Time to go back to the future. We need to look back at the beginning of the Church as found in the pages of Scripture to discover where we are to go from here; the future of the Church. We need to look at our past to reach our future.
In the beginning, the church was all about sending out disciples. There was no ‘sacred event’ on a Sunday morning to even speak of. Jesus brought his disciples together, taught them, spent time with them, and then sent them out. This is what the Church needs to be doing.
Of course, we will come together on the weekend or even a weeknight and worship God as a community. But I believe we need to shift our focus from this ‘sacred event,’ usually a Sunday morning worship service and begin to see the rest of the week. So there needs to be a major shift in the Church model from building up an event (a once-a-week sacred service) to building up disciples.
Have you ever considered that when you ask someone, “How was church?” They usually tell you one of two things? They say either, “The message was great!” or, “Worship was great!” Church has been dwindled down to two people doing two things for about two hours. That’s pretty crazy! What about everyone else? Everybody gets 168 hours in their week. Our strongest members spend five to eight hours at church, at best. But we spend most of our lives at work. Studies show that a third of our lives will be spent at work (92,120 hours). It sounds like that should be our mission field and church should be focused on equipping disciples to do the work of the ministry where people work, life, and play. Sunday should always be a priority, but I don’t think we can ever make disciples as Jesus wants us to if Sunday morning is the be-all and end-all.
In the Church of the future – the one Jesus is building – church will be much less an event and the main focus of the week for believers. It will be more of a pit stop. In racing, a pit stop is a place to refuel and get back in the race. However, the right put crew is needed to quickly and effectively build up the body of believers and send them the the racetrack equipped and ready. Thus we need the full fivefold ministry and especially that of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 4:11-12).
The leader (not usually a pastor) of this new form of church doesn’t wake up and ask himself, “How is my church?”
He wakes up and asks himself, “How is my city?”
He believes – and here is a real key – that it’s not that God’s church has a mission but that God’s mission has a church.
If you start with the health of the church, it’ll never be good. So you’ll focus internally. But if you start with the health of the community – your friends, family, co-workers – you’ll see the church (its members) as a means to meet the needs of the non-believers. Then the church (God’s people) will become an instrument rather than an event.
When you consider the welfare of your community and not just the welfare of your members, you realize the gravity of need around you. So then you begin to equip your people to meet those needs and, in so doing, share the Gospel of the Kingdom. As you equip your members then you will have disciples who are ready to love their neighbour as they love themselves.
Think about it. If Jesus had started each day asking, “How are the Twelve?” He’d never have gotten to do what He came to do, and the Twelve never would have become who they were designed to be. Instead Jesus embraced and engaged the community and especially those far from God and equipped His disciples to minister and make a difference.
This change in the focus of the Church from a weekly “sacred event” to a pitstop in the week where we are encouraged, enabled, empowered and equipped will then allow all of the members of the church to be working to fulfill God’s mission in the place where they live, work, and play. Everyone then is a minister.