« The Inflatable Church | Main | Pastor: Do You Live in a Bubble? »

Thursday, October 27, 2005

HYBELS: Don't Ever Think This is Normal

Cedarcreek Last week at the Multi-Site Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Pastor Lee Powell of CedarCreek Church near Toledo, OH (right in my back yard!).  CedarCreek's story is amazing... they are just celebrating their 10th anniversary and have grown over those years from a small core group to over 6,000 people worshipping every weekend.  Here's a great article featured recently in The Toledo Blade that discussed their anniversary celebration (featured Willow Creek Pastor Bill Hybels).

I really like Hybel's words to the CedarCreek family...  ""My greatest fear," he told the crowd, "is for you to think this is normal. This is so not normal."  In other words, God is working here in a great way... in a way that most churches and pastors only dream about... take delight in they way God is blessing you, but don't take it for granted.

Great advice. 

CedarCreek is hosting a "Change Without Compromise" conference November 1 (next week), if any of you are interested.  Wish I could get away that day!

Here's some of the rest of the article..

It was a different kind of "Blue Light Special." Kmart's signature sales gimmick had nothing to do with this illuminating event.

At a 10th anniversary celebration of CedarCreek Church last weekend, the Rev. Lee Powell asked those whom the church has led to become "fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ" to pick up blue-tinted penlights from the banquet tables and turn them on.

Suddenly, many hundreds of soft blue lights began glowing among the crowd of 1,500 who had gathered in the SeaGate Convention Centre.

It was a rare opportunity for mere mortals to get a glimpse into the spiritual world.

"My heart skipped a beat," Pastor Powell said afterward. "That's what it's all about for us. It makes all the work and all the years of laboring and all the praying and struggling - it just makes it all worth it."

The Rev. Bill Hybels, the keynote speaker and founder of the "seeker-sensitive" church model on which CedarCreek is based, had a catch in his voice and a tear in his eye when he stepped up to the microphone.

"I can't imagine how heaven felt," Mr. Hybels said of the blue lights, bringing to mind the Bible verse in Luke 15:7 that says, "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent."

Mr. Hybels, whose 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, is a globe-trotting pastor who keeps a close watch on the way churches are impacting lives and cultures.

"What you're living right now is what Christian leaders all around the world - most of them, anyway - only dream about," he told the CedarCreek crowd. "They pray that they would see it in some fractional form, and most die without ever seeing it. And in 10 years, you've seen more - more redemption, more reconciliation, more compassion, more joy, more stories of God touching lives - than most churches have seen in their entire existence."

Mr. Hybels paused, his voice dripping with emotion. This is a man who has committed his life to bringing the Gospel to "unchurched" people - those who don't attend and have no interest in going to church because the church has let them down or turned them off at some point in their lives.

"My greatest fear," he told the crowd, "is for you to think this is normal. This is so not normal."

Ten years' worth of statistics bear him out.

CedarCreek began with a core group of 20 people who started the planning process in 1994, and on Oct. 8, 1995, when the church held its first service, 195 people attended.

In the fall of 1997, attendance was 300. Then the numbers really began to climb: 1,100 in 1999; 2,400 in 2001; 3,000 in 2002; 5,000 last year, and about 6,000 this year - with 10,000 at its seven Easter services. Not surprisingly, CedarCreek was named one of the nation's fastest-growing churches.

It's not just a matter of numbers, it's the lives they represent - those "blue light specials."

And the growth continues. In March, CedarCreek will open a satellite church in Monclova Township with worship pastor Kyle Gray serving as lead pastor.

"You may think that a church that cares for lost people is normal," Mr. Hybels said. "The average church on the corner of Elm and Vine doesn't give a flying rip about people far from God. They're an annoyance. They use bad words. They sleep in the wrong bed. They drink too much booze. They're an annoyance."

And yet the Bible shows time and again how Jesus cared for outcasts and sinners.

CedarCreek's style, from the casual dress and coffee cup holders to the video screens and screaming rock music, may not be for everyone. But everyone can learn from its commitment to reaching people and changing lives.

Any comments?

Add Your Comments and Ideas now...
Pass this post on to a friend now...
Subscribe to RSS Feed | Get Email Notifications on New Posts

October 27, 2005 in Church Growth | Permalink

First Name:
Email:
 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451dafb69e200d8345d9d8053ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference HYBELS: Don't Ever Think This is Normal:

Comments

COOL! Especially the part about caring for the "people far from God.."

