I think people would say numbers at church are good, that this might be a fruit of labor. Also, it might be programs, yes, our church has many programs to meet the needs. It might also be how much outreach we do. If we’re in India, Mexico, New Orleans, Africa, and in the other regions of our local metroplex, then we’re producing good fruit. If we have above 80% of our people in small groups, 75% of our children who have “made decisions for Christ” and have 100% of all members baptized, this is good fruit too, right? If we retain 90% of our youth into college, we’ve made good fruit. All of this is supposed to measure good fruit, prove that our purpose driven thing is good (our church doesn’t have these numbers by the way, I’m making them up). Being missional, believing in missional, having everyone march in lock step behind the wonderful pastors who read all these wonderful books, and raising our hands when we sing, this is all good right? If we all practice spiritual disciplines and fast for 40 days, pray in silence, and practice solitude, we’ll have the good fruit of a deeper faith, deeper experience, deeper…better, my life as a Christ follower is better than your life as a Christ follower because I have taken up this author’s beliefs or this movement’s beliefs, I’ve joined the revivial/reformation/transformation…so I’m better, right? These fruits are what we want, right?
So how come I felt unfed? Do I need to be a “self feeder.” Is that what Jesus wants for His followers, to be self feeders? Though Rich Mullins spoke with Manning and did practice silence, and very well may have begun the mystic Christianity (I’m not sure how far he went into this) I keep thinking of his line, “I know that the thirsty listen, and down to the waters come…” I’m in my church and I’m thirsty. I’ve confessed my faith in Christ since I was about 7 years old, I’ve matured some. Yes, I am not where I want to be, but I am no longer a baby in Christ, I do not need the foundations to be laid again, I’m past that. However, I do need the pastor to have the foundations under his mission, under his ministry, under his words, under his purposes for our church. Our pastor is starting with the premise that we have to fix what is wrong with our wealthy American local church. We haven’t been doing enough, so we need to stretch. We need to reach out, we need to give. He even says it’s a myth we’re going to stop feeding the mature believers. Then how come I feel so unfed there? How come I can read for myself and feel fed, but AT church I often am trying to figure out how what the pastor says applies?
So, if our numbers are up, or the mission is so good, how come the church is becoming divided and the mature Christians are leaving? Some might say it’s because they are closed minded or want their own power. Well, from what I’ve seen, those who have left have not at all been powerful. They’ve not been unwilling to serve, or unwilling to give. They usually leave with a statement on their lips, “I was feeling that I needed more biblical study here…” or, “my children are coming up in the youth ministry, and I don’t like the direction they are going, the focus is less on the bible than I wanted.”
So, this is the fruit in our church…many youth going on mission trips and having the experience of their lives, many members “connected” in a small group with studies like “Walk Across the Room” by Hybells or “Five Love Languages” or some other such counseling style book. We’ve got a church full of leaders that can easily “facilitate” a small group and pop in a DVD driven series from any number of books. We serve in the community in really great ways, but some of them amount to just picking up trash. We really do have some good things though like food pantry giving, or building homes. We’ve got partnerships with churches in other areas where we help build homes and churches in those communities, this is practical and good. But, we have many other projects we do that don’t relate to Christianity in any way. We bring the local community in for dinner theater and carnival type activities. At least at the carnival, there is no mention of Christ anywhere. It sure is entertaining though.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.