This information is not original with me, but from a fascinating book I found entitled, “The Passionate Church: The Art of Life-Changing Discipleship.” Since I am a visual learner, I have included my personally designed diagrams along with my own notes to help in my disciple-making and teaching efforts.
God’s people are a living organism subject to the same principles of growth that apply to all living things. MRS GREN can help you grow a healthy church; practicing the principles of a vital life.
You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. — 1 Peter 2:4-5
Church health and growth is all about life, the body being an organism rather than an organization. Many churches put the cart before the horse by building facilities and programs before they have adequately taken care of the needs of the people. The cart will not get things moving, the horse will. We need to feed and care for the horse, but instead much of our energy goes into the cart (and the horse ends up too weak to pull the cart). The cart is easier to take care of; we can paint it, decorate it, show it off. Horses tend wander off or perhaps don’t respond the way we want. Ask yourself, “How good is a cart when the horse is dead?”
We deceive ourselves with the attitude, “If you build it they will come.” Every church is one generation away from extinction, and today’s generation wants to see living stones.
Meet MRS GREN:
Biology has taught us there are seven characteristics that identify all living organisms. Let’s look at each one and discover spiritual truth about growth.
Movement: show you are not dead – Movement is a response to stimuli, we see it in the animal world all the time. If out in the open, an animal will move to safety when a predator is discovered. Animals move when stimulated by an outer (danger) or inner (hunger) force. The Old Testament is full of patriarch, prophets and people on the move. At the Red Sea the people stopped moving. How easy is it to stand still in what we know, regardless of how unfulfilling, than to move into the great unknown. Moses tells them to stand firm while God tells them to move on. God uses many ways to stimulate His people; His Word, His Spirit, persecution.
Respiration: breathing God’s breath – Breathing is not necessarily respiration. The process is dependent upon oxygen being released into the body so it can function properly. The process is natural for most organisms, but not all. Some have bad breathing due to illness, lack of exercise, pollution, a tantrum of holding your breath. God’s breathing releases His power in our lives. Inhale His Spirit and exhale His will.
Sensitivity: the pentagon at work – The body is a unit working together. Sensitivity plays a vital role in our receptiveness to stimuli. The church needs people who are sensitive to the pains of others (pastor); sensitive to sight, foresight given by God (prophets); sensitive to the needs and hurts of others in hearing, listening, instructing (teachers); sensitive to speech, sharing the good news (evangelists); sensitive to sniffing out staleness and knowing when to move out into new areas (apostles).
Growth: the result of a healthy life – Growth is an expression of life; all living things grow. If the church stops growing it will die. No growth is a sign of decay and death. the lesson of the semi-circle is to prune branches, to cause more growth.
Reproduction: creating the future – This is different from growth in that it is a multiplication of an organism. In our spiritual life God takes our words (the gospel) and fuses them with one who has a heart open to this good news to make a new spirit. Reproduction; one Christian became two. These will gather together in small groupings called a church. Reproduction is a sign of life. Unhealthy specimens generally don’t multiply, it is the healthy ones that carry on the species. In Europe children, teens and young adults no longer attend church because Christians in Europe have forsaken the reproduction of themselves into the next generation.
Excretion: a cleansed life – Every heart builds up a collection of junk that needs to be emptied through the process of repentance and discipline. If we don’t, it is the same as a body not ridding itself of waste it has accumulated; it will bring discomfort, disease and eventually death. The toxins are called the root of bitterness, according to the writer of Hebrews. Sometimes the church must expel an unrepentant brother; giving the opportunity to come back into the faith and the fellowship. We must not embrace wickedness but excrete it to remain healthy.
Nutrition: the obedience diet – Living things must take in nutrients or they will die. Jesus is the bread of life, so to live we must dine on His words. Jesus said that His food was to do the will of the Father (John 4).
The Growth Cycle of Church Groups:
God designed for us to be social creatures, living in community. Moses and Jethro had a conversation about the management of people and leadership. Once discovered what Moses was doing, Jethro replied:
“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” –Exodus 18:17-23
Today we feel like we are leading a consumer-driven, program-driven, staff-driven church organization; which is a prescription for burnout. Diversify the leadership over one thousand, one hundred, fifties and tens and equip them to lead and do the work of ministry.
Jesus had a similar pattern: sending out the disciples in twos, He called a team of 12 out of the 72, there were 120 gathered at Pentecost in the midst of 3000 being saved that day. There were seven men of good reputation appointed to serve the widows overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Our churches must focus on the development of clusters, the extended family sized between 20-70. We must raise up people who carry this vision and capable of overseeing these groups and the long-range task of rebuilding communities and culture.