Posted by: Rich Kirkpatrick | Oct 27, 2005 11:49:00 AM

What a great, wonderful, and inspiring story.

And what a great "people of God" that church must be!

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Oct 27, 2005 1:11:57 PM

I was struck by Bill's comment that most pastors only dream about this kind of impact...if that dream is planted in our hearts and God desires for the kingdom to come on earth, what fills the gap between dream and reality?

Posted by: matt | Oct 27, 2005 1:40:23 PM

I would like to here what was the one thing they (Rather God did among them) did that God used the most to bring about the growth in the Body they have seen.
I would be interested to see if it had anything to do with Rocking music, Coffee cup holders. I venturing to say that played only a minor part.
What do you think?

Posted by: Jade | Oct 27, 2005 3:59:50 PM

"You may think that a church that cares for lost people is normal," Mr. Hybels said. "The average church on the corner of Elm and Vine doesn't give a flying rip about people far from God. They're an annoyance. They use bad words. They sleep in the wrong bed. They drink too much booze. They're an annoyance."
I agree that many older churches are composed of elderly congregants who are opposed to change. They are stuck in the 1950's mode of worship while surrounded by boomers and boomer children who have been exposed to television, video games, DVD's, VHS, and every other type of media since birth. Many older churches, stuck in the middle of aging homes and multicultural-economically challenged neighborhoods, are afraid of what might happen if infiltrated by these undesirables. They are afraid of change. They are afraid of PowerPoint, and guitars, and long hair, and blue jeans, and you name it. They are caring for those within the body of believers.
There are thousands of churches at "Elm and Vine". Most pastors will never experience the phenomenon, or should I say miracle, of a six-thousand member church. Yes…most pastors will have only the "Elm and Vine" type churches on their resume for a lifetime. What does that say for the poor pathetic pastor who will never live up to the "Big Guys" in the ministry? Is he any less of a pastor? Should he live with the stigma that he shoulda/coulda done better? My heavens…what will my family think of me? Never enough money in the bank because he chooses, or maybe… No… it may be that God has placed him in that annoying, bad word using, sleeping "in the wrong bed", booze drinking, crap hole of a body of believers at "Elm and Vine".
I work in two churches- One as a bi-vocational youth pastor to multicultural- economically challenged neighborhood youth within one of these sinful crap hole churches full of old people who are doing their best to get out of bed and get to worship on Sunday mornings - they minister to one another while watching each other die of old age. The other is in a five-thousand member church as a facilities worker. I get to see both worlds clearly and I can say that I will take the crap hole any day.
Can you sense a struck nerve?
Pastors of small "Elm and Vine" churches…Thank God for where He has placed you. Love your flock. Be content where you are – go to the Letters and discover again the kinds of people Paul worked with. God has placed you at "Elm and Vine" for a reason. God is using you in ways that will only be apparent after you reach heaven and the fog has cleared.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 27, 2005 9:43:02 PM

Jim:

"I get to see both worlds clearly and I can say that I will take the crap hole any day."

Thank you, Jim, for your passionate defense of the "small," the very method that God has ALWAYS chosen to display His power and presence through.

As one who has been involved in "churches" for over 3 decades, including tiny fellowships as well as mega-complexes, I can tell you one big difference between the two: the degree of faithfulness of the congregations. They both have faithfulness, although they are from totally different perspectives.

Those who attend the mega-complexes are "faithful" in attendance as long as the organization meets their perceived need(s).

The "crap holes," to use Jim's phrase, tend to foster those who are faithful in building relationships and meeting each other's need(s). In other words, they are far greater givers than those who attend the Christ-Marts and are not bothered that they are out-glitzed, out-glammored, and out-spent by the religious franchises.

May God bless them.


Posted by: Ricky | Oct 28, 2005 1:30:54 AM

Unbelievable.

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Oct 28, 2005 7:14:08 AM

Ricky...from my personal experience, your perspective on large and small churches if full of crap! To say that people in small churches are the ones who are faithful to healthy relationships and those in large churches are faithful only to themselves...that's just so myopic. A person's commitment to growth and authentic relationships has nothing to do with the size of church they are in.

