It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers Ephesians 4:11
It amazes me how quickly we Christians get caught up with programs, new ideas, and putting out the fires of personal conflict, spinning our wheels but never giving full attention to what we are all about. The 1997 Barna report gave some startling statistics on how Christians and pastors are missing the mark of what the church is about. They showed that church budgets are rising, but people in the church are doing less. In the years since the last major study by Barna, there have been few changes; ten years later, still no changes. Nine out of ten pastors claim their church is evangelical, yet their churches do very little outreach to their communities. Four out of five pastors described their congregations as being theologically conservative, yet their programs and outreach reflect that they are not adhering to the Word of God. Three out of five pastors believe their churches are seeker-sensitive, yet few of those churches are going out and inviting non-Christians to their services.
The study goes on to say that most Christians in the church do little to nothing in the job of witnessing to their friends or co-workers, and that evangelism and sharing of their faith is not a major concern. Most pastors surveyed do not hold a high view of Scripture, which contradicts the statement that they are conservative or evangelical. After over ten years later there has been no improvement, in fact the state of the Church has gotten worse.
This indicates a confusion of identifying the purpose of the church through what the pastors and leadership are doing, or what they think they're doing, or what they should be doing. These churches are filled with lay people who are not active and they are not modeling the character of Christ to their friends or to people at large. When we have pastors with mixed-up, contradictory, theological views, the end result is chaos; the purpose that God has for us remains unaccomplished. Yes, God works through our frailties and our inadequacies, but, we have a responsibility to follow the imperatives of Scripture. Believing in a Sovereign God who can overcome all situations and who is in charge of all things, while at the same time sitting on our couch and doing nothing with our faith or with our feet accomplishes nothing.
Those of us who honestly believe in the mission of the church have to see the writing on the wall, that sometimes we are driving a vintage car amongst modern cars can be a problem. Yes, our classic was once the perfect vehicle with its impressive cubic-inch engine with gobs of horsepower, but, as a church, it can be a hindrance to those who truly want to seek out the Lord. This is not the call of our Lord. Sometimes our methods, and most importantly, our behavior must change! It is time to put the classic in the garage, save it for the shows, and upgrade to version 2.0: The version in Romans 12:1-3.
How do you grow your Church?
To prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Ephesians 4:12
As a former staff member of a major church-growth institution, I know very well the teachings of the church-growth gurus. One of the primary teachings in the 70's was for the church to meet the sociological and psychological need of its members. Yet, the church did not change or grow. The 80's were a testament of a lot of books and consulting on leadership and growth barriers such as not enough parking lots and inadequate faculties. What we received was no change and no growth. The 90's were a change in paradigms of how we do worship to attract people; yet again, no significant change. I heard a speech by one of my professors, who was, and is a founding church-growth guru, where he said "It did not work; something else is needed." Yes, there are churches that exploded with growth, such as Willow Creek, Saddleback, and a few others, but most of the rest of the American churches fell into a big decline. I believe we do need to be trying our best to grow churches and a lot of the church-growth tools do offer insights and can help us. But, they are just tools, not the focus of the real problem or the heart of the matter.
The growing congregations are mostly growing because of "sheep swapping." People are just going to the bigger, more attractive churches, where there are better programs and better teaching (in some) than in the neighborhood church. This focus is missing the mark in the church-growth movement. The focus is and always must be the mission that Christ called us to do-the mission to preach and worship the Word (Logos and Bible), to pray, to be a positive personal witness, and to focus on personal holiness. Did I mention to be kind, loving, and caring to one another? When we focus on the mission and not just the perceived needs and methods, then we will see growth. God's purpose is for us to be living the walk to those around us, not just trying out techniques. This will make the church more attractive.
One of the major points I want to get across in our institute and our books is that God works through people; He works through us. We must believe this and we must live our lives allowing this. Else, we could become just like the proverbial person who refuses to work, but buys lottery tickets, hoping his/her ship will come in. Friends, your ship is not coming in! You have to build it yourself with the tools and the supplies and even the empowerment that God gives you to do it. When we have the attitude in the church that we need to wait for our ship to come in, we are, in fact, making an excuse for not doing anything, like a kid trying to get out of his/her chores. We are just sitting on our rear ends, accomplishing nothing for the Kingdom of God. We need to realize how much this grieves our Lord, just as parents grieve for the child who refuses to go to school, refuses to work, or just sleeps all day and does nothing. That unfocused laziness and total lack of ambition becomes their child's life, not just for a short time, but for years. We must see the wondrous joy that comes from serving the Lord and the wonderful plan He has for us! It's a lot better then "pew sitting."
Churches are not following the Lord's Mandate!
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13
Passion is absent from a lot of our churches in a big way. We have lost that love of worship and service to our Lord, and have replaced it with the urgency of our needs, resulting in overwhelmed and stressed-out lives. We no longer have that zeal and freshness to go out and be a positive witness to our friends and neighbors. We have lost the focus and importance of the church as the center of our lives; now, the focus has shifted to our careers and various other perceived important agendas. We have lost the importance and urgency of Scripture as our primary guide and focus of learning.
This passage in First Timothy is a testimony to the importance of focusing ourselves and our passions on the nature and purpose of the church. The church is the support structure to its own body and neighborhood, providing the care and the truth that the world needs. The support mechanism is the care and witness of its members, not just the metaphysical nature of our faith! Yes, Jesus is the head, but the head is the brain and orders the body (us) what to do. The church is not to be a paraplegic, relying on the head only, while the body does nothing but atrophy. Nor, are we to try to function without a head, because all we will do is wiggle around aimlessly and without purpose like a chicken with its head cut off.
Our strength comes from the head and the truth, but we are the means He uses. We are the support, the living example, modeling exemplary lives that point to His character. Thus, the outcome will be the great commission working out in our witness with care and teaching, equipping and empowering one another and our neighbors to God's glory.
The church is God's household-where God dwells; out of this, we will experience worship and the non-believer will experience the Lord. The church is also the model for the Kingdom of God because God is residing there amongst us. When we have a healthy understanding of the purpose of the church, we are opting to live it out as an example. We then should let the glory of our experience with the Lord flow out of us, with passion and conviction, to others. Our individual nature will fall aside to a cooperative venture with one another as the love of our Lord flows through us. We cannot function by ourselves; we need one another in cooperation. Christianity is not an individual sport, but a team effort where everyone is important.
Can you imagine the greatest receiver in football history on your team? What about a team of just great receivers? Who would block, or pass the ball to you so you could receive it? We cannot have an effective relationship with Christ by ourselves, nor can we be a witness to the non-Christian as a solo effort. For us to know Christ and make Him known, we have to have a love for the church and its purpose, not just a love for our own whims and plans.
We cannot have a vital impact on our community without that connection with the body of Christ. We cannot do it alone. Billy Graham has a team of hundreds who prepare for a crusade, with the cooperation of most of the local churches before the event is even advertised. If Billy Graham would just show up unannounced in a community without the cooperative efforts of other Christians, the attendance and impact would be minimal, even given the track record and greatness of Billy Graham. He cannot do it alone, so why do other Christians think they can?