I was in a pastors meeting several years ago where one of the pastors was complaining about how difficult it was to grow his church numerically.
A second pastor, whose church happened to be growing quickly at the time, spoke up:
“The reason you’re not growing is because you’re not doing what God wants you to do. If you were doing what God wants you to do, you would grow.”
And of course, what God wanted pastor #1 to do was what pastor #2 was doing. Just ask him; his church was growing, ergo he was doing the right thing.
One of the things that prompted my recent series on the Holy Spirit is the current of triumphalism that always seems to run through conservative Christianity.
“Triumphalism” has several definitions. The one that I am working with is “excessive exultation over one’s success or achievements”. In Christianity, this often takes the form of thinking that a particular set of blessings = God’s favor = success in all areas of life.
An example I often see is the attitude displayed in the story above. “My church is growing and being blessed. This means that I am doing everything right, and God is pleased with me. If everything wasn’t okay, then God wouldn’t be blessing me.”
Is this necessarily true? Is God a math problem, where you punch in the correct numbers and get the right answer? Or is God’s blessing more complicated than that?
My friend Warwick is an Australian Christian who served for years in the Assemblies of God there. He recently posted a series of tweets about Hillsong church and triumphalism in the AoG. His tweets follow; my further thoughts Monday.