And to say that God always only moves among small groups of people is just bunk. Does He move in small groups/communities? Certainly. But not only small groups/communities. The early church was exploding with growth. Israel was not a small group and yet God moved in and through them to reveal himself to the world.

guard your heart, dude. When you slam a church of any size, you're slamming the bride of Christ. And if someone was dogging my wife, I'd get pretty pissed.

Posted by: matt | Oct 28, 2005 10:42:53 AM

Quote:

"The early church was exploding with growth. Israel was not a small group and yet God moved in and through them to reveal himself to the world."

I don't know what version of the bible you read, but it clearly states that God has always chosen the small and insignificant to display His power.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, "too little to be among the clans of Judah," (Micah 5:2), was raised in Nazareth, a town that had a bad reputation (John 1:46), in a country and people that was one of the smallest in the known world, a country with the distinction of knowing that:

"The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples," (Deutoronomy 7:7)

So, please, read your bible and understand that God, while also using mega-complexes despite its size (not because of), has always favored the small. Why? Because when a group of people become too large, it is very easy to begin to think of one's self as something special, which leads to one moving from complete trust in the Lord to trusting the power that a large number of people can amass.

This was true with the Tower of Babel, with Israel when God warned David not to take a census of the people, and to the Christ-Marts of today. I am of the belief that the so-called "power" and "success" that many eagerly attribute to large organizations is not from God but rather from the collective abilities of a large number of people who desire to "make a name for themselves," ala the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:6ff).

Regarding your remark about the Early Church, yes, it grew exponentially which resulted in its becoming complacent. God allowed persecution to break up the large so that they can be more easily scattered among the lost, thus being far more effective in building relationships with the lost that would lead to their salvation.

Face it, Matt, small things have a far more easier time fitting into tight places that do large. It is because of their size that mega-complexes are losing the battle in reaching the vast numbers of people who see them as being no different than corporate America.

People, real people, crave real relationships, which CANNOT be found within the cold steel or brick and mortar walls of the institutionalized church. Why do you think that there's been a continuing drop in the number of people attending churches?

Small has always been God's preference, although somehow we think we know better than He does.


Quote:

"guard your heart, dude. When you slam a church of any size, you're slamming the bride of Christ. And if someone was dogging my wife, I'd get pretty pissed."

As for "slamming a 'church,'" what makes you think that organizations are automatically a "church?" When you drive by a building with a cross or dove or world on it, do you do so with some sort of reverence? I don't. They're nothing but buildings occupied by members of the Church but in no way resemble the biblcial Church.

Regarding dogging a "wife," all I can say is that many of us will be surprised to find out that this so-called "bride of Christ" of today is nothing more than a man-made creation in drag.

BTW, thanks for being concerned for my heart.

Posted by: Ricky | Oct 28, 2005 12:03:55 PM

OK... I've commented on this post in a brand new entry. Read my rant at your own risk. :)

http://www.mmiblog.com/monday_morning_insight_we/2005/10/todd_peacemaker.html

Have a great weekend!

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Oct 28, 2005 1:59:29 PM

do you think if some comment-ers above spent as much time, energy, passion and effort in their small "crap hole" churches as they spent on their responses to this blog that their church wouldn't seem so "crappy"? come on guys, get a life. either that, or let's start posting odds so we can bet on who will win these meaningless fights.

Posted by: Jason Nelson | Oct 28, 2005 4:18:49 PM

Ricky said:
"Regarding dogging a "wife," all I can say is that many of us will be surprised to find out that this so-called "bride of Christ" of today is nothing more than a man-made creation in drag."

Sounds like he's taking Ed's advice to be creative...

Ricky, you have some of the funniest sayings... it's a good word-picture for any-sized church that is lukewarm or dead.

...Bernie

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Oct 28, 2005 4:30:06 PM

You're right, Ricky...anyone should be ashamed to be a part of a large church. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways.

Now that you're my mentor, can you please tell me how large a church can get? When is it too big? I'd hate to have too many people come to my church. So I need to know when to lock the doors and call the cops. Please give me direction.

And what am I supposed to do about the nagging inclination that I have to share Jesus with people and to create a church where they can find Him. I need to get rid of that...please help. I'd like to find myself a little more rigid and embittered...but I'm not sure where to go for that? The seeker churches have their models (Willow, Saddleback, Northpoint, etc.); who are the models for churches like this so that I can learn from them?

