When a church decides that it needs to check its progress, what are the criteria it must use to do so? For the small business or the large corporation there is an easy way to measure success by checking out the “bottom line”. They can determine whether or not they are making progress by seeing what their labor is producing relative to their goal, profitability.
But how does the church measure its progress? We have a difficult time determining what the “bottom line” is since we are dealing with many intangible issues and with the hearts and lives of unique individuals whose progress cannot always be measured by objective standards. Yet we cannot ignore the need to evaluate and determine whether we are indeed making any progress simply because the task is somewhat subjective.
Since our goal is to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ personally and to introduce others to Him, it only makes sense that we should be able to ask ourselves some probing questions about the presence our absence of several marks of spiritual maturity. Here are eight categories in which to ask ourselves how well we are measuring up to the standard to which we attain as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Satisfaction with Our Portion. Have you learned to be content with the knowledge that the Lord Himself has promised to be your portion? It is extremely difficult to resist the constant barrage of influences around us telling to be more ambitious, to settle for nothing less than the best. With our children, our homes, our jobs and in every other imaginable way, we are flooded with the thought that what we have and who we are is not enough. When we have been given life in Jesus Christ, we can learn to be satisfied and rest in Him.
Sensitivity to Sin. Am I more aware of aspects of my character that are unworthy of Christ now than I was before? One of the most obvious evidences that we are growing to maturity in Christ is the extent to which we are aware of the presence of sin in our lives. The closer we get to Christ, the more His light exposes the areas darkened by sin. Therefore, we should be recognizing more areas of our lives which need to be changed to be more like Christ and become more sensitive to our sin.
Servant’s Heart. Do I have a heart to serve others and to love them as Christ does? Whenever we walk with Christ, the immediate impact upon our hearts is the presence of a servant’s heart in our Master. We cannot escape the fact that He came to serve and that to follow Him we must also develop the spirit and attitude of a servant. Maturity in the church will always be characterized by a servant’s heart.
Scriptural Soundness. Is what I believe based upon the teaching of the Word of God? The marriage of belief and practice is such an alien concept in our society that an editorial in the local paper some years ago expressed dismay that evangelical Christians were dangerous because they allowed their “religious beliefs” to influence their social and political thinking. Do we dare plead guilty? We better! Our beliefs must be biblically based and practically expressed.
Submissive Spirit. Am I willing to yield what I want for the sake of others? Until we find an attitude in our lives which willingly submits to others, we will not be able to function in the unity of the Spirit nor enjoy the bond of peace which maturity in Christ promises.
Strategy for Non-believers. Are we concerned enough about those who do not know Christ to invest ourselves in developing a strategy that introduce them to Him? We should always be looking for ways to share the good news of salvation in Christ with an ever-increasing circle of non believers. The tendency most of us have is to divest ourselves of most of our relationships with those who do not know Christ. We need to build up more regular contact with those who need to meet Him.
Stewardship. Am I growing in my understanding of the biblical truth that I am just a manager of the resources that God has entrusted to my care? Am I giving faithfully to the work of the body of Christ so that I can share in the blessing of knowing the joy of obedience? When a church is mature, its people are generous and faithful, often sacrificial, and seldom need to be reminded of their responsibility in the area of personal stewardship.
Stable Prayer Life. Is my personal prayer life growing and the content of my conversations with the Lord giving evidence of a deeper walk with Him? The depth and breadth of the prayer life of the body of Christ serves us well in determining something of the spiritual vitality and health of the congregation. Prayer must be an integral part of our personal spiritual lives which adds to the richness and depth of our corporate experience of prayer.
What’s the “bottom line?” If we want to be the kind of church that “measures up”, that is growing in maturity, why not ask ourselves these questions? As you can see, we are not what we once were, but we are not yet what we are going to be!
Let’s press on toward the goal together!