We can assess how we view and do church through a variety of lenses.
We can look at church through a pastoral lens – how is the flock being provided for, nurtured and matured? How is the flock sent on mission? How healthy are the sheep? Do they have easy onramps to spiritual growth and maturity? Does their conversation have the characteristics of maturity? Are leaders being naturally nurtured and developed?
We can look at church through a prophetic lens – What abuses are currently taking place in our churches that need to be addressed? Are those on the margins welcome? Do they feel at home? Are widows and orphans being taken care of or are they overlooked? Do we justify injustice in overt or subtle ways?
We can look at the church through the eyes of a clinician – What sort of congregational psychosis is taking place? Are there breaks from reality? How does the church cope? How does the church grieve? Does the church have a healthy identity and sense of purpose? How are the difficulties of congregational life affecting the lives of those who attend?
We can look at the church through the lens of scripture – this is probably the most important lens. Does the church line up in belief and practice with the early church? If not, why not? Which breaks from their orthodoxy and orthopraxy are acceptable and why? Do we capture their ethos and not just their forms and functions? Do we operate as the kind of church that looks like the Savior? Does the Holy Spirit have a welcome place in our discussions and decisions?
We can look at the church from the perspective of many more things than this…and often we get lopsided when we raise the banner of one of these to the exclusion of the rest. Certainly the biblical perspective loads into all the rest…how does one have a prophetic or pastoral or clinical view without some standard to hold things up against and make assessments?
The one thing we don’t want to do is bury our heads in the sand and act like everything is okay, all the time, even when things are not. I have heard people say on many occasions that we should never critique the church in public. I hear that sometimes because I have been known to do that…and it is the reaction I get from some. They say it puts a black eye on the church. But what I really hear in that, could be wrong, is that those discussions make people uncomfortable and they are looking for things to say to make it stop. What really puts a black eye on the church is to have no approach to assessing the health of the church…no paradigm for a conversation on how things are going and how to improve. I would rather the world see us trying to improve than ignoring our problems. How about you?
Which perspective do you lean toward in your assessment of how things are going? Feel free to add more categories and descriptions…they are legion.