Posted by: matt | Oct 28, 2005 6:35:41 PM

OK folks...I was tired and the "CH" reference was out of line. Pastor Hybels is part of a dynamic and growing church, but I think any leader of his stature should exercise caution when making sweeping generalizations regarding the "Elm and Vine" churches. I am an insignificant player in the big picture and I can only pray daily that the Lord uses this sinner to His glory. Mr. Rhoades, this BLOG is a wonderful ministry tool and I enjoy reading and responding to the issues that you present to the readers. I will exercise restraint in the future.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 28, 2005 6:51:20 PM

Matt:

"Now that you're my mentor, can you please tell me how large a church can get? When is it too big? I'd hate to have too many people come to my church. So I need to know when to lock the doors and call the cops. Please give me direction."

Well, Grasshopper, you must first unlearn the way you've been taught. This will be as difficult as it is to grasp the pebble from my hand.

You're thinking too territorial when you wonder how big a "church" should be. In fact, The Church consists of countless numbers of souls, although we always tend to wrongly equate the Church as being an organization. When we begin to think of "church" as an organization that must be managed by men instead of increased by Jesus Himself at His will and through His Spirit, we have ceased to think about The Church as the bible describes her.

Our job, so to speak, Grasshopper, is to "do" just what Jesus did with His disciples: become acutely intimate with a small number in whom you can pour His life into and be willing to give up the need for affirmation through larger numbers. This will always lead to pride, as Hybels so putridly exhibited in the article.


Quote:

"And what am I supposed to do about the nagging inclination that I have to share Jesus with people and to create a church where they can find Him."

Ah, missed the pebble again, eh?

Get one thing straight, Matt, the moment you "create a 'church'" (which is completely impossible to do), you are no longer being the Church, which we are called and gifted to be, but rather misrepesenting it and the One who builds it.

That "nagging inclination" is nothing more than the well-intentioned but biblically inaccurate assumption that God can't win any souls unless you "create a 'church'."

As fellow "living stones," how can we build anything for God? It is He and He alone who does the building. We are privileged just to be a "living stone," which is exactly what draws others to HIM.


Quote:

"I need to get rid of that...please help. I'd like to find myself a little more rigid and embittered...but I'm not sure where to go for that? The seeker churches have their models (Willow, Saddleback, Northpoint, etc.); who are the models for churches like this so that I can learn from them?"

The chains of "bitterness" and "rigidness," my young padawon, belong to those who accuse others of the same when their own pride is challenged. For me personally, I have never seen where one person who disagrees with the majority of posters on this site regarding "church" has ever called that majority "bitter" or "rigid," although the moment someone challenges their stand, it's always because we're "embittered."

But how do you know for sure that the "models" you mentioned are biblically accurate representations of the New Testament Church? The mere naming of the organizations declares that they are not of Christ but rather of "Paul, of Silas, of Peter, or Apollos."

When was the last time that you studied church history? Any honest, objective study would reveal that today's understanding of "church" is light years apart from that of the New Testament. Or does that just not bother you?

In your quest for the truth, Grasshopper, remember to include it in your search. Then and only then will you grasp more than the pebble that is in my hand.

Ah so.

Posted by: Ricky | Oct 28, 2005 7:30:15 PM

Matt said:
""Now that you're my mentor, can you please tell me how large a church can get? When is it too big?"

I say it depends on what you want to do.

Do you want the biggest church in town? You already have a church, so you'll have to get new building plans drawn up, destroy or add-on to existing grounds, then do a million dollar fundraising drive. This is growing by addition.

Do you want to exponentially grow the kingdom of God? Then instead, spend your time developing leaders and helping them start a new peer church. You won't have to worry about getting too big, because like a cell in the body, you naturally split off and grow new life. Unfortunately, you won't get famous this way, as you would in the first way.

The first feeds the ego, and is easier. It can also invovle what's called "false humility." The second is more exciting and will grow the kingdom in a more healthier way, by creating more leaders. Just my thoughts.

Before someone considers a million dollar church fundraising drive, they should consider what would happen if they invested the same amount of money in an organization like Gospel for Asia (gfa.org) instead. I think showing and understanding the options shows what a Laodicean church situation we have in the USA.

It seems like from the start of the MMI blog, the assumption is that multi-site and mega-church is the way to go. Todd, I think it would be real cool if you spent a month with articles solely on church planting (role models, issues, best known methods, tools, etc.). OK, maybe just 2 weeks? I think it might be an eye-opener. I would really enjoy it, and learning from it...

