The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Eight

There is such a thing in Christian leadership and church life as replanting a church. In the western world there is a need for new churches. In some cases existing churches must multiply and plant new churches from scratch. In other cases, existing churches must and should be revitalized – in essence, they must be ‘replanted.’

The work of replanting or revitalization an existing or dying church is very challenging. Maybe even more challenging than planting a new church from scratch. In a replant the leader is often confronted with mounting debt, falling attendance, a damaged reputation in the community, spiritual lethargy, and long standing turf wars that have distracted the leadership from the true work of outreach, care, and evangelism. 

To replant a church requires a strong leader with vision, steely conviction, and foremost patient reliance on God’s faithfulness. 

It is undeniable that churches evolve over time. Over the life of a church, neighbourhoods can change, leadership can expand and even fail, theological trends can take hold, unity can be lost, and splits can occur. Throughout all of this turmoil, congregations (local churches) frequently become inward-focused and often obsessed with maintaining the status quo. If not dealt with this will lead to the death of the local church. 

Well-meaning members lose sight of their roles as servants and become increasingly focused on controlling the very church they are called to serve. When a serving heart is replaced by a controlling heart, division is bound to ensue. And, when selfish division lies unchallenged, areas of ministry and service become turfs to be defended, and brothers and sisters in Christ become opponents and obstacles to individual accomplishment. This would describe accurately a church I am currently working with in the United States that has now reached the point of needing to be replanted.

When a church reaches this stage in its history and life-cycle it is time to either shut the doors and walk away or it is time to replant. 

The typical life-cycle of a local church is as follows… A replant would need to begin between “retire” and “old age.” Any later and it is too late. Note the key describing the letters beside each stage…

 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Seven

During a visit to Ohio a week or so ago the pastor of the church I was working with spoke on the Sunday morning about apostolic ministry and the life of the church. In the midst of his excellent teaching he mentioned the stages in the life of the local church. His reference was a church growth expect of years past by the name of Lyle Schaller. I have been giving some thought to these stages as well as the full teaching by the pastor who is also an apostle.

The following are not Dr. Schaller’s stages but they are the stages of the life of a church as I understand them – close to his but slightly different and named differently I am sure. 

So, how to Know the Life Cycle of Your Church

And, do you know the life cycle of the church that you are a part of?

Church health and church growth (or lack of it) is an interesting area to study. Even more interesting to apply and be on the front lines of the life and growth of a local church. 

The church is not an organization; it is a spiritual organism.  It has a life somewhat like that of a human being.  There is a life cycle that every local church goes through. This is not an original idea that I came up with. However, as I have studied what others had to say about the growth and life of a church, I am discovering that many Christians ignore the life cycle of their fellowship.

Some congregations will cease to exist this year.  Some fellowships will not live for another five years.  Why is this the case?  To understand the Life Cycle of a Church here are a few points that may help you out as you examine your fellowship.

Timeline

The best place to start in understanding your local church is to understand the timeline of your church.  When was your Church born?  How long has it been around?  Do you have any statistical information on attendance, membership, conversion rates, loss of members, finances, etc..?  This information will be necessary to have a clear understanding of the “life of a congregation.”

Life Cycle of Churches

1.  Birth Stage

When was your congregation started?  Why was your congregation started?  Was your church a “split” from another church?  Was your church a mission?  Was your church a new church?  Understanding why your church was started will give you a great idea as to what made up the character  and DNA of your fellowship.

2.  Growth Stage

This is a time in the life of the church when changes and expansion are taking place.  What have been the growth patterns of your fellowship?  Have you been growing numerically?  Have you been growing spiritually?  Have you been growing as a missionary church?  Have your visions and your goals for your fellowship shown a definite purpose?  Are you growing at all?

3.  Comfort Stage

This is when things seem to settle down for the church.  This is the stage where a congregation has lost their desire for new visions and goals.  Everyone seems happy with the way things are.  This is the starting point for church decline.

