For those of you who own a home, you probably are familiar with the word. Each year [at least here in Maricopa County] you get a letter from the County Assessor's office that tells you the assessed value of your home and property and, based on that number, the expected amount of taxes you will be paying in the coming year. The assessment is an educated guess of the value of your home, based on various criteria, and is adjusted each year, also based on those same criteria.
If you happen to live here in Maricopa County [and many other places across the country], you also know that the assessed value of your home has gone down recently. After a couple of years of unjustifiable increases, reality has set in and home prices adjusted to a level more in line with what the homes were costing to build and the market's need. In some areas around the Phoenix metro area, prices had jumped over 50% in one year and the taxes went up accordingly. Now, those same homes have dropped more than 20% off the peak and recent tax assessments reflect that drop. As might be expected, homeowners loved the ostensible increase in value of their home if they were ready to sell, but hated it when they got the tax bill. No one is complaining that their tax bill has gone down.
The County Assessor obviously sees the value in assessments, but do we? [I'm not talking about home prices.] As Christians and people of God who seek the eternal home, it is important that we, as individuals, make personal assessments every so often to see if we are who we need to be, where we need to be, and are doing what we should be doing and, as a local church, an assessment must also be made. If you will, let me put forth a few assessments we should be making.
Personal Assessment: Am I growing? At the very least, each Christian should ask this question, for the answer will tell us about our spiritual maturity, strength, and maybe even our desire. It is through the word we grow (1 Pet. 2:2), but do we have a desire for that word? The Corinthians were clearly immature and were still acting as babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1) and the Jewish Christians were also chastised for their spiritual immaturity (Heb. 5:12-14). But notice that someone else had to point out their immaturity! Some think, like in the housing market, once the value has reached a certain level, it will stay there; not so! Christians can become weak even as they think they are strong (cf. Rev. 3:15-17)! Find someone who will give you an honest, loving assessment of your spiritual strength, then accept their assessment with a goal to do better.
Personal Assessment: Am I doing all I can do for the Lord? One thing the church does not need is lazy or inactive Christians. As we saw in an earlier article, laziness is a brother to one who is a destroyer (Prov. 18:9). Laziness may take longer to destroy a church than strife will, but the end is inevitable. Instead of looking around and criticizing how little 'brother so-and-so' is doing, take an honest look at yourself and see how much you have done for the Lord lately. I would encourage you to sit down at the table with pencil and paper and write it down. You might be embarrassed by how hard it is to think of something, or how short your list will be.
Think about what you do when you come together with the church to worship and study; what do you do there? Is the extent of your involvement only what you do in the pew? There's a lot more to be done! If you are looking for something to do, ask the elders what more you can do. We are in constant need of teachers, so why not volunteer? Are you giving all you can give? Are you giving anything? Take a look around at your brothers and sisters and see if they have a need you could fill. If you do an honest assessment, I doubt you will find that you are doing all you could do, and even the most mature Christian would say that about himself (cf. Phlp. 3:13).
Personal Assessment: Who have I helped lead to the Lord? Ouch! This one might be a little too painful to address, but it must be done. If, in all of my life as a Christian, I have not led even one person to know Jesus Christ, what does that say about me? I know that the ultimate decision is up to the individual, but have I not had influence upon even one soul to lead them to obey? If I haven't, I need to take a long, hard look at my life and see if maybe I am not living up to the standard Christ has set and my example is one that is a hindrance to others obeying instead of motivation. Let us be honest with ourselves, too, for many in the first century thought they were righteous when, in fact, they were "full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matt. 23:28). If that is me, I am just a cause for others to ridicule Christ and the faith and a cause for reproach. Let's be serious about this!
An Assessment of the Church: Is Christ truly head? It is one thing to say we believe Christ is the head of the church and another to actually practice it. Take a look around at all we do and teach; is it based on Christ's words or our own opinions and desires? Sometimes, we get into a rut and - yes - traditional practices that are not based on Scripture and we begin to uphold these things on par with God's revealed word. Right now, we have a generation of people in liberal churches who practice what they practice simply because it has been done for more than a generation and it is simply "what they've always done" and, if challenged, could not justify it from Scripture. They didn't get there overnight! Let us make an honest examination of our teaching and practice to make sure it truly is according to Scripture and not simply take it for granted that we are doing right.
An Assessment of the Church: Are we feeding the flock? For some, strength is only a matter of following error or not, but our spiritual strength is much more than an ability to identify and reject error. What about our overall knowledge of Scripture? Are we able to answer from Scripture and are we challenged to know and learn more? What kind of Bible classes are we offering? Are the classes challenging enough to all levels of age and spiritual maturity or are we still feeding them milk? As teachers, are we merely reading from the workbook or are we studying the Bible and teaching that? Are the lessons given here "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16)? Do the lessons cover the whole counsel of God or does the preacher ride one subject incessantly?
The apostle Paul urged the Corinthian brethren, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor. 13:35).
It's assessment time: Are we what we should be? If not, what are we going to do about it?
---Steven HarperPage 1