Winning Ways - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas 
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A Successful Church is a Mess
by Tom Goodman
February 3, 2016

Your church isn't really impacting the city until you have to explain to a church member why he shouldn't have sex with his stepmother.

Did that get your attention?

That's actually a lesson I learn from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.  In the fifth chapter, he explains why such behavior by one of their members is wrong and what the congregation should do about it.

Don't miss the point:  If we're not having to deal with messy ethical situations like this, we're not really reaching the world around us.

What standards do we tend to use to evaluate a church's success?  The number of chairs occupied?  The number of activities on the calendar?  The number of dollars in the offering plate?  These things play a role in our evaluation (and don't let anyone tell you they shouldn't).  But when I read Paul's letter to the Corinthians, I'm struck by another metric:  The number of messy situations that needed tending.

When Paul planted the church in Corinth, he was working in a culture never before challenged with the biblical worldview.  New believers had to learn a new source of self-worth, a new sexual ethic, a new outlook on generosity, and so on.  None of this was going to change overnight.  And so Paul's letters to the Corinthian Christians are filled with advice on how to live in greater obedience to the Christ who saved them.

If you're doing church right, it's going to be messy.  Racism will have to be addressed, the sanctity of life will have to be explained, marriage will have to be honored, greed will have to be unlearned, and substance abuse will have to be challenged.  And even if you foolishly think you've got all these issues "solved" in your generation, along comes a new crop of adults who need to hear it all over again.

Of course, if we're sensitive we'll admit that these messes aren't just brought in by new people unfamiliar with the faith.  No matter how long we've been Christians, we're all still learning how to live as Christians.

This Sunday, we're going to look carefully at 1 Corinthians 5.  Is our church as successful at reaching into Austin as Paul was at reaching into Corinth?  Join us at 10am onsite or online!


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