4.  Plateau and Decline Stage

This is the stage where a church finds themselves in trouble.  In a declining congregation attendance begins to decrease, the vision has been lost, and surviving is what it is all about.

5.  Survival Stage

This is a time in the life of the church when “keeping your head above water” is a well-known phrase.  How much longer will it be before the fellowship turns the light switch off for the very last time? Or, puts the “for sale” sign up on the front lawn?

6.  Living Dead Stage

This congregation is dead, and they don’t even know it.  They have become spiritual zombies.  Even if a strong pastor with great vision and an energetic personality comes along, it is vertically impossible to bring this fellowship up and out of their grave.

7. Decision Stage

At this point you have to make a decision. De we bury the church? After all, if the horse is dead, dismount. Or, do we start with a fresh vision and a new dream and replant the church?

More on replanting next time…

It is not impossible for the Lord to do great and amazing things in any fellowship.  After all, the scripture teaches us that the Lord Jesus gives sight to the blind, heals the leper and gives life to the dead.  

The key for a church to have a vibrant life is when Jesus is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is driving the church to a healthy future.

What is the life cycle of your fellowship?

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Six

The Church that Jesus is building will not look much like the church we now see functioning in our local neighbourhood. So much of what happens in most local churches – especially on a Sunday – is not biblical and is often not even godly. So much of the world’s way has slowly crept in to the life and structure of the church over the centuries – even recently. And, even elements from the domain of darkness have entered in to our Corporate Christian life and are accepted as normal and correct. 

As the Bible states, “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quiet plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.”         (Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version)

The problem, of course, is that we are comfortable and very familiar with a lot of this clutter and religious baggage. And, as a result, the foundational truths are often buried deep underneath and no longer thought about or even noticed. And, as a result, we have accepted many teachings that are not in line with the buried foundational basics. And, change is never easy for any of us because it means we have to “change.” Change is hard work and throwing out things we thought were biblical and right can be painful to say the least. But, we are in a season of “purging.” 

One of my daughters regularly “purges” her home. She says that if something has not been used in the past 6 months then she tosses it. Maybe that is a bit extreme for some people but it does bring you back to the basics and the things that are needed to have a healthy home and family. It allows a person or a family to “travel light.” And, travelling light emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually is essential if we are going to move into the next season coming upon the Church. Of course it is much easier to purge a household of physical baggage and junk that is no longer used or needed than it is to purge your own heart, soul, and mind. But personal purging is so much more essential and important.

Purging as a person means searching your heart and soul to see what is in there that should not be. You know, things like unforgiveness, resentment, offences, bitterness. Two big ones not always looked for because they are part of our normal life and the way we operate – judgmentalism and rejection. We judge and reject people who do not fit our mould. We judge and reject thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that make us uncomfortable or nervous. We judge and reject lifestyles that we are not comfortable with or disagree with. Clothing that others wear, tattoos, piercings, sexual preferences, lifestyle choices (alcohol, drugs, smoking), and on the list may go. 

And, needless to say, purging of wrong beliefs is even more difficult because often the ‘error’ is harder to find. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit who guides us into al truth it is more than possible and doable. It means going through (in your mind) the things that you believe and assume are biblical. Then checking your beliefs and values to the New Testament to see if they truly are biblical – tossing what is “historical and religious junk.” The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and a mature believer or two can help you with this task.

As you change the Church changes – because you are the Church. 

Again, change is not easy – but it is essential if we hope to stay in step with the Holy Spirit personally and corporately as the Church that Jesus is changing and building to step into the next season that will soon be upon us..  

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Five

A number of thoughts about the Church I see today in the nations where I work…

1> One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the Church

We are keeping the Christians so busy with all the good things going on in and around the church building that they don’t have time to breath. They are so active that “being still and know that I am God” is simply a verse in the Bible and not a living reality. Believers are so engaged in church activities and relating to each other that they are not building relationships with non-believers in their neighbourhood, where they work, and where they play. 

As a result, they live insulted, secure, and safe lives. As a result, they fail to reach out and share the Gospel of the Kingdom. As a result, people are not coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ – disciples are not making disciples. As a result, we are out-of-touch with the world we are suppose to impact. As a result, people misunderstand who we are and what we stand for in the world today. 

We need to release believers to engage in their world and become light and salt as the Bible states we are to be.

2> The Gospel that saves us from work saves us to work

We are saved by grace through faith and not by any ‘works’ that we might do and accomplish (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, once saved, there is work that we are called to do for Jesus. These tasks are unique to each one of us and have been set out for us since before the foundation of the world itself.  

Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

A believer without a ministry to the unsaved is not a true believer. There is too much that passes as ministry in the Church. Really what we do for one another in the church is not ministry , it is maintenance. Ministry, true ministry, happens outside the church enclave. And every person that is saved needs to pick up a ministry to the lost. 

3> The Word does the work

When I was saved 42 years ago there was a cute but true saying. It was, “The Word works if you work it.” I believed that back then and still do today.

We are saved by the Word of God. 1 Peter 1:23 states, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”

The Bible also states that the Word of God is living and active working to change each believer. Change them from the inside out. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

So, my point, the Word does the work. 

4> Building the right church depends on using the wrong people

God chooses some very odd people to build His Church. Paul reminds us of this when he wrote to the Church in the city of Corinth. 

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 “But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all (of no value) is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important.”

God uses ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. God uses people who are very down to earth (natural) to do the supernatural. God uses those who are not super intelligent to confound the wise in their earthly wisdom. 

God rescues those who are losers and makes them winners for His Kingdom.

5> We are living – and longing – for the end of the world

We are living for the ‘end.’ So, we are longing for and praying that Jesus will come back soon…

1 Corinthians 16:22 “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Come Lord, come!”

ASV – “If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha.”

Our lifestyle should indicate that we are living as those who believe the end could be near.

We are not ‘in love with the things of this world’ but live in such a way that our lifestyle shows others our love for the Master and each other – including the lost.

And, we are telling others about the wonderful news of the Gospel of the Kingdom because we know that every person on the planet must hear the good news before the end can come and Jesus returns…

Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

6> We are selfless followers of a self-centred God

We need to decide what life is all about. As believers we should live selfless lives as we worship and serve our loving heavenly Father – our God.

Are we willing to lose our lives or are we busy sipping our lattes?

Will be serve our God – the God who exalts God?

You know, God does not need us 

The reality is: Our God is a self-existent, self-sustaining, self-sufficient God

He does not need me

He does not need this church

He does not need you

He does not need our plans, programs, prayers, love

The truth is that without all that we have created and do – God can still make a great name for Himself upon the nations

God does not involve its in His grand, global purpose because He needs us

He involves us in His grand, global purpose because He loves us. 

So, we are selfless followers of a self-centred God because He created everything for His glory.

1> One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the Church

2> The Gospel that saves us from work saves us to work

3> The Word does the work

4> Building the right church depends on using the wrong people

5> We are living – and longing – for the end of the world

6> We are selfless followers of a self-centred God

I feel a sermon coming on….

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Four

There is such a confusion in the Church today about what we are to believe and why. As I work with young people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) it is obvious that both believers and non-believers have a lot of confusion about what we, the Christians and followers of Jesus, really believe and why we believe it.

A lot of the confusion comes because we are mixing Old Testament and New Testament together as if they were equally important for our walk with the Lord and our maturity as believers. Because of the amount of teaching rooted in the Old Testament we have people believing for things that were only promised to Israel of old – God’s people back then. Christians are being taught to live by Old Testament principles and laws that were for Israel and not for God’s chosen people today – the Church. 

Two nights ago as our church plant met in Toronto I received a message asking me about “blessings and curses.” This, of course, is found in Deuteronomy 28 but is referring to the ground rules that the Israelites were to follow as they lived for their God in the wilderness and then in their Promised Land. It is not something for Jesus followers today because Jesus died on the cross and removed the curse from those who believe. The Old Covenant was completed and fulfilled by Jesus during His brief life on our planet. He stated, “It is finished” as He hung on the cross and died for our sins. The Law is finished – we are living under grace and take our clues for life from the New Testament. 

