I wonder if the Church has an ‘image’ problem? And I wonder if this is because it is not ‘holistic’, in other words it does not practice the whole teaching of the Gospel? Maybe we need to ‘brand’ churches that meet certain criteria and ‘market’ them as such? That might encourage others to do the same. What would be this criteria? Well, what about the following:
– Worship – there is a relevance, a joy and a quality in how we worship God, in a way that is understandable to outsiders
– Discipling – there is a flexible, but clear process for everyone to be equipped to study, meditate and apply the Bible to everyday situations and the social and moral issues of the day and for them to reproduce it in others
– Community – everyone does genuinely love others in a small group, and spends regular times with each other outside ‘formal’ meeting times, enjoying each other’s company including having fun together as well as being open to new people from whatever background they come from
– Welcome – all new people are genuinely welcomed at the beginning, during, and the end of the service as well as finding ways to encourage them to become part of the church through invites to meals, etc.
– Social Justice – the church is involved in the local community in an active way, taking the lead where necessary, using the facilities as a service to locals as well as being involved in campaigning on issues as God directs them
– Giving – each member of the church gives generously to the work of God in terms of finance, use of their spiritual gifts and talents as well as time, but making sure there is a balance between work, family, church and rest.
– Prayer – both individual and corporate prayer is seen as a central part of the life of the church and recognising that everyone is involved in spiritual warfare and taking appropriate biblical measures against satan
– Transformation – in all the above the church seeks to see every area of society transformed by the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
– Co-operation – members relate and work together with other churches, especially evangelical ones.
To find out if a church meets the above criteria, a ‘health check’, along the lines of the one offered by Natural Church Development (http://www.ncd-international.org/public/profiles.html), would need to be carried out. Also the church would need to take a survey of the local community as to its effectiveness (http://wzeu.search-results.com/r?t=p&d=apn&s=zdo&c=a&app=aoth&l=dis&o=APN10645A&sv=0a652946&ip=5eae66f3&id=C87AA6B715DC4828047AE880C297D73D&q=church+and+community+surveys&p=2&qs=2417&ac=24&g=59362eTZssQcDc&cu.wz=0&en=gs&io=0&ep=&eo=&b=a006&bc=&br=&tp=d&ec=10&pt=Some%20Mission%20%26%20Community%20Development%20Tools%20for%20use%20by%20churches%20…&ex=&url=&u=http://www.vision4life.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/V4LE-CRCW-7-Mission-Community-Development-Tools.pdf).
A national body like the Evangelical Alliance could obtain funding for annual awards for those churches that fulfil the above criteria most effectively, including ones for small churches as well as large ones. With regard to large churches, there should also be an award for a church which has helped a small church meet the criteria. These churches could then be ‘marketed’ by the Evangelical Alliance as ‘Beacon’ churches.