Retirement from paid employment has many advantages, chief of which is the ability to choose how one spends time. For me it means returning to the areas of study in my university days….politics, international relations, history and Biblical Studies.
I have recently been focussing on the parlous state of the Church in Scotland i.e. the body of born-again believers across the denominations.
Despite growth in some third world countries, there is no question that the Body of Christ in Scotland is shrinking both in terms of numbers and influence. What is most troubling is the lack of concern, debate, discussion, leadership, radical action to reverse this trend. After all, if the Christian message of salvation and redemption truly is the most important message in history, why is it that the believers who remain, rarely discuss, never mind take real concrete action, to reverse the decline in their own locality?
Don’t get me wrong, across Scotland there’s plenty of hand wringing, and in some localities, prayer and even fasting by the faithful. Some of the leaders of our more ‘hip’ churches have in recent years, taken a leaf out the corporate world and developed some excellent forward-looking ‘mission statements’. (A ‘Mission Statement’ is a one-sentence statement describing the reason an organization or program exists and used to help guide decisions about priorities, actions, and responsibilities.)
Here are some real but anonymous examples:
· ‘Loving people to life’
· ‘Knowing Jesus & Making Jesus Known’
· ‘Helping every person believe in Jesus, belong to family, become a disciple
and build His kingdom’.
· ‘To love the lost, equip the found, and serve our community.’
There is no question that these slogans look good on the church website, but are they really any more than mere words.
In an article last year entitled: ‘Your Church’s Mission Statement: Do It First, Write It Later’, Karl Vaters, writing on the website www.newsmallchurch.com nails the whole issue: “Remember about 20 years ago when it seemed like every business in the world wrote a mission statement, framed and mounted it in the break room, then stopped hiring employees and started ‘empowering associates’? If you find someone who worked for a company that did that, ask them if all the hoopla actually changed anything where they worked. The likely answer? Nothing changed at all.
Then ask them how the changes made them feel. Again, the likely answer? There were no warm fuzzies or feelings of empowerment. There may have been momentarily raised hopes, but they probably turned very quickly into feelings of disappointment and frustration, followed by whispered mockery and jokes about the ‘new day’ that never materialised.
Mission statements aren’t bad. The church I pastor has one. (It’s Exploring, Living & Sharing the Truth of God’s Word, if anyone cares to know. And no, most of our congregation couldn’t quote it, either.) But even a great mission statement won’t fix a broken church.”
Pastor Vaters goes on to explain that fancy words, unless underpinned by deeds are utterly worthless and will change nothing.
So, if Scotland’s believers are serious about reversing the decline of the church in both size and influence, they have to take action and in every creative way communicate the Gospel to the lost. It is virtually impossible to engage with individuals in 21st century Scottish culture from behind the church walls!!
The Apostle James is clear that actions rather than words are what counts: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
As Pastor Vaters says: ‘True disciples are always doers more than talkers.’