Saturday, March 18, 2006

" holiness but social holiness!"

“There is no holiness but social holiness.”—John Wesley

“…what commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “the foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; And you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”—Jesus of Nazareth

Recently, I have had numerous conversations with some Wesleyan pastors and students who have voiced some concern over holiness issues and the negative impact popular evangelicalism has had on our denomination (The Wesleyan Church) and local congregations. What is being defined as popular evangelicalism is personal holiness. Reflected in our preaching, conversations, budgets and programs; the message seems to be that personal holiness is what really counts. All the things we hold dear - personal righteousness entire sanctification, tithing, worship, discipleship, and ministry programs tend to stem from the mindset of ‘personal holiness’.

The concern that some folks have for popular evangelicalism is the under emphasis of a more holistic idea of holiness. Holiness should not only bring about personal piety, but also cause the body to counter social injustices, influence political powers to effect change, conserve the resources of God’s creation, and so forth.

I would like to open up this conversation to you, so what do you think?

1. What does an overemphasis of personal holiness say about our theology?

2. What is your definition of personal holiness? What about social holiness?

3. Is the issue of personal holiness and social holiness a both/and OR either/or issue?

4. Is the Wesleyan Church doing a good job in educating and promoting social holiness?

5. What other thoughts do you have on Social Holiness (social justice, social action, etc.) and/or Personal Holiness?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What Makes Up A Small Church?

So, "how many are you running?" "How big is your church or ministry?"

Have you ever been asked these type of questions, or better yet, have you ever been the one asking? It is quite hilarious, and sometimes sad the types of conversations that are entertained at church functions, district gatherings, or spontaneous pastoral interactions.
Furthermore, how many church growth conferences or leadership seminars have you attended? At the very least, you have received numerous amounts of flyers and brochures (both at the office and at home) promoting such events. Now I will be first to tell you that I believe in quantitative numbers. Numbers tell us many things…when something is strong and alive, people show up. Numbers can also express healthiness, success, and so forth. However, using quantitative means to define a church or ministry can be very misleading.

I believe that corporate America and the capitalist mentality have infiltrated our congregations and institutions, and as a result have made churches and leaders think that instant growth is ‘the way’ to define success and growth. You can tell where one bases their belief and definition on growth by the language they use (e.g., church is called ‘organization’).

However, I think quantitative growth does not necessarily suggest whether a church is big or small, and truthfully is a deceptive term. Therefore, in our understanding and conversation of church growth, I propose we begin using a more qualitative than quantitative language and thought. There are many numerically large churches with a small church structure. As well, I think that a numerically small church can have a large church structure, though this is rarely seen and not the norm. If you can identify with a few of these, you are probably a small church no matter what numbers you run.

*You are a small church if:
1. All the members have at least some acquaintance with all other members
2. Your church functions like a single cell
3. It is a social system with a single center or a cohesive identity
4. Your members value relationships more than a program or organization
5. You hold in highest regard people who act out their faith
6. You refer to your leaders as ‘workers’ rather than ‘leaders’
7. Tradition carries more weight than novelty
8. Older members are fiercely loyal…but often stubborn
9. Participants feel the church is the right size to sustain the kind of congregational lifestyle that nurtures them
10. The congregation accepts and appreciates ‘characters’ that are a source of both strength and difficulty.

So, what do you think?
1. Does your church have any of these identifications? Would you be considered a small church?
2. Do you ever get tired of the quantitative questions and lingo (e.g., so how ‘many’ are attending your service, etc.)? What examples can you give?
3. Considering the corporate, capitalistic culture in which most of us live, is analyzing a church on qualitative means logical and/or realistic?
4. Any other thoughts or insights?

*(key stats and info. taken from pg. 215 of “Inside a Small Church” by Anthony Pappas)