Believers today are mixing Old Testament and New Testament together and ending up with confusion. The Old is a record of God’s interaction with the Jewish nation. It is the OLD Covenant. We are the Church, God’s chosen people today. And, our Scripture (inspired writings) are the 27 books of the NEW Testament. The Old Testament is good for a historical understand of God’s interaction with the human race. It also contains the prophetic voices that forecast the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus. So, it is important as background and history. And, it is inspired. But, we are living in New Testament times and should focus on reading and living the New Testament writings.

Paul said it clearly when he said, “…but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and “I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). If anyone could have preached from the Old Testament it was Paul. He was a Pharisee and well versed in all of the Old Testament writings. But, as a believer and leader in the Church, he chose to preach Christ.

This is our message. And, we need to go back to teaching on the King and His Kingdom; the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). 

Joshua and the people of Israel walked around Jericho every day for a week. The seventh day they walked around seven times, shouted, and the walls came down. So, now leaders tell us to walk around our city and pray so that spiritual walls will fall and the city can be taken for Jesus. Really! God spoke those specific directions to a specific people at a specific time and place. He did not speak them to the Church. No where in the New Testament do you see the believers walking around their cities.

God said to His people that they were to fast and pray, humble themselves and that He would heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Christian preachers teach on this all the time and have their people fast, pray, humble themselves … But those words were not spoken to the Church. They were spoken to God’s people, Israel, and are not for today. They are not a current promise that the Church, believers today, can glibly pull out of context, claim, and confess as a promise that God made to them. Nope. Not real!

And on and on the example could go. Let’s preach Christ and Him crucified. Let’s live in the New Testament – the book for the Church as it is the New Covenant made between God and followers of Jesus. Let’s stop confusing believers and non-believers alike. Let’s get back to the basics and watch what will happen as people discover the bare and basic resurrection power of Jesus without all the “religious” trappings. 

Rise up Church and be the Church!

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Three

A friend of mine moved to a city north of where I live and took over a struggling Spirit-filled church. He is a good leader and he quickly built a new leadership team to help him as the church began a tough journey to becoming healthy.

He made a lot of changes – the music, the worship, the preaching, the way things function. He dreamed and cast vision and then worked hard to bring things into line with that new vision. He successfully transitioned the church and it began to grow. And, he added a new Saturday night service for the youth. Those that are known as Millennials (born between 1980 – 2000). They are a generation that is less ‘religious’ then previous generations and although interested in the supernatural and often believing in Jesus, they have little interest in or use for the church. See the notes at the end.

As time went on the Saturday evening service began to see substantial growth. Very similar in format and in preaching content to the Sunday morning service. However, a little livelier, a little louder, more informal, with an opportunity to discuss the teaching after the basic content was presented. As this new service began to grow it soon saw several hundred in attendance. It was amazing. New life for an older church; growth where there had been a steady decline in numbers; life and optimism replacing the pessimistic outlook of previous years. Saturday night became the key service for this church as it reinvented itself.

I asked a number of Millennials why they attended the Saturday services on a regular basis. Their answer did not surprise me. The stated two reasons: First, they came to be with others their own age to talk and relate. The world would call this building relationships. We would call this fellowship. Second, there was good quality coffee available in a relaxed setting where people could simply drink coffee and talk. No mention of the worship – which was better than good. No mention of the teaching – which was engaging, relevant, and on topic for Millennials. Fellowship with like-minded, same-age group and good coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Hum! Starbucks with a spiritual overtone.

When pressed about the music and worship they all agreed it was better than good, in fact, some thought it was amazing. When questioned about the teaching of the lead pastor – again, everyone thought that he did an amazing job presenting truth and engaging their hearts and minds. But, they came for the coffee and the fellowship. 

