (both the attendees and the leaders and organizers), through programs of the church, get built up in Christ through faith? Church programs frame how people spend their time with the church and what they are building themselves upon. Christ-centered church spend time in programs that have the effect of drawing people to Christ.
Community-centered churches measure success of church programs by attendance and by how popular are the programs with attendees. Because of the many programs that need to keep running, organizers of the community-centered churches are exhausted and drained, not living in joy.
#4. By Relationships from within
Do the members relate to each other in Christ, by the Spirit, in His Word? Relationships among members a community-centered church are entirely social, and manifest all warning signs of pseudo-fellowship . Christ, the Spirit and the Word are not the foundations of their relationships. Relationships of Christ-centered church are to built each other up in Christ, in the Spirit, and in the Father’s love.
Listen to the content of their conversations. Are the content of their conversations empty talks, intellectual theological discussions that bear no fruit, or nothing more than impersonal topics such as sports, cars, vacation etc..? I am not at all against chit-chats. These topics can be perfectly fine in conversations. But when there is an absence of sharing about what the Lord has been revealing to them lately, an absence of sharing from bible passages that touch their hearts, an absence of asking for prayers in some life struggles, all being regular, normal conversations, then there is no fellowship in Christ. So watch out for social relationships.
#5. By The Legacy
Is their next generation standing strong in God’s kingdom? Because of the testimonies of God from the older generations as the DNA of church life of a Christ-centered church, the next generation of a Christ-centered church typically will have young people who are genuine Jesus lovers and worshipers who live a life style of obedience and stand up to proclaim Christ.
Legacy is a great challenge for community church as they operate based on popularity of their church programs. Unless they can offer church events that next generations like, they find it a challenge to engage the next generation.
#6. By The Leadership’s Posture
Are the leaders Jesus lovers, who take the Word in their hearts, serve humbly as role models so people can imitate them to imitate Christ? Leaders of Christ-centered churches are men and women of prayers, matured in the Word, not only in knowledge but also in obedience. Like Paul, they can ask their congregation to imitate them to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). They serve humbly, not by control nor by manipulations, but they yield to the Lord and to one another. They are usually transparent in their personal lives.
Leaders of community churches are administers, executives, CEO-s, who see their position is to govern, manage, control and to prevent crisis. They take their titles and positions very seriously. Their public images matter a lot. Their personal lives are no one else concern. Usually little is shared, if any. There is no vulnerability and transparency beyond what is seen in public.
#7. By The Dreams and Aspirations
Are the aspirations and dreams of the Church aligned with what is dear in Jesus’ heart? Observe the highlights being called out in celebration events of the church (e.g. church anniversaries etc..) What are the reasons for celebrations?
Christ-centered churches aspire to see God’s kingdom come, to behold the presence and the glory of the Lord, to see life transformations by encountering Jesus in the Spirit, layers by layers, over and over again. Community-centered churches aspire to be big: big in building size, big in congregation size.
Christ-centered churches celebrate Christ. Community-centered churches celebrate buildings and congregational size.
All in all, the best is to ask the Holy Spirit to give you a sense if this is a Christ-centered church. Does you spirit sense the presence and unobstructed moving of the Holy Spirit in this church? Or does your spirit sense the lack of life?
What is your score?
Please share what is your experience!
See More Posts about Church and Fellowship: