It’s Jesus, Not the Programs


For those of you who are new readers, I talk once and awhile about my adventures at McDonald’s and how we are now part of the show. A week ago, my buddy and I were sitting there doing our thing when the manager sat down and started talking with us.

After a minute she began discussing with us the struggles she’s having with her teenage son. As a single mom who is working two jobs to raise two teen boys with no dad involved, there were plenty of things she struggled with. But the conversation took an unexpected turn when she started talking about how she had tried to send them to church to change some of their behavior. She expressed frustration at the church that she was sending them to and talked about sending them to a different church.

And this was where I had to interrupt because I’ve seen this happen so many times before. So many well-meaning parents, struggling with the action of their kids try to get their kids to a youth group…a church service…to hang around with other fiery young adults…youth retreats…even Bible colleges in the hopes of the program or the person changing their kid.

So I stopped my manager friend and explained to her the difference between going to a church meeting and following Jesus. I made sure to emphasize that Jesus is the power that God gives us to live good lives and that until her son had Jesus inside of him, changing him from the inside, no program would help him.

I bring this story up not because it’s unique. I bring this story up because as Christians we often subtly convince ourselves and the lost that the power of transformation is somehow found in our programs. It starts as small as trying to get people to our programs so they can meet Jesus. But why not just share Jesus from the get-go?   Why bring them somewhere to meet Jesus? And then from there, we often send them to a program to get discipled, instead of teaching them how to follow Christ apart from the program. And soon all our “disciples” know is programs.

Now we like programs because they are easy to create. They make us feel effective. We can do more of them and get different results. It’s easy to get people to a certain place for a promised activity. And no one likes surprises, so a program that goes smoothly makes everyone feel comfortable.

But it’s not our programs that save or change people; It’s Jesus. To the degree that those programs have been effective, it’s because somewhere, somehow in the midst of our programs Jesus has shown up and encountered a human heart. This is a miracle and we should always treat it as such.

What being part of an organic church has helped me see over the years is how deeply we rely on programs to change people. As a house church, we don’t have any programs. And the dangerous gamble when we started was will people still be changed if all we have is Jesus and a group of people who love each other? Jesus has showed up despite our lack of programs and has continued to meet people, change them, and grow them up into mature believers, so I know it can be done.

Now, while admittedly I’d love it if you started a house church, I know some of you aren’t there yet. But, can we at least lay down our dependency on what we can program and control and get back to the simplicity of Jesus changing people from the inside out? Can we stop burning ourselves out doing things that don’t generate much change? Can we get back to waiting on the Lord and doing what He says?

Much of it comes down to what we actually believe is the agent of change in our lives: Jesus or our programs?



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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

2 responses to “It’s Jesus, Not the Programs”

  1. Dan says :

    Definitely Jesus not a program. When people came down to see the Holy Spirit’s work at the community we formed in Annapolis, they asked where the program was. We had none. God showed up and many kids and teens encountered Jesus along with some parents and then began their life of being disciples of HIM. Cool times. Praying, yearning, and longing for that again here in Hagerstown. Would you pray along with me for that? I mean, I would seriously love to have someone to join me on the phone to pray for this on somewhat of a regular basis (like a few minutes once a week or so). Let me know.

    • traviskolder says :

      Dan, I’d love to do this. Is this something I could elevate to our larger readership and get others to join us to pray for you (and perhaps others who are in the same spot)?

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