...Bernie

Posted by: bernie dehler | Oct 29, 2005 2:54:43 AM

Todd- after I wrote that post about church planting, I looked on google. Here's a great example... even in my neck of the woods:

http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/555
"Why YOU Should Plant a Church"

Snippet:

The question isn’t “Why should I plant a church”… it’s why shouldn’t you! Here’s what I know: God loves it when His people take a step of faith. He will go ahead of you, with you and behind you in this adventure. If you love those He brings you, you will be a success whether it lasts for a year, two years or the rest of your life.

So go ahead- take the leap. Plant a church! And let me know how I can help.

Bob Hyatt is husband to Amy, father to Jack and lead pastor to the evergreen community in Portland, OR (www.evergreenlife.org). He is also in the beginning stages of launching the nextChurch network (www.nextchurchnetwork.org), dedicated to encouraging church planting through encouraging church planters.

Posted by: bernie dehler | Oct 29, 2005 2:59:59 AM

Bernie...that was about the most productive thing I think you've brought to this table. Good on ya'! Interesting link to the next church blog...

I still think you're hijacking Todd's blog...but at least it was in a productive way this time.

Posted by: matt | Oct 29, 2005 7:31:15 PM

I have been a member of big, small and medium churches. They are all different. I know that Bill Hybels meant well when he made his comment. I disagree with his assessment that the typical church does not care about the people around them. They do. Most churches I have been in did and do care.

Not all big churches are evangelistic - let's set that straight. I know the stories of some of the mega-churches came about because of local church splits that benefited the soon to be "mega-church." Some big churches are the result of redistributing Christians for a variety of reasons beyond church splits.

I have pastored two small churches and the comment I hear is "Why don't the people come to our church when we invite them?" I look into their sad eyes and state, "I don't know. Jesus said he would build the church and we are to be faithful in going with the good news."

In one large church I attended there was no visitation program. People joined through two means: networks of evangelistic friends or the building.

I do know of some small churches that remain small because of internal conflict or an aging congregation that can't visit. I was on a mission trip to a small church in Long Island. It remained small because the Catholic Bishop in that Catholic community told the faithful not to have anything to do with those heretical Baptists. That small church had its lovely building broken into and trashed. Teens used the parking lot at night for a "lover's lane" from beer cans and used condoms found there.

In 1987 I was staying in El Paso, TX, for two weeks. I was eating lunch in the hotel restaurant and a lovely elderly couple next to me engaged me in conversation. They invited me to their church - it was small but it cared for the visitor to their city.

Yes, I disagree with Mr. Hybels. I know he is sincere be he sees the small church through the lens of his experience. God has blessed him with talents and with people who were willing to follow the dream. He is where God has placed Him.

The comment about the early church being big is part of the church growth movement's obsession with numbers. Not all of the churches in the New Testament were big and some of the bigger ones received harsher criticism in the various letters.

I believe small churches do care - we just have to depend upon the Lord to build as we faithfully pray and labor.

Posted by: Dan Moore | Oct 31, 2005 9:11:26 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Hybels statement about the average Churches on Elm and Vine not giving a flying rip about people who are far from God. I have spent the better part of two decades going into the average church on Elm and Vine trying to show then what a New Testament Church is suppose to look like. I have continually been broken hearted when our Church on Elm and Vine runs these people who are far from God out the back door quicker than we can get them in the front door. It is always a power struggle. Those who have been doing nothing are threatened when those who fall in love with Jesus can't stand still and they begin to demand that the Church be about our Fathers buisness. When you start going into the hiways and biways, you will bring in people who are less than desirable . The children are to disrespecful. The adults don't dress right. They are from the wrong ethnic, racial, economic, or religious background. They sing to loud or the wrong songs. Etc. ETc. Your average church on Elm and Vine is congregation led. Unfortunatley the congrgation is predominately unchristian so therefore any votes go in favor of the unchristian. You might say if you feel that negatively about the average Church on Elm and Vine why don't you leave it. Simply put:

"The average Church on Elm and Vine needs someone to point them to the Saviour."

Posted by: Tom | Oct 31, 2005 9:40:16 AM

It seems as if we got a little sidetracked with which model of church growth is better and with whether mega churches are the greatest or the worst thing to come along since sliced bread.

