The Church is in the middle of a major transition. The transition has 3 purposes:
- To teach people how to know God’s voice and walk with Him in intimacy.
- To build a Church where He will come and rest with His people.
- To let Jesus be the Head and build as He wants.
It’s easy to look at these statements and say, “Aren’t we as a Church doing that now?” It has been my experience that very few know how to, let alone do it. Over 10 years ago the Lord challenged me in 3 ways:
- Realize a disciple is defined by how well He knows and walks with me, not by ministry skill.
- Would I stop asking what attracts people to the church and ask what attracts Him
- Would I stop doing what I or others think is wisdom, and build the Church as He said?
Most of my time has been unlearningwhat I had learned. It’s not been easy. We have totally realigned our church around these three principles. These are the lessons I am learning:
1. I have had to learn that our standard of success is not in the number of people and programs – but how much of God showed up.
I had always assumed that God showed up at every church event. Since then, He has shown me differently. He has shown me that most of what we call the presence of God is people’s soulish responses – emotion only.
2. We are to build what He wants not what will get people to attend.
This has been a radical and fundamental mind change.
3. God’s presence is indeed growing stronger in our church as we ask Him what does He want to do.
Many of our services have a tangible presence of Him that you can almost see. This is becoming our standard of success. The first question we ask after a service is now widely, “Was God’s presence here today?” When it is, we are rejoicing in this fact alone because when we know His presence is enough.
4. I have learned that as God’s presence grows people leave.
This was probably the biggest surprise to me. I don’t think it will always be this way, but at this time in America, people don’t want the heart of God, just His hand. It’s no different than when Moses was on the mountain top experiencing God. When he came down the people said we don’t want to meet with God directly, we want you to do it for us. They were scared by His presence.
5. Most Church growth experts in America give out methods of growing that appeal to people’s souls (emotions and mind) only.
When Jesus leads His church, it is always Spirit to spirit. The best way to describe it is found in John 6. I have read John 6 more times in the last 3 years than any other passage in the Bible. Jesus appealed to people’s souls and bodies by supernaturally feeding the 5000. But at the end when He challenged them to partake deeply of Him (by eating His flesh and drinking His blood) they left. When Jesus challenged them on a spirit level He was left with 12 disciples who were trying to decide if they wanted to go too.
We have been growing in how to minister to people on a spirit level. What we have found is that most people don’t want God. They just want the problem or pain to leave, so they go when you don’t immediately fix them. In the American church this is considered a failure because you lost people.
I am continually asked by God, “Do you want numbers or disciples?” I’ll be honest, this is not an easy question to answer when you live in the atmosphere of where only bigger is considered God. But I can honestly say that as our numbers have dropped we have grown in disciples who know the voice of God and follow Him.
How do we balance numbers and disciples? It’s a fact that God wants the whole world to be saved. But He asked us in the Great Commission to go and make disciples, not get people saved. So I believe that one day, and it’s not that far away, the number of discipleswill radically increase in the churches that know how to make disciples. We have a lot to learn, but I want to thank everyone because we are much better at making disciples than even just a few years ago. God’s grace is on us to do this and it shows.
6. Our approval as leaders comes by doing what the Head, Jesus, has asked us to do and nothing else.
Not understanding this principle is why you see so much hype in the American church. Pastors are doing whatever they can to get ‘big’ because then they will get approval by the religious system. Small, even if highly anointed, churches aren’t put on the magazines and TV shows, only the large churches. We have made an idol out of size. God is tearing down our idols and realigning our motives. Jesus managed to turn a crowd of 5000 men (not counting women and children) into a meeting of 12! He would have been considered a failure in our society.
In summary, I want to say good job leaders! We are learning awesome principles which Jesus will build something lasting on. I am absolutely convinced that we are on the path to the Church that He is building. We will see confirmation of this more and more.
There is a quote below that confirms that this thinking of how to build a church is changing. It is by Henry Blackaby. Henry Blackaby has become one of the most influential people in the denominations and especially the Southern Baptist church. He is God’s voice to that segment of the church. He highly influenced the denominations to point their face to the first commandment with his widely selling best selling book, “Experiencing God.” The Southern Baptists and other denominations listen to Henry Blackaby.
QUOTE:“We are not leading people into that immediate relationship with the living Lord. If you listen to most sermons, that intimate personal relationship is missing. If you talk to many church members, they feel they are in the right relationship to God when they attend all the worship services, they tithe, they go on a mission trip. And many a pastor would evaluate a member, not from the intimate relationship with the Lord, but for how faithful he is in all the activities of the church—and does he tithe? It’s activity. Many of God’s people have moved from the relationship to religious activity. We are content to live without the manifest presence, power and activity of God. … There’s a huge gap in the teaching ministry of pastors. We have put on them a huge sense of the priority of evangelism. We had an evangelist in our church not long ago. He said the thing I thought he would say: that the No. 1 priority above everything else is to reach out to the lost. I would say that’s not true. The priority of every congregation is the lordship of Christ and everything else will come out of that. Many a pastor would not know how in the world to guide their church under the lordship of Christ … because his life doesn’t function out of that mindset.” —longtime pastor and best-selling author Henry Blackaby [Baptist Press, 5/12/09]
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