A Model for Maturation

I’ve been working with the North Central Church of Christ in Indianapolis, IN for the past few months. This is a great church! Good leaders, warm fellowship, gifted and involved members. It has been a pleasure to be associated with them and help them as they navigate the transition to a new senior minister.

One of the serendipidies of this association has been our collaboration on a “maturation model” for structuring the mission and the ministries of this congregation. As we worked together, we discovered a surprising degree of overlap in our understanding of the essential work of the church. The elders of the North Central Church (in particular, Steve Evans and John Brehm) had done quite a bit of work on a mission statement and model that focused on the centrality of maturing people to the ministry of the church. This has also been a prime interest of mine (see my series on spiritual maturation and the work of the church: http://timwoodroof.com/tims-writings/archives/growing-up-in-christ/). 

This convergence of thinking led to a collaboration on a more detailed and fleshed-out version of the North Central Church’s mission statement and model for maturing members into the fullness of Christ. We (the North Central elders and I) offer it for your consideration in hopes that it will prompt deeper and more detailed thinking about how churches can do their most important spiritual work: growing people into the image of Christ.

Below is a general orientation to the blog series to follow–a roadmap to help you navigate this rather lengthy series.

Orientation

A guitar has six strings, tuned to certain notes. The strings can be played in various combinations and shortened (by fingering) to yield various pitches, making the guitar capable of an astonishing range of sounds and harmonies. But there are still only six strings on the instrument. Six basic notes from which all musical possibilities flow.

Churches are like that. They have a few basic themes that, sounded in various combinations, make the church capable of an incredible range of ministry and work. But many churches aren’t very careful about the tuning of those themes. They allow denominational agendas or theological quirks or the personal preferences of church leaders and members to determine what those basic themes should be. Such “off key” themes lead to ministries that don’t matter and don’t make a difference.

As the North Central Church, we want to tune ourselves to godly and God-honoring themes. We know we can only sound a few themes effectively. But we want them to be the right ones, harmonious ones, themes that resonate with heaven’s anthem.

Consider what follows as a tuning manual for our church. In it, we sound the basic notes that will guide the leadership of the North Central congregation, shape the teaching of this church, define its ministries, determine its priorities, and otherwise set its course.

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This little work represents the culmination of much thought, study, discussion, and prayer. It owes its existence to the nurturing of many people and the ripening of time. Most of all, it is a reflection of the love of its contributors for believers, the church, and matters of the kingdom.

We encourage you to read this carefully. Every word is used deliberately and is included for a purpose. Each sentence and paragraph is an important part of a larger whole. Each page contributes a needed piece to a bigger picture. And all of it adds up to a mission that defines the North Central Church and shapes the nature of your association with us.

In order to help you work through what is (admittedly) a lengthy document, we’ve arranged the whole thing in layers, working from the widest perspective down to the details. [Think again of the guitar: first you look at the overall shape, color, and design of the instrument; then you look more closely at major features like the neck and body; finally you study each separate component, string-by string, fret by fret.]

Layer #1 introduces you to the North Central Mission Statement and explains why this mission is important to us (and important to God).

Layer #2 introduces you to our “Maturation Model” (using the “Tree Graphic”), suggesting that our lives as disciples (and our church as a whole) are growing and developing and maturing … a process that must be carefully encouraged and thoughtfully cultivated.

Layer #3 explains the FOOD, FAITH, and FRUIT features of the Maturation Model.

Layer #4 goes deeper into the Maturation Model by clarifying why FOOD/FAITH/FRUIT are important concepts for your spiritual development. (FOOD = God’s provision, FAITH = our response, and FRUIT = the Spirit’s work.) This layer also gives you a first look at the five central components of each feature.

Layer #5 gets into the nitty gritty details. Each component introduced in Layer #4 gets expanded treatment. For instance, you’ll learn that God has provided five major “food groups” to help all of us grow strong and straight: Scripture, Christ, Spirit, Gospel, and Church. Each of these sources of spiritual sustenance will be unpacked, examined, and explained. We want you to understand the nuts and bolts from which we’re trying to build strong disciples and a faithful church here at North Central.

Layer #6 examines the competencies we hope to build in members (e.g., daily Bible reading and prayer), the commitments we as leaders and as a church make to members for helping them mature in Christ (e.g., worship services where the Bible is regularly read and always honored as God’s word), and the expectations we as leaders and as a church have of those who are members here (e.g., a willingness to be guided by the commands and principles of Scripture).

[Go to the next post in this series.]

 

© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.