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)