Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Letter To A Friend On "Growing A Church"

by Richard Gunther

Dear Steve,

You asked me for my thoughts on how to make a fellowship grow. I submit the following as from someone who has had very little experience, and who knows very little about the matter.

First of all I like to ask the questions “What is church for?” As I see it there are basically only two answers:

1. Church is for believers. When believers meet they all understand the ‘special’ words they use, such as redemption and propitiation, and when they celebrate communion they know the symbolical nature of the emblems. Their meetings are eclectic and specific, and the common understanding they have makes them as exclusive as a brain-surgeon’s conference.

2. Church is for reaching into the community and winning the lost to Christ. The main reason Christians exist is firstly to become like Jesus, and secondly to draw other people to Jesus. This means that they should lay aside all their theological terms and meet the unsaved in their own limited understanding. No strange words, no peculiar costumes, and as many familiar things as possible, without sinning of course. For example Jesus met people in their own homes, and talked to them over the meal.

In the world there are and always have been hundreds of different kinds of fellowship. This is good, because it shows that God can live in the hearts of people from all cultures. These different people have always expressed their Christianity in their own forms of art, music and so on, and in each generation they have managed to win a new harvest of believers – otherwise the church would have died out long ago. Some Christian fellowships are loud, and noisy, while others are very quiet. Some like to dress up, others dress down. Some concentrate on worship and do a lot of singing, while others prefer prayers.

Every fellowship tends to attract people of a certain range of personality. The old adage of ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is clearly seen. For example the Brethren tend to attract men because Brethren services (as far as I know tend to be objective, theological and unemotional, whereas Pentecostal churches are usually predominantly filled with women, and the services are correspondingly emotional. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this – it is normal and natural for like to attract like. In the world exactly the same thing happens.

Returning to the question, I would like to look very briefly at the first category of fellowship.

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