The reason I use the Mormons as an extreme example is that most Christians understand that Mormons do not believe in our God, our Christ, our Gospel. Thus, there is no chance of them sharing in the Holy Spirit by grace. With me? Since God can only be approached in truth, and the Mormons are idolators and legalists, God's presence and power are wholly absent among them.
As such, let us consider that some Mormon churches are growing, some are dying, some are friendly, some are insular, etc. All this "in the flesh"--as we have agreed at the outset that the real, living God has nothing to do with Mormonism.
Now then; it is possible to compare the "growing" and apparently "alive" Mormon church with the dying Mormon church and detail the differentiations. By doing so, we can abstract interesting principles of "church growth". And these derived techniques will "work" after a fashion. But they will "work" by religious machination and the cunning of men, not by God's power.
And right here is the point: How much of the current spate of (American) "Church Growth" teaching could just as well work for a Mormon church? Think about it. Where does God enter into this? Do we even need Him to make our church "grow"? Is He outside, knocking on the door? Has anyone even noticed that He is not inside? Anybody miss Him?
Mormons have a form of "fleshly" fellowship, and this cannot be denied. It is a human camaraderie and reveling in the fading glory of men. It is based on demographics and social networking and legalistic shared values and so forth. And it has appeal. And it is not of God.
But when we turn to a Christian church it gets more complicated. A Christian church might be being led by the Holy Spirit and working with His power in one area, and in another be of the power of the "Mormons"--i.e.: merely human. While God's power is available to all those who believe in Him in truth, will we walk in His or our own resources? It is my hope that by pointing out the extreme case of the Mormons it will clarify the option before us all--we can do nearly any spiritual activity via human means and schemes and energy (the "flesh"), or we can wait upon the Lord for His miracle of grace.
What we consider real fellowship is where people who would otherwise hate each other really love one another by the presence and power of God; where there is forgiveness and longsuffering and gentleness and patience--rather than leader worship and human pep and "groupthink" and sociological stratification and get-em-committed church-covenants and tithing sign-up-cards and deacons-as-bouncers and guilt motivation and glorying in carnal charm or talent and other cult-like types of behavior. All such I term "Mormon"; and if our faith is unreal, then this is the only way to build a church. But if God is real and can live within us by faith, then why not abandon all these flesh-oriented programs and human-reliant marketing techniques... and let Him truly be Lord and God among us?
A.W. Tozer put it this way: "If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference."
With all the talk of late about being "seeker sensitive", here's a daring thought: how about being "God sensitive"? Instead of catering to what people want, perhaps we should consider what God wants? Rather than conducting human-centered surveys to discern direction and mission, shouldn't we be asking the Holy Spirit to lead us? Instead of inclining our ears to church marketing consultants, might it not be better to consider the way of the Lord? Rather than brazenly, openly, and without shame trying to please men, why not aim to please the Lord?
If we turn our focus from men to the Lord, perhaps He will really show up in our meetings. If He does, a few people might get uncomfortable, but those who are truly seeking Him will run with delight to be in His presence.
Or, if we think it a better approach, we could just continue in the sleazy, man-made, humanistic, God-absent tricks and techniques of the "church growth movement" that would work just as well for the Mormons.
1 Thes 2:3-6 (NIV) For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.
Gal 1:10 (Jer) So now, whom am I trying to please--man or God? Would you say it is men's approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am--a servant of Christ.
2 Cor 4:2 (NRS) We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
Eph 4:14-15 (NIV) Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.