Dr. Thom Rainer from LifeWay loves to make lists. I think that comes from his love for demographics. Much of what he writes is based on his research in the area of church growth which gives him insight into what is happening in churches around the world. Some of the trends that he has discovered are good. Some are not so good. You can read some of his lists and say, “Yes! That’s us!” And some of them you read and say, “Oh, no. That’s us.” But even when it is an “oh, no” kind of list, you can find something that will help you even if it means that you need to work to change the direction of your church. One of the reasons that I like what Thom Rainer’s work is that he doesn’t focus on large churches. His emphasis isn’t on numerical growth; it’s all about healthy churches. And healthy churches come in all shapes and sizes.
With that in mind, I would like to start a “dialogue” with you about the following list. What are your thoughts about each of these 12 trends? Which do you see in your church? What about in your own life?
The 12 trends found in healthy churches are:
Over the next week, I will give you what I think about some of these. For instance, the first two deal with the church’s relationship with the Bible. At Southside, I believe these statements are true. We do have a high view of Scripture, and based on the response I have received to our annual Bible reading plan last year, I think a large number of our people read the Bible everyday. But exactly what does this mean? What is a high view of Scripture?
Let me give you my thoughts. The Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 -17 tells us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Holy Spirit whispered into the hearts and minds of the men who penned the words of Scripture, and they wrote them down. Because these words are the words of God and not men, they are absolutely true and absolutely trustworthy. That is the power of inspiration.
To be infallible means that the Bible is “unable to fail.” To talk about infallibility, then, you have to understand the Bible’s purpose: to show us who God is and how to live in a relationship with Him. From Genesis to Revelation, you find this to be true. So it is infallible. But what about inerrant? The word itself means that the Bible is without error, and great amounts of time and energy have been spent pointing out “problems” with numbers and what some call contradictory statements. Here is my take on that. When we find a problem in the Bible, it is more likely a problem of understanding than it is of inerrancy; however, I would be dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge some difficult issues in our translations of God’s Word. Most scholars will explain that away by saying inerrancy only applies to the original manuscripts – of which we have none. Still, each of these “problems” can be explained if we will put a little effort into our study of the Word – which we should because it is a gift from Holy God to show us the way to live with Him now and for eternity.
Well, that’s my take on Scripture. What do you think?