Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent time on this blog outlining what I feel are the main ideas that should fuel the establishment of a new church. There’s so much more that could be written, perhaps I will undertake a future blog series on specific points in the church itself. What I’ve tried to present here is the takeaways from my own experience and a review of my journals from this time. The seven points featured in this blog series are for me what stood out, what made me rethink the way so many look at ‘church planting’ and the sorry business it has become in many circles.
Some pastors will not agree with me on several of the points. Many will argue that I’m making a case for doing away with the position. I am not. Some have questioned if I’m advocating for doing away with the institutional church. Again, I’ve made no such statement. What I have said in the former instance is that being a pastor is a call and not a profession. A pastor is a professional in the sense of how the world sees him but it is NOT a secular profession as it shouldn’t be seen as a ‘career’. A calling is far higher than a profession and I will state that I fear many entering pastoral ministry today see it as a profession and base their ministry service on the paycheck and not being totally submitted to God. On the latter point, that of the institutional church, I have questioned much of how we as a society operate within that model. There is nothing wrong with buildings and a simple structure of leadership but it’s just as valid to have church without the buildings, paid staff, and all the baubles a big production entails. What has happened in many instances is that a bureaucracy has developed that stifles the work of Jesus in the name of keeping order in the congregation. Order is a good thing but what really happens in most cases is self-preservation which is a sin. Many simply want to protect their power in the organization so they stir up congregants against each other or the leadership and the body gets sick.
It’s about Life Transformation
Everything I’ve written to this point ends with this one goal. Are lives being transformed? I’m not asking if lives are being changed. Change happens regularly. So often now that if we aren’t flexible enough we will be left behind by the pace of change. Many people come to a church to feel good about themselves, their families, and life in general. It’s a noble quest. One that SHOULD be welcomed but it’s only the beginning on what should happen on the way to the cross of Christ. Transformation is a completely new creation that affects how we interact with others, react to the struggles of life, our submission to Jesus, and a hunger for His Word. Transformation is much rarer than emotional decision.
Many churches today claim hundreds, even thousands of decisions. I will not question their claims but what I do ask is how many are transformed? How many are completely sold out to Jesus, serving others, praying fervently, and searching the scriptures. For many, this is the ‘role’ of the pastor but it’s not. It is to be the life of EVERY believer. Sadly though, few people in churches today read more than 5-7 chapters of scripture a week, some in a month. That is unacceptable. 30-50 chapters a week should our minimum expectation of the Christian. how are we to be transformed if we are not interacting with the Word of God? It is not the goal of preaching to deliver this amount of information in a 20-40 minute message. Preaching has many other factors that should drive it but transformation in the Christian life is not its main purpose. You read that right, Preaching is NOT about life transformation. It may point to that. It may drive it. It may lead to conviction that moves a person forward in faith to pursue transformation but if preachers and their sermons are the basis of life transformation in the life of new converts then our churches will be woefully anemic, whither, and die.
Transformation comes from the committed lives of all. THAT is where body life begins. Sermons can challenge, inform, and instruct us but our ACTIONS are what drive transformation. Investing time in the Word of God will drive us to prayer which in turn will drive us to serve which goes back to my “Love, Serve, Disciple” model I shared earlier in this series. Beware though. If you pursue transformation as your primary goal, many will leave for an easier church that doesn’t expect so rigorous a plan. Such is the warning of the Apostle Paul when he told us…
“The time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching. But people will find more and more teachers who please them. They will find teachers who say what they want to hear. People will stop listening to the truth. They will begin to follow the teaching in false stories. ” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Even Jesus, in his parable of the soils, tells us that perhaps only 1 in 4 people who listen to us will truly take to heart what is spoken and act on it in true faith. However, the harvest from these few will be bountiful if we only stop to sow the seed. The problem is we worry too much about finances, buildings, systems, and their maintenance to see the large untapped field of grain in our midst. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are you willing to work to support the vision God has given you? Will you be unique? Will you go where many won’t because it’s not lucrative enough? Will you follow God to the desert road where few travel? If so, you might be used a catalyst for life transformation that could bring about revival in our lifetime.
We can continue doing what we’re doing and die quietly in the next generation or two and let Satan have his kingdom without a fight…. The choice is ours.