I’ve watched over the years as churches who want to share the Gospel spend resources promoting their meetings or their organization. Time and energy is spent perfecting an experience for people who come to a meeting so that those who come can hear the Gospel. While wanting people to hear the Gospel is a noble motive, often the organization, the church, or the meeting subtly become the focus, instead of Christ.
The problem comes from a misunderstanding of our mandate: We are to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus will build His church (Matthew 16:18). But often we find ourselves in the place of trying to build Jesus’ church (doing Jesus’ job) while we expect Him to make disciples (our job). When we do our job of making disciples, the result will be a church built by Jesus. But when we cross over into the realm of building the church, we take on a job suitable only for Jesus.
Our task, is to share the Gospel of Jesus. When people respond to the Gospel, our job is to help those who respond grow up into Christ’s image. This will include committing to a local community of people who are also growing up into the image of Christ. But sharing the gospel and discipling believers looks totally different than the way most “build the church.” This is why I’ve often said “church planting is best understood as a discipleship process that leaves a church in its wake.”
When we make disciples and let Jesus build the church we no longer need to spend time building the church. We don’t have to promote our churches or its ministries, because they aren’t the point. We don’t have to become people who sell a church, ministry, or book. Instead the resurrected Jesus who called us to Himself can be the point of everything we do. This is why Paul said, “[W]e don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake,” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Imagine, for a moment, a Christianity where the churches spent time not only preaching Christ but also preaching its ministers as servants. Instead of glorying in the greatness of the church and its leaders it glories in the greatness of Christ and the slavery of its spiritual eldership to those who are part of it. Imagine a Christianity that is known for the greatness of Jesus and the service of others. That kind of church would have the world’s attention.
So don’t be tempted into promoting yourself, your church meeting, or your event. Share Jesus. Make disciples. Trust that if you do both those well, Christ will be glorified and He will build His church.
I regularly encourage people to begin meeting in homes, encouraging each other, witnessing to lost people, and making disciples. I do this because I see it as the apostolic pattern in the New Testament. As I’ve encouraged people to take these steps, I’ve seen two very distinct responses: One group seems to submit more and more to Jesus and biblical truth, the other group throws out the baby with the bathwater.
Having watched people, this transition is hard. Tradition (buildings, sermons, clergy, etc.) rather than the Lordship of Christ has been what has “kept people in line” for most of their lives. This realization that the tradition doesn’t have the support of the New Testament can cause people to throw off all restraints, including God-ordained ones. So not only do they get rid of buildings, sermons, and clergy, but they throw out sound doctrine, Scriptural purity, any kind of spiritual discipline, and commitment to other believers. These are quickly ship-wrecked in their walk with the Lord, because they aren’t just getting rid of traditions, they are getting rid of Christ’s lordship over their lives.
Which brings us to the topic of anarchy. The idea of anarchy is borrowed from the realm of government. It means a society without a government or more specifically a land not ruled by a king. The Church for a long time has submitted to illegitimate heads (think the Pope or abusive evangelical leadership structures) but the cure for the church is not “losing its heads.” The cure isn’t anarchy. The cure for the church is recovering submission to its true head: Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 5:23).
Instead of anarchy, instead of calling believers to throw off all restraint, our task is to call men and women to submit to Christ more fully and express that in ways that grow ever closer to the pattern we see in Scripture. We’re not looking for anarchy. We’re looking for the true headship of Christ expressed in His body. This is more like a reformation, where the very operating system of the church is reformatted and brought closer to it’s original design, than a free-for-all where we can pick and choose what parts of the Gospel we like or not.
So let’s test our previous assumptions. But let’s test them, not in the light of “doing whatever is right in our own eyes,” (Judges 17:6) but in relationship to Christ’s Lordship that we understand through a diligent and faithful study of God’s word. Let’s submit to the Kingship of God and find life and power beyond our understanding. Let’s pursue a reformation of the church and the removal of illegitimate kings, but let’s not throw away the kingship. Let’s just give it to the Man who deserves it: Jesus.
In case you missed it, I’ve been attempting to put reproducible patterns on the back of a napkin. This is what I would give to someone who was asking for details about planting a house church.
The Back of a Napkin Series:
In case you missed it, I’ve been attempting to put reproducible patterns on the back of a napkin.
The following posts describe the different parts of DNA in greater depth:
The Back of a Napkin Series:
A few weeks ago, I shared a simple question to determine if your ministry was reproducible: Does it fit on the back of a napkin?
So for the next few days, I’m going to give you a few of the truths I share on the backs of napkins, both as a challenge for me but also in hopes that they might be helpful for you.
This, for example, is the 3 Circles:
Does it cover everything from Genesis to Revelation? No. But it does hit the highlights and it’s easy to train others (even those who just came to Christ by seeing it) in how to share it.
Here’s a brief explanation:
Tomorrow, we’ll look at a napkin that will show us what to do when someone comes to Christ.
It’s a conversation that will resonate with me for a long time.
I had just moved back to Iowa after spending a few years in Kansas City. During my time in Kansas City I had been infected with a vision of Christianity as an organic lifestyle lived out with a spiritual family. Moving back to Iowa had been a step of obedience for me and my girlfriend (now wife) because we were leaving a group of people who were pursuing something near and dear to my heart.
I had a friend who also happened to be my pastor in Kansas City. He was a year older than me but he always felt 100 years older than me because of the amount of wisdom and experience he walked in. I was expressing to him the conflict inside of me about whether to permanently plug into our old church that we were part of or to pursue the dream God had infected me with during my years in Kansas City. He looked at me and said something that changed the trajectory of the rest of my life:
“Whatever you do, don’t waste your life just sitting in a pew.”
That statement resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect it to resonate. He didn’t give me a direction. He didn’t tell me what to do. But what he said was wisdom. Don’t spend the rest of your life being a spectator, consuming what is given from a pulpit but never putting it into practice.
We do that so easily. It’s so easy to get comfortable where we are at with good sermons, godly people, great worship, and a thriving church. It’s easy to consume all of that stuff and feel like we are part of something great. It’s harder to go where the Gospel isn’t, share it with people who may or may not respond, and be a part of starting something that could affect people for generations or come to nothing.
These words launched me into organic church planting. But they could be said both of traditional churches and organic churches alike. Just change out pews for couches. The point is we shouldn’t be content just to consume our church life. We have to mature into people of faith who participate in what God is doing, not just observe it.
I get it. There are some people who need to stay where they are in the season that they’re in. If that’s you, great. But the church, organic or traditional, is full of people who should be advancing the mission and serving others instead of sitting around watching.
So I say to unto you the same thing that was said to me: “Don’t waste your life sitting in a pew.”
Or, maybe a better way to say it is “I want you to plant a house church.”
Related: Wasting Your Life on Seashells
If you’ve ever worked in a business environment, there’s a common conversation that comes up. Changes in whatever market the business operates in cause the business to have to pay a little (or sometimes a lot!) more than they had been to continue selling their product or offering their service. Often this comes from taxes or regulations that governments roll out or sometimes the market changes requiring upgrades that are costly. Every time a business encounters one of these and the cost is significantly less than the opportunity to make money, everyone throws up their hands and says, “That’s just the cost of doing business.”
What they mean by that is this: There is a cost to doing business. Everyone recognizes it and everyone understands that if you want to make money, it sometimes means having to spend money. As long as there is money to be made, it’s worth the investment to generate a profit.
In the Kingdom, there is a cost to doing ministry. It’s not a regular, planned expense like it is in the business world, but they exist. For believers, the cost of doing ministry is more a question of when we pay the price, not if.
Because to truly serve others, it will mean learning how to deny ourselves. It will mean giving up things that others don’t or won’t give up. It will mean refusing to defend or promote yourself in a world where others do it all the time. It will mean speaking the truth when it’s unpopular and costly. It will mean going the extra mile when there’s no compelling reason to. It will mean laying down even your most “godly” agendas when brothers or sisters in your spiritual family need to be served.
Friends, the Kingdom of God is worth more than whatever cost is to be paid. Jesus said it’s like a treasure hidden in a field that was worth more than whatever a man owned. But we have to embrace the process of selling everything we have in order to buy the field it’s buried in.
It’s the cost of doing ministry in the Kingdom.