An LCMS parishioner once observed that everyone just wanted the congregation to become healthy and to grow. This may or may not be a godly desire. Church-Growth-oriented people, these days, have progressed to terminology like, “finding lost sheep,” “winning souls for Christ,” and “healing the hurting with good news.” These goals are admirable and godly, and no Christian can say a word against them. However, there is room to criticize the means they use to achieve their goals, and also whether or not the measurable result they aim for (chiefly, numerical growth) is necessarily the same thing as their godly, spiritual, stated goals. Perhaps one may even question whether these stated goals are really what they are after.
In essence, the question a mission-minded church needs to ask itself is: IS OUR MISSION FOCUS OF THE FLESH OR OF THE SPIRIT?
I wrote the following questions as a way a congregation can test its own motives as to whether they are of God or of the flesh. Originally these were written for the consideration of a congregation that was torn apart by internal conflict, but they are just as applicable to our Synod as a whole.
1. Do we seek a heavenly tabernacle, or an earthly corporation?
2. Do we seek heavenly treasures or earthly Mammon?
3. Do we want to share our treasures with others, or get others to join and share their treasures with us?
4. Do we want our neighbors to grow spiritually as the Word has caused us to grow, or do we want them to join us so we can grow numerically and financially?
5. Do we want to save them, or do we want them to save us?
6. Do we really want new faces, even if it means breaking up the old crowd and diluting our power?
7. Will we share with our friends and neighbors and lead them to Christ’s preaching and liturgy, or is it the Pastor’s job to pound pavement and sell the Gospel to random strangers?
8. Do we love God's gifts of Word and Sacrament, or would we give them up for something fun?
9. Is obedience too costly?
10. Is departing from the distinctions that mark us as Lutherans an acceptible sacrifice, if it will help us pack the pews?
11. Is the growth and unity of the church more important than the Word of God?
12. Is the growth and unity of the church possible without the Word of God?
13. Does the church’s future depend on staying true to its history, or on getting rid of its history?
14. Would we sooner allow the church to shed its history, or even die, than commit the personal effort and risk of inviting our neighbors to hear the teaching of God's Word?
15. Which is a better risk: a social event guaranteed to bring in money and that may get someone interested in our Church, or one that costs money and effort but is specifically aimed at reaching the lost?
16. Could I afford to spend more time in God’s Word, especially with my brothers and sisters in Christ?
17. Could I benefit from learning anything that my Pastor has to teach?
18. Could I afford to spend more money (personally) on supporting missions and seminaries?
19. If not, could I give up some fleshly pleasure in order to do so?
20. Is “having things my way” more important than giving the most faithful possible witness to the truth?
21. Is it better to draw people into a Protestant Minimum church, than to declare to them the whole counsel of God?
22. If so, will there ever come a time when we are ready to spring the whole truth on them? And when that time comes, what will they think of us?
23. Do the Christian obligations to forgive and be reconciled to brother or sister, and to "put the best construction on everything," end at the point where church practices are concerned? (e.g. issues of closed communion, chanting, officers in the congregation, etc.)
24. Do you stop coming to church when you feel angry at someone in it?
25. Is it right to be angry at your church or pastor when their faithfulness to God's Word puts you or your loved ones at an inconvenience? (e.g. issues of closed communion, marrying couples who are cohabiting out of wedlock, etc.)
26. Do you think the witness you give by complaining about your church, or absenting yourself from it, will help it grow? How much will you grow in the meantime?
27. Would you rather be a servant/disciple or a Lord?
28. Do you have a right to be pleased with the church's policies, if you don't participate constructively in the decision-making?
29. Is your being pleased with church policies more important than having God’s Word in your life?
30. Is it your hope that, if the congregation should close, you could claim a share in its equity?
31. Which should the church give up sooner: its property or its ministry?
32. Do we have responsibility to the larger church, or do they exist to serve us?
So, which was it? Flesh, or Spirit?