Biblical Bethany is just over the hill from the Temple Mount, on the other side of the Mount of Olives. What a place to serve. Great to be that close to the temple, but how can your synagogue deal with that? Design the greatest Passover observance you want, and everyone will still go to the Temple for the sacrifices. Forget synagogue growth. Who wants to connect with your little place when the best rabbinical scholars in the land are so easily accessible elsewhere?
If you can appreciate that situation, then you might be in a "Left-Behind Church." I picked up that term from a book by Ruth Tucker that I'm reading: "Left Behind in a Megachurch World." Tucker is a professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary. In this book she does a pretty good critique of the "success" idolatry of our culture that has captured the church. And she reviews the malaise that sets into ordinary churches because of the comparison with the "got everything" churches. Just chew on these quotes:
If a church is not growing in numbers (according to the 'experts'), it must be revitalized...numerical growth is the goal, though it is often disguised in less stark terms such as church health, spiritual vitality, or dynamic ministry. In these (revitalization) books there is rarely any mention of the possibility of God working amid declining numbers.
Wal-Mart churches, like the stores, are not first and foremost concerned with people. They are concerned with numbers.
Ministers today face far greater expectations and pressures than did their counterparts in previous generations. Today ministers are compared to the superstars in their ranks.
The emphasis on church growth and success that pastors face in the ministry derives little authority from the Scriptures.
Well, I won't give you all of it, but I will say that she provides good background material to justify the statements I recorded above. But maybe those remarks will keep you thinking, do I evaluate my church by comparing it with other churches? Do I overlook God at work in "left-behind" places because I want to join the American dream of being in the success spotlight?
Do the turn-around programs and new church plants really help the Church discover/maintain a joyful passion for God, demonstrated in service to a hurting world? And if they don't, what will?