So lately, many of you know, I’m wrestling with the idea of church…I have to be honest…I get straight up mad sometimes when I am setting around with a group of pastors and topics like: mood, settings, flow, method, model, etc, etc come up…gone are the days when some crazy freak could say something like, “hey, why don’t you eat my flesh and drink my blood…” Not sure that really set the mood or flow very well… I am getting more and more annoyed at, even in the missional church, how pastors better resemble managers, tacticians, and the like as opposed to lovers, prophets, and priests…Where are the days of leading a church in the manner of Ephesians 4:11 as opposed to those who rouse up a crowd in the arena of youth, singles, and married, based on personality tests, degrees, and skill sets, etc…What happened to the days when gathering around the Apostles teaching, communion and fellowship were enough and now we need the right music, the right speaker, the right children’s ministry …church is just too damn hard…and gives us a very false sense of success…to quote a secular author, the moment we begin to quantify we loose it’s depth…where did our CEO Ecclesiology even come from? What about a missional (truly missional) Ecclesiology…
Here is what I am finding…or seeing…or sensing…I’ve experienced all of the above: In the small church – we had no resources, so we would gather weekly to pray…and we would pray…and pray…and pray…and pray…we would even pray about praying…we had no fruit…we didn’t serve anybody…but we ‘prayed’ about doing all those things, and God just never DID IT FOR US…we learned very well how to distort the meaning of the verse that calls us to wait on God.
Then there were the big churches…and they looked like they had fruit, with less prayer, much less prayer, but what I am realizing is, they didn’t so much have fruit, but rather they had really good resources, organizers and investors. In the end the church leadership is who received the praise for their methodology, leadership structure, teaching style, and ability to create 3rd places. The truth is, while we wrapped it all up and called it “god’s power/anointing” we could explain everything that was going on like dropping spiritual words in a Western-business book.
Then I go to the book of Acts, and here is what I see: A tribe, a movement, a people soaked in prayer, word, and works…but the one things this church had, that neither of these churches that I mentioned by painting in broad strokes, was the unexplainable, undeniable, power of God…no method could explain it…no leadership ability could make sense of it…the charismatic type speaker wasn’t at the root of it…but what it seemed to do, that neither of these two other churches do, is they RISKED beyond their control. They RISKED beyond what they could manage. They RISKED in such a way, that if the Holy Spirit didn’t come through, they fell flat on their face or died…It seemed that power accompanied risk (faith). They had the faith that God would come through if they SPENT their lives making much of God no matter the cost, and they did it…they risked, and God’s power came through.
Maybe this is why Jesus could be content with only 12 disciples. Here is what’s funny, Jesus was so opposite of counting numbers; we all know that he had more than 12 disciples, but Jesus seemed to only count the 12 that were REALLY following him. Today, heck we count our out of town visitors that are never coming back, our hired help, and children in our over all count and then forget to mention that our count includes all of the above so that people will assume, we had 440 committed adults in service and then add about 10%, ya’ know, in case we missed some late ones coming in. But I guess the truth is, when 12 are being truly transformed and sent out by the real power of God, then 12 is enough because it’s not about the 12, it’s about God. But when the power of God isn’t at work, then 12 or 50 or 100 is a real hit on my pride, income, and validity, especially if I’ve done all I know to do to make the church grow, so I need to figure out how to hire, as opposed to disciple leaders; I need to…you get the point…
My biggest question is, “Can this sort of church even exist in the West, and if so, how?” I can’t help but wonder what a church would look like whose only measurable was in sending…
If your are wrestling with this tension, then I recommend a couple things:
- Wrestle through it with books like Radical or A Community Called Atonement or The Importance of being Foolish
- Wrestle through it with books that are specific to areas of the world you are fond of: New York City, Thailand, India, Russia, Africa, Middle East
- Wrestle through it with justice issues that pull at your heart: homelessness, trafficking, orphans, environment, poverty, AIDS, etc, etc
- Wrestle with it through the Bible (most important)
- Wrestle with it through a journal…you’ll want to go back and read your thoughts
In fact, I would recommend you find a good, highly recommended book in the first three points, one of each, and read them together and see what happens…who knows, you may be packing your bags soon or inspiring others to do so…go BE the Church of Jesus, modeled after Jesus, and RISK like Jesus!