April 13, 2013

Church Development 101 – Love Jesus, Feed Lambs, Take Care Of Sheep

The Readings (Acts 9.1-20; Rev. 5.11-14 and John 21.1-19) are all about the beginning of new ministries. The Christian ministry of Paul begins with a dramatic conversion experience. In Revelation we are beginning the End Time ministry of Jesus and in John we have just read about the re-instatement and are commissioning of Peter as the first leader of the Christian Church. It cannot be a co-incidence that this is my first teaching as the newly anointed Interim Priest at St. Magloire’s in Drumheller, Canada. These Readings will guide us in our mission of re-developing our Christian ministry in this place – and could help many others in declining churches.

1. Paul, Jesus and Peter were Anointed by the Holy Spirit for Ministry
The key question facing us here is “What does God want to do in this place?”
We could call a Vestry Meeting or do a survey but that would not necessarily tell us what God wants to do here. It would tell us what some people think God wants to do – but what if they were wrong? We would end up working against God and frustrated. Paul, Jesus and Peter were all chosen and anointed by God not because they were popular or educated. They were chosen because they loved God more than others. There is a process of spiritual entropy in churches where the initial fire of the Holy Spirit begins to fade in people’s hearts as customs become entrenched and personal ambition and politics gradually replace spiritual anointing. So our first task is to come to terms with history and confirm that God has really chosen each of us to re-develop this Parish at this time. For my part, Lucille and I have both felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the work we have been doing over the past few weeks to prepare for this Interim Ministry. Please pray about this.

2. Jesus anoints Peter to “feed my lambs” (John 21.15)    
Jesus is teaching Peter his first  priority as a church developer. Why does Jesus differentiate between “lambs” and “sheep”?:
·         Lambs are new-born – like “born-again Christians”
·         Lambs don’t know anything, need a lot of basic teaching
·         Better preaching is the # 1 reason people switch churches
·         “I didn’t get anything out of the service” is a common complaint
·         I always advise people to go where they get fed spiritually
·         Don Posterski researched the question “Where’s a Good Church?” and found four cornerstones of effective churches:
·         Orthodoxy – in touch with the truth
·         Community – in touch with personal needs
·         Relevance – in touch with the times
·         Outreach – in touch with the needs of others

Orthodoxy is important because we live in a time where many people are confused by conflicting theologies. Our Anglican Church has been feeding people a thirty-year diet of political conflict over liturgical change, church music, ordination of women and same-sex blessings. Instead of proclaiming the Good News to open the eyes of those who are spiritually blind, we seem to have abandoned the healing ministry and in a sense blinded people with the un-Biblical value of “inclusiveness”. People are starving for good spiritual teaching that gives them hope and help.

Community is the second thing people look for in a church. Sadly the only place where many people find a real, loving and supportive community of people working together is on Cursillo Weekends.

Relevance to the times is what the Anglican Church hoped to achieve but seems to have lost orthodoxy and gotten sidetracked in conflict.

Outreach gives us the purpose and meaning we need in life. There should be no passengers on the ship of the church. Needs are all around us.

3. Jesus also anointed Peter to “take care of my sheep”
Notice the “my” – we are not taking care of our sheep – ourselves. We are employees, staff, servants of Jesus. Church is not about us. In addition to feeding believers, we are commanded to protect them:
·         From physical and attack – the doors were locked to outsiders
·         From spiritual attack – spiritual temptations, pollution, sin
·         From false teachers – heresies, distractions, politics

We are also to take care of people through healing ministry:
·         Regular prayer for physical sickness and injury
·         Regular prayer for emotional and spiritual healing

We need to re-capture Jesus model of church development – love Jesus, feed the lambs and take care of the sheep!

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