Saturday, March 02, 2024

Church: Performance-Based or Spirit-Formed?

Is your church performance-based or Spirit-formed?
  • Are you trying to attain your goal by human effort or by the empowering presence and leading of God’s Spirit?
  • What would have to change for your church to become a Spirit-formed community?
James van Yperen, in Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict, asks these questions. (p. 74). Van Yperen knows that many American churches are performance-based rather than Spirit-formed. This is not good, and explains a lot of church conflict.

He writes: 

"Pick up almost any book about church growth or leadership today, and the dominant theme will be performance—how you can do more and achieve more. Words like “effective,” “dynamic,” and “productive” describe the values and goals of leadership. Much is given to models and methods of leadership and growth. Little is said about spiritual formation." (73)

After beginning with the Spirit, many are now trying to "do church" in their own strength and by their own wisdom and efforts. (Galatians 3:3)

This distinction is key to understanding church conflict. The performance-based church creates an "audience," a bunch of "consumers," and audiences and consumers do what they do best: critique and complain. "A Spirit-formed community," in contrast, "is formed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not the personality or gifts of a man or woman." (74) 

The questions of the Spirit-formed community are not: "Do you like the worship?" or "Do you like the pastor?" In the Spirit-formed church people are not worshiping to please you.

Van Yperen is so good here. He writes:

"When a church gathers around a central figure who leads out of his or her knowledge, experience, or gifts alone, the church’s identity is inevitably tied to the ego and self-esteem of the leader. It becomes performance-based. By performance-based, we mean that planning and evaluation are focused on human achievement. Success or failure is measured by the growth and size of the church, the number of conversions, the latest facility expansion, or whether people approve of sermons, music, and so forth. Identity is measured by position, power, and accomplishment." (Ib.)

Real "church" is about God and Jesus, not some pastor or worship team. The consumer-audience will not understand this. Some pastors and worship teams don't want to understand this. This is one reason why, in our context, we don't put some "great musician" on the platform with our worship team if they are not primarily a passionate worshiper of Jesus and walk in humility and self-denial.