I firmly believe that the answer to almost every question about church growth, strength, and soundness can be answered by the response: study the Bible. If your congregation is not growing its because your members aren't educated enough in God's Word to know that they should be growing and how to go about it. If your congregation is weak, by defintion they lack knowledge of the Word and the only way to solve that is to study. If your congregation is not sound in doctrine its because they don't study the Bible.
There are a number of things I've come to some conclusions on right now:
1. Commentaries are useful in individual study, just like you were studying directly with the person who wrote it, but they should NEVER be referred to as a source of authority for anything. Too many times these days men try to defend their position on a doctrine or interpretation of scripture by referring to "brother so-and-so". Well, brother so-and-so is not inspired and his authority is not any greater or less than mine. If the point brother so-and-so makes is from scripture, show me from scripture. If I wanted to talk about brother so-and-so's interpretation, I'll go talk to him.
2. In addition to the foolishness of the flaming liberals leading various congregations down the path of denominationalism, the conservatives are in danger of creating a second Catholic denomination in structure. Preaching schools and colleges have gathered too much prestige and authority within the church universal and have begun dictating things to other congregations. The autonomy of individual congregations is eroding except for a few very strong congregations who fiercly defend their autonomy. Refer to the very first paragraph above on how to resolve this situation with regard to individual congregations. I'll reserve comment on what should be done about the preaching schools and colleges for discussion.
3. It is important to understand who and what I am. So many people eschew labels, hating being labeled themselves by others, yet these same people label everyone else. Labels are useful. They help categorize and make conversation efficient. "Liberal" is a broad category and then the specifics can be applied to each person. "Conservative" is the same. Are you an Ascetic-conservative, and Anti-conservative, etc. If you must label me, then the proper label is "Biblical". I do not fit in with either of the other two major groups or their sub-groups. Liberals, those who selfishly add to God's Word for personal benefit (the very root of all liberal thought) can't stand me and the feeling is mutual. I despise liberalism in religion, politics, or anything else. To them I am ultra-conservative, whatever that means. Conservatives don't like me either because I don't give their unfounded Biblical traditions and commentaries any weight. I don't play the who's who game or stand for their current tendencies toward a diocese mentality. I read the Bible and interpret it based on the Bible only. I may read a number of commentaries to get the thought processes flowing, but usually I read them with the intent to DISprove whatever it is they are saying. If I can't, its because what they are saying is Biblical and I can defend the point from scripture alone.
4. If we are to enter into discussion, we will do so with honesty, and by first trying to understand one another and build common ground. Without that, there is no basis for discussion. Failure to abide by this logical approach informs me that you aren't seeking unity according to the spiritual fruits of Galatians 5, but that you are just interesting in arguing and asserting your agenda and I will respond according to the wisdom found in Proverbs 26:4-5.
In Truth and Love,