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: