10th April 2003
This is a difficult goal to write a strategy for - you can hardly come up with specific, measurable, achievable targets for how central God is in the church. But if you want a crude measure of how active God is among us, maybe the best question to ask is: how often do we see new people becoming Christians in North Central? To be honest with ourselves, the answer to that is not encouraging. How can we change that?
The world's biggest church is Yoido Full Gospel church in Seoul, South Korea. Led by Paul Yonggi Cho, it started in 1958 with two people, and grew as follows:
At that point, growth leveled off because when they plant a new church, which they do a lot, they tend to send 60,000 people or so to get it started. So if we're looking for a strategy to bring God into the centre of what we're doing and to find his blessing, we could do worse the look at how Cho does it.
There is a persistent anecdote that I've heard several times at conferences and on tapes. I've not been able to verify it on the Internet, but here it is for what it's worth: the story is that Cho was a guest on one of the big secular American talk-shows - Jay Leno or Letterman or something like that. The interview went like this.
In North Central, we have done very well in a lot of ways: we have good meetings, with an appealing atmosphere, in an attractive setting. We do things in a way that doesn't put people off, and that no-one needs to be ashamed to invite their friends to. We've fought battles of marketing, presentation and style, and content too: and we've done well in these areas, using ``natural'' weapons like sensitivity, intellect and experience.
But Paul says ``though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power.'' (2 Cor 10:3-4) If we want to break through spiritual barriers, and see people becoming Christians, then we will need to use spiritual weapons. In other words, ``We pray''.
This is not at all to say that what we've done has been useless. It's good, but it is only a foundation. There is no purpose in having good meetings if it's just to have good meetings: the reason they're there is to provide a setting for the power of God to come and transform people. We need to build on the foundation we already have, but using spiritual power. ``This kind can come out only by prayer.'' (Mark 9:29)
One of the bible's key verses on prayer is this:
There is a lot of meat in those forty words: we could preach a five-week series on the preconditions of God answering prayer without stretching it too thin.
All of this so far has been quite abstract (and not very strategic!) We need to work out what we can actually do to make God central in the church. We have no concrete plans, but a few ideas:
The last of these can be done subtly from the front; but to make the first two work will require large-scale buy-in from the congregation at large. That in turn will probably require prophetic preaching (rather than merely persuasive) which we probably don't have in-house.
We considered and discarded idea like prayer diaries, which everyone approves of in the theory but no-one actually follows (least of all us.)
If you're reading a paper copy of this document, the soft-copy can be found at www.miketaylor.org.uk/xian/godcentral.html.