Soteriology is a word that comes from the Greek word soterios, which means “to save.” Doxology comes from the Greek word for glory and names the single stanza hymn. While many have heard the Westminster Confession that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” fewer have understood that doxology is the highest purpose for church. Doxological is a good descriptor for the mission of God’s glory. Placing evangelistic mission above the mission of God’s glory is the single most destructive error in the church today and the one from which many other errors fall out. God’s own glory as the priority for your church and every church needs no reflection on our part, only obedience. Glory is not a threat to reaching lost people but is actually the most biblical and God-honoring way to get there:
The statements above are biblical fuel on the fire of evangelism, but the Scripture also puts parameters on how far that zeal can go. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word” (2 Corinthians 2:17). When soteriology becomes a higher priority than doxology, much is done “to reach people” that grieves the Holy Spirit and forfeits manifest presence. Like a man paddling across the Atlantic with a hole in his boat, God’s glory can be briefly neglected, but if not soon corrected, we will find ourselves in a place where the only choice is to sink. Neglect of glory is not a small oversight but the hinge on which God’s glorious favor swings in or out in any church. The error of failing to make the glory of God your highest priority is very difficult to address in a horizontal church because they believe their mission is “winning the lost, end of story!” If that horizontal mission results in numerically successful outcomes, the methods will be considered “above reproach” ipso facto, and that is the great disaster. Even where churches have doxology in their mission statements, it is too often assumed. Those resistant to what I write might reply, “Of course God is glorified in our efforts to reach people for Him, why would He not be?” Possible answers:
How did the church get this way? I don’t know the whole history, but I do remember the impact of a book that came out in 1980 titled The Complete Book of Church Growth by Elmer Towns, John Vaughan, and David Seifert. It lists the top 200 churches in North America by attendance. Interestingly, in 1980, the largest two churches had about 5,000 attendees. By the time they got down to the 200th church, they had gone under 2,000 in attendance. As of 2011, there were 1,200+ churches in America with attendance over 2,000; more than 100 churches that have attendance over 5,000; and more than 25 with attendance over 10,000. But wait! It’s a trick, because during that same time the population has grown by more than 40 percent and the total number of people actually attending church has fallen by greater than 15 percent. Bottom line: in real numbers, millions of people who were worshipping Christ in a Protestant church in 1980 are not doing so today. So who are we kidding? Horizontal, soteriologically driven church is not growing the body of Christ as a whole. Even if you are seeing a “win” on your side of town, we are a “loss” collectively. Do you care? Regardless of size, every Bible-believing, gospel-saturated church, and those that want to get there, matter to God. Just because a few churches in big cities are flooding with people does not mean that those methods are helpful to the church as a whole. What if Satan allowed a few churches to burst at the seams, knowing that selfish shepherds everywhere would mimic those horizontal methods and plunge churches from coast to coast into a vortex of decline?
Sadly, many who read this believe that pursuit of the glory of God is an abandonment of evangelistic impact, when in fact the opposite is true. Check back Friday for some evidence. :)
Thank God for Rick and Kay Warren, and for Keith and Beth Moore. Beth says it better than I could, so let this woman of God be heard…”Sadness and Madness“
In John 9, the disciples wanted to debate with Jesus about the source of a man’s blindness—when Jesus saw him much differently. Not as an issue to discuss, but as a person to help.
Why do some Christians see everything so differently? Possibly they have become consumers of spiritual content vs. disciples who are not only learning and growing, but most importantly, investing in others. Nothing will amplify your insight into what God’s doing like involvement. People on the sidelines don’t see it the same way that people who are involved see it. If you’re stagnant or struggling in your faith just now, maybe you’ve stopped actively serving. It’s a common heart ailment that often goes undiagnosed.
One of our earliest and most faithful leaders throughout the years taught us this diagram. I think it comes originally from the Navigators, but I’m not sure. Either way, I know this: roll-up-your-sleeves-involvement opens your eyes to see God working. True followers of Jesus aren’t just consuming spiritual content, they are serving the kingdom by helping to get God’s truth to others in a personal, practical way.
This is Holy Week. And with the outpouring of ministry that will accompany it among our churches, I want to take a few minutes to encourage my fellow pastors as we prepare for its significance.
I love this: “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). When I was a kid, I memorized this verse in the King James Version as “rightly dividing the word of truth.” Actually, in the original Greek there’s just one word. It’s a compound word that means cut it straight. Don’t you love that picture? We are supposed to be cutting it straight, rightly dividing, accurately handling the Word of Truth. Read More
My heart goes out to the family that is in a downward spiral. You know what I mean. Whether they live in the same house or come from the same parents or worship at the same church, ‘families’ can fall into bad patterns that become very hard to break. Where every step forward is quickly met by two steps back. Read More