REVEAL: WHA T’S UP DOC? S
everal years ago I lived in a property which was bordered on one side by 29 fir trees. These trees had grown considerably and were greedy for moisture, affecting the rest of the garden not to mention the neighbours. We decided to cut them down, especially since a lot of the garden was going to be used for a home extension anyway. Allowing ourselves plenty of time in advance of the building work, we attacked the offending evergreens. You can imagine the amount of leafy debris! We weren’t able to remove the chopped branches all at once, so lots of them remained on the ground for a while. One day it occurred to me that, even though the branches had not been attached to the trees for ages, the foliage was still green. There was an appearance of life in the leaves but the appearance was concealing the truth. They were disconnected.
g ro wt h Last time out in this column I looked at how belonging in church becomes more meaningful through a proactive approach to connecting. Connections enable us to flourish and find community, but that’s just the start of the journey. Jesus once said we need to be connected for something else: Growth. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 NLT Life is a journey of growth. A truism, sure, but as we get older do we still recognise life for what it is?
It’s about finding the heart of the church Andrew Harris
Perhaps we reach the ‘norm’ of marriage, job, home, children and church and feel that we're no longer able to see ‘the wood for the trees'. Our daily life becomes very busy and the intrusion of the busy-ness can often hinder us in our own spiritual growth. If that holds true for us as individuals then it certainly has a bearing on us as a church. So, how do we ascertain our current position and address the growth issue? Let’s pick up Steve Campbell’s words about Small Groups: “Community is essential for the process of discipleship.” It is this process of discipleship which is at the heart of something exciting about to cross our paths: REVEAL. Reveal is a survey designed to ascertain whether a church is helping its people grow spiritually, and to understand what it takes to move people along their growth journey.
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take responsibility for what we put into our bodies. What does this have to do with a survey? Well, here’s the thing. It’s common to visit the doctor nowadays for a check up. We want to be sure we are in good health, and having that assurance helps us to function more freely in our daily living. If we feel the need do that on a physical level, it’s certainly important for the church as a body to take a look at itself on a spiritual level. The Reveal survey is, if you like, a spiritual health check for the church.
he a lt h c he c k A man walked into the doctor’s with some cucumber up his nose, a carrot in one ear and a banana in the other. “What’s up with me doc?” he asked. The doctor took one look at him. “It’s clear you’re not eating properly.” Now, I’m no authority on diet but I am a parent, meaning I’ve seen others grow up and had the discussions about sprouts versus chocolate, but, hey, who hasn’t? Of course chocolate wins every time, it just doesn’t go with turkey, but then neither do sprouts in my opinion. However, the point is that we all know that the type of food we eat will have a long-term bearing on our physical growth. Hopefully we
I asked Andrew Harris, Executive Pastor at C3, to offer his thoughts about why the leadership wants the church to commit to completing the survey. "It's to help [us] to develop strategies to produce mature disciples; to honour the value of each person’s contribution because what’s important to them is very important to us. “It's also valuable because if everyone does a health check on themselves that allows us to see where the church [really] is." In talking about community recently, Steve Campbell used words like 'discipleship' and 'belong'. We tend towards thinking 'disciple' describes a follower, but the origin of the word
comes from a Latin verb meaning 'to learn'. It doesn't take much to see the connection, but realising that being a follower involves learning helps in understanding our own responsibilities, particularly in how we feed ourselves spiritually. And then there's this one: Discipline. I hold my hands up here. I shudder at the mere mention of the word. It conjures up terror, with its connotation of strictness, punishment and severity. In fact, every definition in the dictionary involves the terms 'training', 'correction', 'rules', 'controlled', or 'rebuke'. Even the apostle Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians (9:27) that he 'disciplines (his own) body to bring it into subjection', and the Middle English origin of the word defines discipline as ‘mortification by scourging oneself’. What?! Mortification? Scourging? I think we'll leave those, thank you. No wonder we find the idea of spiritual discipline hard to take if our idea of spiritual life and growth is defined by a sense of choice between acts of purgatory or guilt for not doing them. God, it may be of comfort to know, is more interested in our hearts. Thankfully.
d evo t ion Our church is a large reflection of us as individuals. We know that church is not a building but its people, and we are those people. What if we were able to discover things about our own spiritual growth that our leaders could act upon and direct us in? Do we trust our pastors like we trust our doctors? Are we happy to let them see our shortcomings? Are we confident in their ability to lead us on our spiritual journey with
wisdom, understanding and sensitivity? Andrew Harris again: “The whole idea of taking an opportunity to self-reflect and at the same time allowing us access to that self-reflection, is, hopefully, to help us form strategies as a church. “It’s moving away from the idea that just because people are attending church they’re maturing, and getting
the reality is that we've lost heart, or we’re disappointed, or hurt. Whatever it is, we may have lost the connection, the engagement, with the body and there are some issues to face.
This survey could help to shape the future trajectory of this church Steve Campbell
Perhaps it's about being open to being open. If each of us is prepared to be open to discovery, not only can we benefit as individuals but the whole body is then better equipped in growing and moving forward. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For in fact the body is not one member but many. 1 Corinthians 12:12 & 14 behind that to see what’s in their hearts. “It’s about the desire from the leadership to be open to having a health check about where we are in our discipleship process; open to developing strategies based on real needs of people in the congregation, not just doing things the way we’ve always done them. “It’s about finding the heart of the church - our heart is to produce disciples, to do the best we can.”
o pe n Growth involves change. A church can involve itself in various activities and programmes and, without being prepared to face change, continue to deliver what it thinks is working without realising that a number of the ‘branches’ are no longer connected. Cue my first point. Some of us can still look verdant for a while, with the appearance of belonging, whereas
There will be many questions along this journey to maturity, but perhaps the key question would be, "Where are you in your relationship with God?"
mi ss io n I'll leave the final encouragement to Steve Campbell: "I think it's more of a Great Cause than a Commission. We are to reveal the multi-faceted wisdom, the variegated colours of God in our world; to go and make disciples of all nations. “Why are we doing this survey? To make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ. The way to take part in the administration of God's grace is to build the church, but the church is those who are disciples of Jesus. "If we're going to be this wisdom of God to our world and to the nations around us, and to the powers that be, we have to be a disciplined, discipled, community."