By Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock –
It’s time to rescue a perishing phrase from the scrap heaps of disuse. The phrase is, “the Army’s balanced ministry.” You see, a friend of mine insists the ninth Beatitude is “Blessed are the balanced: for they shall outlast everyone else.” There’s something durable about the balanced.
My friend, who has given so much thought to balance, has also given thought to health and growth. He says the key issue for churches in the 21st Century will be church health, not church growth.
Aha! The new secretary for program is signaling a shifting emphasis. There will be less said about every soldier duplicating themselves and every corps parenting another. There will be more emphasis on quality and less on quantity. It’s about time.
Whoa, slow down! That’s not where this is heading. Let’s back up before we move on. Let’s hit the matter of balance once again. Let’s begin by not being fooled by either/or thinking when it comes to quantity or quality. As a kid, when my dad took me fishing, I wanted to catch as many fish as I could and the biggest fish I could. I wanted both.
When it comes to Army and Kingdom growth, we want to reach as many as we can and help them become as spiritually mature as they can. My friend gives us some useful definitions here. He says quantity refers to the number of disciples a church produces and quality refers to the kind of disciples a church produces. A key question is, how many people are being brought to Christ, developed to maturity, and mobilized for ministry?
Now that we have sorted out that, we need a balance, or both quality and quantity, lets move on to my friend’s concept of health. You’ll see it includes further emphasis on balance. He says, “If your church is healthy, growth will occur naturally. Healthy, consistent growth is the result of balancing the five biblical purposes of the church.”
What are those five biblical purposes to be balanced? They are worship (Matthew 4:10), ministry (Ephesians 4:12), evangelism (Acts 1:8), fellowship (Ephesians 2:19), discipleship (Ephesians 4:12b-13). If we put into practice the five purposes for which the church exists, we will grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry (service), and larger through evangelism.
It’s time to identify my friend. He’s Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. After 20 years of practicing and observing church growth, he has finally written his book “The Purpose-Driven Church–Church Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission.” It’s well worth the read.
How well is the Army balancing or putting into practice the five purposes mentioned? Overall, I would say pretty good, but we have some work to do. We’ve done a lot already by writing clear mission statements and promoting corps and soldier increases.Where we do find purpose undefined, imbalance, illness, decay and compromise, there is room for growth.
Growth is what MISSION2000 and the People Count! emphasis are all about. One way we could be more healthy is by being better communicators of our purpose, our growth emphasis. In one chapter of his book, Rick Warren gives excellent advice on communicating purpose. He recounts the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. Bible students know it took 52 days to rebuild the wall, but that at the halfway point, 26 days, the builders wanted to give up, lost their sense of purpose and became overwhelmed with fatigue, frustration and fear. Nehemiah reorganized the project and recast the vision.
From this story, Rick distilled the “Nehemiah Principle”: “Vision and purpose must be restated every twenty-six days to keep the church moving in the right direction.”
So, halfway to MISSION2000 and halfway to the Victory ’97 Congress, let’s dust off those purpose (mission) statements, goals and slogans. Every 26 days let’s remind ourselves that a balanced Army is a healthy and growing Army. Let’s keep moving in the right direction. We are heading toward victory!