Seven Qualities of an Inward, Ingrown Church

Yesterday at the church where I pastor, I shared one characteristic of what C. John Miller calls an ‘ingrown church.’ Below are a synopsis of all seven characteristics from his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church  by C. John Miller(Zondervan, 1986) pp. 27-40.

1. Tunnel Vision

Members of the ingrown church body are characterized by tunnel vision that limits potential ministries of the church to those that can be accomplished by the visible, human resources at hand. These possibilities are often further limited by recollections of past negative experiences and perceptions of present obstacles. At bottom, this is unbelief based on a secularized ignorance of the Spirit’s power—His ability to supply us with God’s goals for the church and the supernatural means to reach them.

2. Shared Sense of Group Superiority

This visionless church is often characterized by a sense of superiority to “the others.” Many smaller congregations and their leadership have become egocentric because of their fear of extinction. Struggling churches are likely to exaggerate points of superiority they actually possess as means of compensation for their limitations. . . . This assumed positive feature leads to an unconscious elitist attitude. If we are proudly clinging to an ecclesiastical tradition and making it our hope, we may have secured our status in our own eyes yet failed miserably with the Lord.

3. Extreme Sensitivity to Negative Human Opinion

The members of the ingrown church are also likely to feel inferior and shrivel up and die at the first sign of opposition. A world of disapproval from a “pillar” of the church is enough to rattle the ecclesiastical squirrel cage and send everyone running for cover. . . . The sad truth is that one negative critic with a loud voice who speaks from within the inner circle of the ingrown church usurps the role of Christ, wielding the power to make or break programs. . . . An ingrown church has given in for so long to intimidation that its fears have obscured vital contact with the promises of God.

4. Niceness in Tone

The ingrown church has the shared desire to be seen as “nice.” What is often wanted in the local church is unrelieved blandness: a “nice pastor” preaching “nice sermons” about a “nice Jesus” delivered in a “nice tone” of voice. . . . It is likely that those who are walking with Him in close fellowship will not always be nice and predictable. But the introverted church wants to secure the church doors against divine surprises and unannounced entrances by the King.

5. Christian Soap Opera in Style

In the introverted church we find that the members use their tongues a great deal—not to witness or pray or praise or to affirm one another, but to publicly review on another’s flaws, doings, and sins. We all know how easy it is for church members to go home after hearing a sermon and have “roast pastor” for lunch. Why does this happen? . . . . Unbelief and fear characterize the mental outlook in the ingrown church. The members of the church do not see themselves as living, praying, and talking in partnership with Christ and one another through His indwelling Holy Spirit. There is often a failure to cultivate among leaders and people a spirit of forgiveness, mutual forbearance, and love.

6. Confused Leadership Roles

In many churches the members of the congregation do not want officers who are trying to be pacesetters for God’s kingdom. This is especially true of the small church, where fear of change runs high. In the typical self-centered church, there is a hidden determination to eradicate enthusiasm that disturbs the comfortable routine dictated by self-trust, self-exaltation, niceness as a defense mechanism, and the rights of gossip. . . . In this system elders also lack great convictions about God and His gospel and have little active role in the daily lives of church members.

7. A Misdirected Purpose

It is clear from the foregoing that the controlling purpose in the ingrown church has to do with survival—not with growth through conversion of the lost. We can recognize this misdirected purpose by noting what goes into the church budget (and what is left out) and how visitors to the church services are welcomed. No planning is devoted to finding ways to assimilate visitors into the fellowship.

Read through Romans 1, Psalm 95, and Matthew 28:18-20 each day for a week. Ask God to show you how to prevent or to overcome being an inward, ingrown church.

Advertisements

Away with Social-Club Church, In With Gospel Partnership!

wp-1449632031481.jpgDid you know that the moment you surrendered to Christ, you became a partner in the gospel with every other believer on the planet? God sent the apostle Paul to plant and establish churches all through Asia Minor, into Rome, and likely into Spain. As he won many to Christ who rescued them from their sins both now and eternally, what God used him to do is acquired more partners in the gospel.

So Paul leads off his prayer with thanksgiving. Dear Lord, every time I think of these believers in Philippi, I am grateful and have joy because of having them as partners!  I wonder, would Paul be able to say that of me? Would he be able to say that of our churches here in Denver? Would he be able to say that of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church. As we see from the Ephesian church in Revelation, Christ told them they had lost their first love. The essentials had moved to the peripherals, and the peripherals move to the essentials.What are the essentials? Albert Mohler helps us out:

First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.

While we could spend weeks on each of these issues, what we do see if that if a Christian or churches compromise on any of these doctrines, we undermine the gospel. The gospel is not simply believing a set of facts, but it is a surrender to all that Christ has revealed about His nature, His work in rescuing us, and how He aims to work in us! That’s the good news—God will not hold us according to our sins, but will rescue us according to His grace.

We are partners in this and because of this. And the apostle Paul modeled this partnership. Look at the first three words of this letter: Paul and Timothy. Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father. Paul was 12 years older than Timothy (Paul born in AD 5, Timothy born in AD 17), making them 45 and 33, respectively. Regardless of their backgrounds, they were partners in the gospel,servants of Christ Jesus, and saints.

It’s here we revisit the issue of surrender. Go back to verse 1 again: The word for ‘servants’ is the word doulos which means a bondservant, or a full-fledged slave. Slaves had no rights, but willingly surrendered them to their Master. We hear of slaves and automatically hearken back to the black eye of our history, in the race-based slavery found in our country in the 18th and 19th century. Here, slaves could be found in all strata of Roman life, and serve that way willingly in order to pay off a debt.

Saints come from the understanding of being set apart for His use. In fact,the word church many times in the NT comes from the word ekklesia, which means called out ones. A partnership in the gospel means that we have surrendered our rights to his, we are saints who are called out from the world while still in the world.

He also calls out the overseers and deacons. Overseers (from the Greek presbuteros) are the spiritual overseers and leaders of the church. Deacon are the ones in charge of the physical matters of the church. As the saints are the called-out ones from the world, the overseers and deacons are the called-out ones of the church (ordained, if you will). They are called out to be leaders in the church, as Hebrews 13 identifies,the ones who delivered the Word to you. The Word brings joy and unity, something that the leaders bring with the Word. Ephesians 4:11-13:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

You see, the unity that your leaders are to model and provide is a unity not just in being welcoming and friendly, but a unity in the Word of God— which makes us alive in the Spirit but also kills the flesh!

Let’s partner in the gospel, finding our joy in Christ and unity with one another.  The gospel brings joy in Christ, and the more we pursue Christ, the more unified we’ll be with each other.

Can You Find Joy in Your Denomination?

image

I identify and associate with a denomination called Southern Baptists, of which I make no apology.

On January 31st, I’ll be leading a 90-minute seminar called, What is a Baptist?  When you come into a church that has Baptist in the name, or at least is Baptist in practice, what does that mean?  And should it matter, when so many pundits claim that denominational life is a thing of the past?

Leading with joy means embracing who you are with conviction and care. It’s important. So lean into it!

What denomination do you belong to, if any?  Why or why not?