I wrote last week about the first two of these five renewals through which God takes us as we become healthier. And here are the other three.
The third renewal is missional renewal or “purpose renewal.” This stage of renewal has to do with “purpose.” In missional renewal our church realizes that we are not here for ourselves; we’re here for a purpose. God has a job for us to do. We have a mission, an objective; we have some work to accomplish. We’re not just a little “bless me” clique where we get together in church, have a good time, love God and one another, and then go home. No, God has a purpose for us. He has a kingdom to be built. Understanding this and making God’s purposes our leadership responsibility will inevitably cause our church to grow. The book, The Purpose Driven Church, is all about purpose renewal and how to structure and organize around God’s purposes for his church.
The fourth renewal is structural renewal or “organizational renewal.” As your church begins to grow, the way it is organized—the way it makes decisions—has to change. This is the principle Jesus taught when he said, “You cannot put new wine in old wine skins” (Luke 5:37 LB). Many of us are trying to put the new wine of God’s spirit into an organization our churches used over fifty years ago. When you will see a good pastor but the church is not growing, what is the problem? Many times it is not structured in a way that will allow the church to grow healthy. If you insist on keeping the old wineskin it’s going to stifle growth.
No animal can grow above nine inches without a skeleton. A small animal can exist without bones, but a big animal has to have bones to support the structure. The bigger the animal, the bigger the bones need to be. This is what is meant about changing structure. The structure, or organization, is the bones that hold the body of Christ together. When we were children our bones were very small. As an adult we’d look quite funny if we had the same bones. Did you know that you get new bones every seven years? Your body is continually eliminating old cells from your bones and creating new bone from your marrow. Similarly this must happen in our churches as they grow.
How do you create a structure that can keep growing and never stop? The organization that keeps a church growing is small groups. A small group is six to ten people who meet together regularly. When you get more than ten people in a small group, then someone stops talking and all they do is listen. In a small group, small is better.
A great example of this principle is in Korea where one of the largest churches in the world has over half a million members and over 50,000 small groups. This is how a church can grow and still be personal. If you have more than thirty people in your church you need small groups. There are many more examples all over South America and Africa that have small groups in the tens of thousands. This is the principle: if you have small groups there is no limit to your growth. Your body is not one big giant cell, it is thousands and thousands of little cells put together. This is true of the body of Christ. So, in structural renewal it is important to understand the need to change as the church gets larger. When a church grows from 50 to 150 there will be changes needed; when it grows from 150 to 300 additional changes will be needed.
The gospel is about renewal—renewal in our own personal life, renewal in our relationships, and renewal in our churches. The result of these renewals can be to make a difference in our communities. This is the fifth renewal—cultural renewal. The Bible tells us we are to be salt and light in the world. A lot of people take “salt and light” to suggest we need to be actively involved in the political system. It is important to vote and take a stand on values. But, you don’t change culture through politics. If you want to change culture you start upstream with music, entertainment, and sports. You start with the influences on the way people think. This is the task of the church; a renewed church affects society. Cultural renewal is when the attitudes of the people in the entire nation begins to change, even those who are not Christians. The Bible calls this change in culture, “the kingdom of God.” This is our ultimate goal, the kingdom of God. It has nothing to do with politics and it has nothing to do with government. Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” and so government cannot bring in the kingdom, and businesses cannot bring in the kingdom, and even individuals cannot bring in the kingdom, only the church can bring in the kingdom.
What is the kingdom of God? It is wherever Jesus is King. When Jesus is King in my heart, then the kingdom of God is within me. When Jesus is in charge in heaven, the kingdom of God is in heaven. When Jesus is King in our community, the kingdom of God is on Earth. In the Bible, Jesus said all three of these things. Our ultimate goal in all that we’re doing is not to be “purpose driven,” our ultimate purpose is the kingdom of God, it is to the glory of God—it is the global glory of God.
photo by Augusto Avila, Jr.