My point: The message we preach does not change. However, we need to be in touch with the current trends in our culture and society. Then, address the never-changing message to them in a viable, relevant, understandable way being sensitive to their understanding and approach to life and the Christian faith. 

If we are going fishing for wide-mouth bass we use different bait then we would use to catch a walleye. So, we need to be aware of who we are trying to reach, what they believe, how they view life, and what the key elements of their social relationships are. Then, we use the right bait – the appropriate methods – to present the never-changing message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

This is what my friend did when moving to an older church in a mid-sized city and he successfully touched a generation seeing many come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Wikipedia states…  

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are the generational demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years. Millennials are sometimes referred to as “echo boomers” due to a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s, and because millennials are often the children of the baby boomers. Although millennial characteristics vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions, the generation has been generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.

Peter Pan generation: American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled millennials as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members’ perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.[146] Kimberly Palmer regards the high cost of housing and higher education, and the relative affluence of older generations, as among the factors driving the trend.[147] Questions regarding a clear definition of what it means to be an adult also impacts a debate about delayed transitions into adulthood and the emergence of a new life stage, Emerging Adulthood. A 2012 study by professors at Brigham Young University found that college students were more likely to define “adult” based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional “rite of passage” events.[148] Larry Nelson noted that “In prior generations, you get married and you start a career and you do that immediately. What young people today are seeing is that approach has led to divorces, to people unhappy with their careers … The majority want to get married […] they just want to do it right the first time, the same thing with their careers.”[148] Their expectations have had a dampening effect on millennials’ rate of marriage.

Religion: In the U.S., millennials are the least likely to be religious when compared to older generations.[158] There is a trend towards irreligion that has been increasing since the 1940s.[159] 29 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1981, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948.[160] A 2005 study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that more than half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. One-third said that they discussed religion with friends, attended religious services, and read religious material weekly. Twenty-three percent of those studied did not identify themselves as religious practitioners.[161] A Pew Research Center study on millennials shows that of those between 18–29 years old, only 3% of these emerging adults self-identified as “atheists” and only 4% self-identified as “agnostics“. Overall, 25% of millennials are “Nones” and 75% are religiously affiliated.[162]

Over half of millennials polled in the United Kingdom in 2013 said they had “no religion nor attended a place of worship”, other than for a wedding or a funeral. 25% said they “believe in a God“, while 19% believed in a “spiritual greater power” and 38% said they did not believe in God nor any other “greater spiritual power”. The poll also found 41% thought religion was “the cause of evil” in the world more often than good.[163] The British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71% of British 18–24 year-olds were not religious, with just 3% affiliated to the once-dominant Church of England.[164]

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Two

Why is it that church people seems to want to park where they are at in their journey with Jesus? Or worse, they want to retreat into the past as seen by the number of stories they tell about ‘the good old days’? 

I was recently in a meeting of leaders from one specific church. As we discussed some aspects of the life of the church I suggested that people today are not looking for what is being offered in the majority of churches on an average Sunday morning. That the current generation we are called to reach are simply not relating to the way we are “doing church” and that something needs to change. The message is always the same but the ways in which we share and celebrate that message should be open to change. Methods are not sacred – the message is established but the methods must remain flexible.

Well, we ended up in a decent conversation but I (and the other leader who came with me) were not really heard. The leaders determined that the problem was with the people. They were not hungry enough. They did not love Jesus or love Him enough. They were not engaging in the worship experience being offered. They were too busy with things in the world. They were passive and not willing to be become involved. Then, in defence of their own leadership, they spoke of the anointing on their lives, the things God had done in the past, the one small highlight of the past six months. 

Well, when it is all ‘their fault’ and we are not willing to look at the way we are packaging the precious message that we are to share; when it is ‘the others’ who need to change and get serious about Jesus and the church; when we think what we do on a Sunday is biblical and thus ‘sacred’; When we continue to do what we have always done – we will always get what we have always got. Someone once said, “that doing the same thing we have always done expecting different results is simply insanity.” I agree.

