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Why Grace Hills Church Is In Jeopardy

Thin IceGrace Hills Church is eleven Sundays old, officially, and about eight months old, unofficially. And we’re in trouble. If we don’t do something, all of our effort will be in vain and all hope of planting the kind of church Jesus had in mind will be lost.

No, we’re not out of money. God has provided every step of the way. No, we’re not losing people. In fact, we’re seeing new attenders every week. And no, we’re not losing our leaders. We’re seeing new leaders emerge as each week passes. But I still contend that we’re in jeopardy of losing everything important to us… if we don’t fight for it.

Churches do not automatically thrive. The American church, as a local institution, has proven that it can coast along in almost-dead mode for many years. But there are no churches that are effectively reaching and changing their surrounding culture by accident. Recently, Rick Warren wrote a brief piece on Pastors.com about breaking three common barriers to church growth. In the comments, a troubling attitude emerged that is probably not too uncommon among believers in American churches – that growth is up to God (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and so any intentional effort to cause growth is somehow wrong (which I couldn’t disagree with more).

We’ve been having “good Sundays” at Grace Hills, but I’m still very much on guard. In fact, I sometimes find myself troubled at the rising threats against our success, not from any force outside of our fellowship, but from within it. Let me elaborate on some ways I believe the mission is in jeopardy even now…

If we fail to intentionally be the church, we will unintentionally just do church. And that’s true, no matter how much we say we’re going to “be the church.” Doing the Sunday gathering thing is what we’re good at, and even though we spend a lot of time and money on it, it’s still easier than scattering to be the church in our community.

If we fail to intentionally make disciples, we will unintentionally just make fans. I believe in making Jesus famous and bringing people into the enjoyment of His glory, but our mission is more than increasing the popularity of the church. The mission is to help people become reproducing, sold out Jesus-followers.

If we fail to intentionally be authentic, we will unintentionally just perform. I’ve performed before. In fact, I’m a recovering performer and have struggled with an addiction to the approval of others, so admitting my weaknesses is tough, but essential. I no longer trust my autopilot to lead me into genuine authenticity. Being real takes effort, and if we aren’t real, nobody heals.

If we fail to intentionally embrace all people, we will unintentionally play favorites. And the apostle James warned us about the danger of insulting the cross by picking and choosing those with whom we want to do ministry. Rather than hanging out with only the “churchy” people, of our color, of our political persuasion, of our cultural background etc., the gospel itself demands that we purposely break free and seek out new friendships for the gospel’s sake.

If we fail to intentionally be generous, we will unintentionally consume everything. By default, we spend it all, and we tend to spend pretty much all of our resources on ourselves. Churches tend to fall into the trap of sustaining their institutional machinery, maintaining their buildings and budgets, and begging for more volunteers and bigger offerings to keep the snowball rolling. Generosity requires purposeful sacrifice (if we can even use that word in light of the cross).

Grace Hills is in jeopardy of existing for us rather than them. We’re in jeopardy of growing the institution of the church rather than the people of the church. And we’re always in jeopardy of becoming a well-liked brand rather than pointing the culture to the infinite goodness of God.

So what should we do? How do we stop our drift and shift out of autopilot? With focus, intention, and effort, we need to:

  • Check our hearts and our motives.
  • Remind ourselves of the mission often.
  • Repeat the vision regularly.
  • Keep Jesus at the center.
  • Put people before the organization.
  • Do it all with a sense of desperation.

After all, if we fail to take the reins, we’re already as good as dead no matter how long we keep the doors open. So… go.

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  • Barbara Nixon

    I can’t wait to worship with you when I move to the Fayetteville this summer.

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      That will be a neat day, Barbara!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      That will be a neat day, Barbara!

      • Rccggracehall

        This is wonderful!what I see between the lines is FOCUS.Thanks for sharing this! Grace Hall Intl. Richmond.

  • Danielle

    Wow, excellent post. My husband and I recently moved from Bentonville ( I attended Grace Point Church) to Bozeman, Montana to plant a church. There are days I catch myself still “doing church” I remind myself every day to be the church! Thank you for your thoughts. I will be sharing them with the other members of our team. Praying for you and Grace Hills

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      That’s super encouraging. Had lunch with Pastor McDaniel just a few weeks ago – we love GracePointe. Can you post a link to your new church? Praying for you guys as you reach Bozeman.

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks so much for the encouragement Danielle! We love GracePoint – had lunch with Pastor Mike recently. Can you post the link to your new church plant in Bozeman? Would love to know you guys and pray for you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WDDPKXXLS2DKEFX6DWQDUYNBMA JamesG

    What an excellent post.  This applies to all congregations everywhere.  I am going to share this.

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks James!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks James!

  • http://davidtonen.com/ David Tonen

    Love it! Every church is in jeopardy every week when we take our eyes off of “mission”. Ultimately it is all about making disciples (students of Jesus) and helping them “grow” into spiritual maturity. I pray God will keep you (and me) focused on His mission this week!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      David, I need that prayer, and I’ll pray the same!

  • http://jonathanpearson.net/ Jonathan Pearson

    So good here, man!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks Jonathan!

  • http://www.wesleydwoods.com/ Wesley Woods

    Awesome, bro!  Stay focused and keep up the great work for the Kingdom!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks for the encouragement, Wesley!

  • http://twitter.com/TerryIvy Terry Ivy

    Good article brother…. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thank you, Terry!

  • Mosesc

    Brandon great thoughts and very well put, thanks for sharing your heart and your honesty

  • http://www.studiochurch.tv/ Barry Whitlow

    Great stuff Brandon, thanks so much. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/poulterer Bruce Poulterer

    “Growth is up to God” is for certain.  I am not sure then I understand your comment “I believe in making Jesus famous” as that could be taken as He is limited to what you can do for Him.  Rather you might say I want Jesus to use me to bring people to Him and will proclaim that forever”   I feel you are right on for the other wise statements the Lord has shared with you to share with us.  Blessings   Bruce

  • Neal Taylor

    Great article brother!

  • Alan Smith

    Awesome, awesome awesome!