Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Letter to the Vision-Driven Church, Part I

‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate...       Revelation 2:19-20a  NASB

In his message to the church at Thyatira, Jesus pinpoints trouble in a church that seemed to know where it was going. Look at his description: notable deeds, love and faith, service, perseverance, and a trajectory in mission that resulted in latter deeds being greater than former ones. I think any of us looking at that description would say, "What a great church, now that's the way to do it!." Particularly, in today's business and marketing laden approach to church planting, church management and growth, those qualities would seem to be the core of producing the right kind of success.

Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, those were great characteristics. This church was relational, it was engaged and moving, they were focused. They knew what they were trying to accomplish, and they were getting after it. But as important as these considerations are, what cannot be overlooked is that they were not allowed by Christ to be substituted for proper teaching and upright behavior.

The message to Thyatira that perhaps today's church needs to clearly hear is that passe things like doctrine and discipline really do matter, at least to God. I fear that under the current church-growth regimens so widely practiced by congregations swallowing up whole the population of church-goers, discipline never rises past the level of showing the door to anyone who doesn't quite buy the leader's vision. Doctrine isn't anything more than the joyous knowledge that as long as you fit the profile the church is trying to attract and submit to that leader's vision, God loves you.

It is not enough to have a vision that drives your church. It is not enough to know one's mission and to dedicatedly pursue it. Even if one is successful in that aspect of church life, Christ may find significant and disastrous fault with such a church. Church discipline is a key aspect of church life as Christ would have it. False prophets, false teaching, immoral practices all have to be addressed via discipline. Talk about turning today's wisdom on its head--vision, evidently, is not a suitable vector for close-mindedness in church according to Christ, but doctrine is.