That may be a good topic for another thread; the proper structuring of the body of Christ (or even whether it should have a structure.)

However, I believe the quote from Pastor Hybels was about the hearts of the members of the churches on "Elm and Vine," not about whether their pastors measure up to the pastors in the small churches.

I believe Pastor Hybels was pointing out a fairly accurate perspective that in many churches (large or small), the people are more interested in "doing church right" than reaching the hurting and lost. Many are good about meeting the needs of their congregants, but couldn't care less about the needs of those "sinners."

I don't think the issue is about how large or how small a church is, I think it is about whether we have a heart for the lost, as Jesus did.

I am the volunteer youth pastor for a local small congregation (about 100 members.) We have some who "get it," and most who don't. When I bring up ministry ideas to reach out to the lost and the hurting in our community, I get comments like: we can't afford that, and what about the needs of our own people (wow, what's up with that.) I have been involved in other small churches, because I enjoy the intimate nature of small churches, but I would love to find a small church with a heart for giving, and not just recieving. I know they are out there, and God bless you if you are in a church like that, but from my personal experience, the majority of people in any size church have a very consumer oriented heart.

Thank God for those in any size church who care about the lost and the hurting and are willing to do something about it.

Posted by: Bob Felton | Oct 31, 2005 9:47:43 AM

edit- in the above post, in paragraph three, it was supposed to read:

"whether their pastors measure up to the pastors in the "mega" churches."

Posted by: Bob | Oct 31, 2005 9:52:38 AM

I've been serving at an "Elm and Vine" church (actually we are at Elm & University!) for nearly 8 years as a Music Director. We even have a historical marker on the building. There is a rich tradition of worshipping the past at my church, and I have come across many negative attitudes to growth and change. During my 8 years I've seen a few pastors come and go. The ones who told this church how bad they were for worshipping heritage and resisting change did not affect hardly any change and were miserable in the process. The one pastor who came here to love this church and be Christ-like in his shepherding and guiding has actually affected more change and is very happy in his serving.
The lesson that I've learned is to stick it out and try to be a part of the solution, and remember that the grass is not always greener somewhere else. In fact, it still has to be mowed, fertilized and cared for, no matter where you go. Remember we're all "moving on to perfection" (not there yet.) The church is in the world, and sometimes it's going to be very worldly. As servants and leaders in the church we should keep pointing the way, serving as Christ would serve, and loving the church through it's trials and triumphs.

Blessings,
Susan in Texas

Posted by: Susan | Oct 31, 2005 10:06:08 AM

Ricky writes...

"Our job, so to speak, Grasshopper, is to "do" just what Jesus did with His disciples: become acutely intimate with a small number in whom you can pour His life into and be willing to give up the need for affirmation through larger numbers."

I think you missed the point! Jesus did indeed become intimately involved with a small number in which he poured His life into... they were LEADERS! And they were destined to start a church that grew to 3000 in it's FIRST DAY!

So, if we are to follow Christ's model, let's as pastors invest our time and energy in leaders, so that they can feed the thousands... (or dozens or hundreds, depending on the size of your community...)

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Oct 31, 2005 10:06:39 AM

Many of the Elm and Vine churches are indeed places for older faithful people to die. And, as long as they are not expecting much praise for their outreach efforts or personal piety, they will be happy in the Kingdom.

But there is another side to these churches. I have pastored in the inner city, among Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants for a time. We rented from a couple of small churches--using Saturday night for our worship time--and ended up having to leave, in part because of the active unwillingness of those churches to compromise, readjust, and make room for another group.

Yes, I agree with Pastor Hybels. Many of the Elm and Vine churches do not give a rip for those who are outside and different. More than that, they can be an active stumbling block for those who are outside to come in. They are not being faithful to small group ministry because there is no growth, either in piety or in numbers.

Small group ministry is about growth in piety and holiness, and even in evangelistic outreach. And one who does not keep the royal law, the new commandment, and does not grow in the keeping of that commandment is not a disciple, though they may very well be a child of God who will inherit the Kingdom. That is, many Elm and Vine churches are, at best, spiritual nurseries where the pastors change diapers and try to keep the flock from damaging each other or getting a severe case of spiritual diaper rash.

Are there good Elm and Vine churches? Of course! But, frankly, I am beginning to believe that they are the minority.

Now that is my rant.

Posted by: Ernesto | Oct 31, 2005 10:28:06 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.