Today we live in a world where people can find better worship and better bible preaching on the internet than they will in the local church on a Sunday. And it is available when you want it.

Today we live in a world where we Google our questions, Facebook our friends, find news in a format we prefer and it is instant and live, and we microwave our food. The world has changed. And, we need to learn how to relate to this new reality.

Today we live in a world where people want to dialogue and not just listen to 30+ minutes of a ‘talking head’ no matter how good he or she may be. They want to be able to ask questions and wrestle with answers. They want to exchange ideas with others.

Today we live in a world where “the Bible says…” means nothing because the majority of people today – young and old – no longer see the Bible as their only authority or even as one of many places they go to seek truth.

Today we live in a world dominated by politics, sports, and economics. The center of life,  the reference point to life, is no longer the Church or the Bible. 

Today we live in a day when the sports bar is ‘attended’ more often than the church building.

Today we live in a time when ‘fellowship’ is found over a cup of Starbucks coffee or over a beer in a local brew pub and not the church.

Today what people think and feel is what they see as truth – and people no longer look to or even consider the Bible to be truth or even contain some truth.

Today we live in a time when people are questioning what 50 years ago was simply considered as truth and never questioned.

Back to the meeting I was in recently – I was blown away when the leaders commented that their church bible studies still used the King James Version. Really!

The world has changed and is continuing to change at a rapid pace. Things are not as they were 50 years ago – or even 5 years ago. Leaders need to understand the culture and society in which they live. They need to relate to the people around them whose lives are so different than they were even a few years ago. As leaders – as believers wanting to fulfil the Great Commission and see people born again – we need to understand how the people around us are living, what they believe, and how they are thinking. Then we can present the gospel – the message that never changes – in a way that it can be understood and received.  

To do so we must be open to changing a lot of what we do and how we do it and still hold true to the faith once delivered to the saints. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part One

I have just returned from a trip where I am working to plant a church in a major Canadian city and helloing to replant a church in the United States. While in the United Sates I inquired about two leaders in an area near the capital city who had stated churches. I learned that both churches (church plants) had ceased to exist. One had grown as large as several hundred but had failed due to internal conflict. The other simply did not attract the people support it needed to continue. I have been thinking about these situations and the two I am involved in as well.

Generally when someone goes to plant a church or wants to have a growing church there are a number of needed factors. Right up front, let me say that I don’t believe this is the way to plant a church today nor is it biblical.

First, we need a good performance. In an entertainment-driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we are sunk from the get-go, from the start. Even if we have to show him on video, we get a good speaker. And, for a bonus, we surround the speaker with quality music and arts.

Next, we need a place to hold the crowds who will come. This usually means investing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in a facility to house the performance. The more attractive the environment, the better. And, of course, foundational to a good environment is a “Starbucks level” coffee corner.

Then once the crowds get there, we need something to keep them coming back. So we start programs – first-class, top-of-the-line programs – for kids, youth, and families, for every age and stage. And in order to have those programs, we need professionals to run them. That way parents can drop their kids off at the door, and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don’t want people trying this at home.

There it is: a performance at a place filled with programs run by professionals. The problem, through, is the one ‘p’ we have left out of the equation: The people of God, the priesthood of all believers.

This brings to remembrance a comment from my first mentor many years ago. He said, “It is easy to attract a crowd or run a three-ring circus (constant flow of entertaining speakers and music). It is hard to build a church.”

Where did we get the idea that all of this is necessary? Certainly not in the Scriptures. The early church did not have professionals running their churches. There were no professionals. Just believers in love with Jesus. They did not have buildings as they were meeting in homes and, in most cases, were persecuted and thus met secretly to fellowship and pray. And, programs were not needed as they simply celebrated their new found freedom and forgiveness, eating meals together, praying, fellowshipping, and studying the words that Jesus spoke. Simple enough. And, powerful in its own simple way.

“And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b)