The measure of a churchBy Scot McKnight
How do we evaluate a local church, or even a denomination? (Not that I think we have to do this, but at some level we will begin to use terms that border on or express our evaluation of a church.)
We say things like, “that’s a good church,” or, “that church is dead” or, one of the more common ones, “that church is totally irrelevant.” What term would you use?
In what I think will prove to be the book of the year (Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City) for seminaries and churches and denominations and pastors, Tim Keller sketches three models for evaluation a church:
Success measured by numbers: conversions, membership, giving.
Faithfulness measured by bible and theology: the pastor’s sermons and ideas and the church’s ideas are faithful to the Bible and to the church tradition.
Fruitfulness measured by how the word “fruit” is used in the New Testament: conversions, moral character, good deeds.
Since Keller doesn’t think the first is adequate and thinks the second too often falls short, he opts for a term that in essence combines the second with terms like “impact” and “productive” and “thriving.” I’m not sure he entirely escapes “success” with his term “fruitfulness” but I agree with him. We evaluate a church by its faithfulness and with the belief that the aim of ministry is to have an impact. So perhaps “fruitfulness” combines success with faithfulness at a deeper level.
Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, has become a model church for those who want to minister in an urban context. Not that this book is just for city ministries — we’ll see if it expansive enough for all — but Keller’s church has been so “fruitful” that pastors have been asking him for years how it happened, and this book is the result.
The “secret” to Redeemer is a theological vision, and much of the introduction seeks to spell this out. His thinking is rooted in Richard Lints’ book The Fabric of Theology.
For Keller “theological vision” mediates one’s doctrinal foundation (theology, what to believe) into one’s ministry expression (what to do). So it looks like this:
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