This sounds like an odd point in this series but truly, I’ve seen things in establishing churches that cause me to shake my head and wonder if the person doing them has actually ever read the entire bible. What do I mean? Going over the top. I was guilty of this. I spent a lot of money on advertising my ‘church’ and though I would say some advertising is okay, you really want to be careful overdoing it when promoting Jesus.
You’ve all seen the the cards. You get your mail and some family dressed in nice but casual clothes holding a smiling child behind a cityscape or rural landscape (depending on your location) beckons you to visit a ‘relevant’ church ‘on mission’ for Jesus. They sing newer music, provide name brand coffee, some have round tables for you to sit at during worship, and they all invite you to ‘come as you are’ because ‘this isn’t your parents’ church’ (as if this was soooo bad).
When you get to the building where the ‘church’ gathers, you are given special parking spaces, directed by signs, and met by someone at the church to ‘check in’ your kids and immediately have them leave your grasp to sanitary environments based on age. You are then conveniently shuttled to the snack area for that ‘name brand’ coffee and perhaps a sales table to buy materials based on that month’s teaching from the bible. Perhaps there are free media materials for you. Surely there are pamphlets outlining the small group ministry, singles groups, children’s play days, and such. The hope is, that you feel so welcomed, that you will come and tell your friends. Makes sense…until it doesn’t.
Let me ask you something…What other business operates in this manner? First off, how many other places do you go where your kids have to leave you for age appropriate space? (Please don’t include the gym for those of you who work out. It’s not a good correlation). Where else do you go weekly where you listen to 20-30 minutes of music followed by 30 or more minutes of oratory designed to change your life? I’m not diminishing the role of preaching here. I’ve been preaching for over 14 years now (as of this writing) and yes it has great value to the hearers but I think many have abandoned what the ministry of preaching is truly about. It’s about instruction, which involves knowing your people, which is possible when you live life with them day by day. Many pastors I know of cannot do this because they simply do not have the time. The pressures of professional ministry make it impossible for pastors to get to know their people this intimately. Some have even resorted to ‘video preaching’ because the crowds are vast and spread out over several campuses.
When the apostle Paul established churches, he put men in charge who he had trained and continually discipled as they went. These men, the Elders, led the smaller groups who worked collaboratively as one to help others in other parts of the country. They ate together, they laughed and cried together, they knew each other intimately and love was present. Needs were met and the instruction given taken to heart because of the bond present in the body. Paul did not attempt to preach weekly to these groups but left their instruction to the Word of God that was given and the integrity of the people who were commissioned for leadership. This was not without serious problems at times (Read 1 and 2 Corinthians for reference!). But it allowed a bond to be built and as questions arose, Paul would answer in the form of letters (most of our New Testament). These letters gave instruction in God’s principles for life. Their validity could be seen in their seamless integration with much of the Bible of the day (The Old Testament). It was an efficient, decentralized, but yet connected network that changed the world. How did it spread? Through the living witness of changed lives…
Not a postcard with empty promises, a smack at the older generation, or Christianized versions of secular enterprises. How come?
Because the early disciples had to be sensible…and you should be too. You are unique…Let your work be as unique as you.