One of the leading reasons people give for leaving the church is the behavior of Christians. When Christians are viewed as hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental, lacking compassion, unloving or no different from the world then the church suffers. These behaviors by people who profess to be Christian point to a lack of emphasis on personal spirituality, soul care, and the inner spiritual life in our churches and subsequently in the lives of church members. This apparent lack of transformation demands the church consider changing the hierarchy of emphasis in preaching, teaching and programing.
The seven contrasts below are presented as shifts in emphasis for the church to consider for countering the lack of inner transformation we are seeing in church members, the type of transformation that happens when the gospel is embodied. It is likely impractical, and maybe unwise, for any church to completely flip the hierarchy of emphasis these examples might infer. But changing the message mix even to a relatively small degree to focus more on personal inner spirituality can have dramatic results.
In most churches no more than 10 or 20 percent of the preaching, teaching, curriculum, and programs are devoted to spirituality, or the cultivation of one’s inner spiritual life and personal relationship with God and His Son Jesus. What might happen if church leaders intentionally and innovatively upped that percentage by even a few percentage points?
Seven Shifts In Emphasis For Greater Spirituality and Transformation
From Doing for God to Being with God: This involves offering church members not just corporate worship, faith sharing and missional opportunities, but also opportunities and resources for individual prayer, worship, silence, and solitude that facilitate an encounter with God.
From Knowing About God to Knowing God: This requires the church to provide members with not just information about God and information about scripture, doctrine and dogma, but also opportunities and resources that promote knowing God through spiritual practices, disciplines and habits.
From Outside In Transformation to Inside Out Transformation: Efforts to change people from the outside in through corporate and collective bible studies, preaching, teaching and missional and discipleship experiences should be augmented with emphasis on the inner transformation that happens as individuals cultivate their inner spiritual life and nurture their personal relationship with Jesus.
From God as Up There to God as in Here: Church language that speaks of God in Heaven and God being with us, gives the sense that God is separate from us and needs to be balanced with the message that though we are not God, God’s Spirit is also an empowering presence within us and that God is one with us as He and His Son are one.
From Worshipping Jesus to Following Jesus: Contemporary music’s emphasis on worshipping Jesus needs to be countered with an emphasis on Jesus’s command to follow me and to worship God.
From Teaching about Jesus to Modeling Jesus: This involves church leaders not only telling people about Jesus but also showing people Jesus by modeling Christlikeness and life on life disciple making.
From Talking about Faith to Living out Faith: An emphasis on providing church members the language to talk about their faith should be balanced with training on how to live out their faith and the teachings of Jesus where they live, learn, work and play.
These types of shifts must begin in the hearts, minds and souls of church leaders. Without these shifts on a personal level in the lives of church leaders there won’t be sufficient transformation and passion to translate these messages effectively into the preaching, teaching, programs and life of the church.
Posted on February 21, 2023