About every 20 years, new models for how to do church ministry and congregational leadership pop up. Some of the most recent models include emergent, missional, or kingdom-centered paradigms. And the list goes on.
If this isn’t bad enough, church leaders fight amongst themselves about which model is more effective, all the while failing to recognize that the church — Christ’s Body — is a living, breathing community of faith that exists despite whether or not its leaders heed the newest trends.
Regardless of what model a church leader uses, the leader can only make her church effective when she founds her vision and mission on the Bible, the very Word of God.
The Bible is a beloved book in Christianity, but unfortunately, it is the least read book. This fact of biblical illiteracy is true even though Christians have debated the very nature of Scripture for over a century.
On the one hand, the fundamentalists insisted that the Bible needed to be taken literary in order to be taken seriously. On the other hand, the progressives tended to divorce the Bible from the power to which it speaks. The battle between the two left in its wake a society — and plenty of churches — ultimately unprepared to appropriate the Bible for these times.
Statistics show that somewhere along the way, people stopped reading the Bible altogether. That the Bible still remains one of the top-selling books in America is beside the point.
Consider these facts: Only a small percentage of Christians know general biblical knowledge and have the ability to, say, name the first five books of the Bible. One study showed that a majority of Christians believed that Sodom and Gomorrah was a married couple, while others thought that the Sermon on the Mount was originally delivered by Billy Graham instead of Jesus.
The book of Acts points out that the earliest community of believers was devoted to learning the apostle’s teaching. These teachings included the material we have in the four gospels, in addition to Old Testament scriptures. The church took these lessons seriously because Jesus said that followers who heard his words and acted on them were like people who built houses upon firm foundations.
A church’s foundation is sure only when it rests upon God’s Word. In the Bible we find words that empower, encourage, correct, aspire, inspire and entice. It is there that we discover a determined and intentional mission for the church — one that sets a course with little tolerance for frivolity and distraction.
The Bible speaks of how God’s Word plays a part in the sustainability of a community. In the earliest chapters of 1 Samuel, we find Israel enshrouded in ignorance and spiritual darkness. Polytheism was rampant; the Israelites failed to heed God’s commandments.
The author tells us that the “Word of God was rare in those days.” Eli, the chief priest, becomes the proverbial blind character who represents a fragile and lost nation. Only his apprentice, the young Samuel, was able to hear God’s voice calling in the darkness.
Eventually, Samual’s faithful pursuit after the word of God allowed him to restore Israel to greatness and usher in a new age under King David. In a time of biblical illiteracy, Samuel insisted that Israel’s strength could only come about by heeding God’s word and obeying God’s every command.
The church must realize that Jesus’ words in John 6:63 continue to ring true: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Only when we put down the latest leadership books and pick up our Bibles can our churches reclaim the positions of influence once valued in our great society.