Why We Began
For the longest time, I have questioned how we can hear sermon after sermon and remain, for the most part, unchanged. It has bothered me to see the contrast between what Scripture promises and what we actually see in our lives today. In the Western church, healings are few and far between, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are limited at best. At the end of the day, no matter the denomination, there seems to be one thing in common: We are not truly experiencing what the Bible promises.
I have questioned the preaching and the people, but never stopped to question the model that we all prescribe to, a movie-theatre experience: sit, receive, leave. All I have ever known is the church model of today, where the focus of the church is the sermon. Churches boast different groups and studies, but if we were honest, the most important part of our church life is the sermon. We believe this because “it is the preaching of the Word”, the same Word that is “sharper than a two-edge sword”. The same Word that raised the dead and set the captive free…but our churches are littered with people who are not free. Each week people raise their hands to accept Jesus and for a time they seem to soar, but then old lifestyles and issues kick back or they plateau after a few years. Where is the power of transformation? Isn’t God inexhaustible? What I have written below comes from wrestles in my own heart and it is full of generalizations. It does not describe one particular church, but a model. I am guilty of doing everything listed below. Please forgive me Lord.
I have to stop and think, if I only “got saved” a month ago, what do I know about what it means to be a Christian? It is scary how poorly we equip and protect the person who just went through the greatest transition of their life. If we see them back at the church the next week, we wrongfully assume that they are on their way to victory as a Christian. What do they learn? “To be a Christian means to come to church and to hear the voice of God means to hear a sermon from the pastor”. My feeble attempt to combat this in the past has been to say “Don’t just take my word for it, study it in the Bible” but for the most part, Christians don’t read their Bible because they don’t know how. We have taught people how to listen to sermons, podcasts and books but we have failed to lead people in what it means to hear the voice of God and how to devour His Word. I don’t believe this can be preached anymore than one can preach to someone how to ride a bicycle. It takes time, a hands-on approach, and must be purposeful. It takes being willing to run alongside someone with the expectation of a few crashes and the assurance of helping one another up. From our current church model, as a new believer, I would have no idea that prayer plays such a vital role in our lives because I don’t see it modeled. Prayer at a church service is the equivalent to prayer before a meal – say it quick so that we can get to the real reason why we are gathered. Yet Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer.” If I did believe prayer was important, would I have any idea how to actually pray?
Discipleship has been associated with boring classes that one has to attend but the truth about it is, it is simply living life together through God’s Word. Discipleship cannot be attained by just throwing a few people together either. It starts with leadership. For the most part, the focus is filling up seats for the Sunday service. We continue to seek to grow our numbers, but we are not taking care of the people we currently have. We have starving children, but we are continuing to make babies and we deceive ourselves in thinking that this is what it means to make a difference. If the children’s ministries continues to struggle for volunteers, we have to stop and question, is the children’s ministry truly a valued part of this church? If discipleship is lacking, it is because it not a core focus.
In general, the only gift that really has place in our churches today, outside of the pastor, is that of hospitality. Evangelist, prophet, teacher, apostle and preacher are limited and rare. We don’t have opportunities to steward and grow those giftings, yet they are vital. When someone has a calling without a way to understand or develop it, it leads to frustration.
Is anyone else tired of not being able to truly help those who are in need? The disciples were unable to heal a boy because of their lack of faith. In the words of Jesus “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” How many people are being shortchanged from what they could really be encountering with God if we were willing to break down our man-made models and traditions, lay down our little platforms and crowns and go back to what the Bible says a “church” community should look like? Would anyone love to see the Holy Spirit empowering people in the gifts that we so desperately need? Does anyone long to see the fruits of the Holy Spirit flowing in his or her life? Something has to change in how we do “church.” What if the healthiest church was no more than 50 people? We don’t consider that success. Our idea of success has to be re-evaluated. Infatuation with “big numbers” needs to be put to rest.
When I have discussed certain passages about what “church” should look like, I have heard the phrase “That won’t work in a big church”. My question is this: would we rather ignore Scripture to keep our version of “church”? Where else are we compromising Scripture or just flat out ignoring it to build a “successful” church? We are so starved for a true movement that a worship song that elicits any emotion in us has us claiming how mightily God moved. I’ve done this myself many times. Our altar calls have to be padded with soft music and dark lights to help the mood for someone to get saved. Has God become so weak and powerless? Of course God uses musicians mightily, but I think you get my point.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
Our current model and focus produces a crowd. Does anyone have the courage to risk the known and comfortable to find what we know we need? In almost every other aspect of life, from businesses to science, we are willing to risk failure to achieve what we believe is possible. Edison considered failing 2000 times, or rather learning 2000 times, in the pursuit of the light bulb. Something he believed could be.
For my entire life, the taxi system remained unchanged. Uber changed the game by simply changing the model. Suddenly people who never dreamed of being able to be a “taxi,” but had everything that was needed, were now transporting people all over the country. What if we were able to do the same for the 95% of church attenders that are unengaged? By switching the model and creating the opportunity, everyone can truly grow and be all that God has called them to be…disciple makers, not just church attenders.
When my brother set out to build 2nd.MD, he had no idea how to do it except he had a belief that it had to be possible to connect a regular person with a top specialist without all the wait, hassles and fees. When it comes to the things of God, why can’t we have the same adventurous spirit? We say faith is spelt RISK, but our lives are anything but. My children will only be young once, and I am greatly concerned about the faith and concepts that I will be handing down to them.
What’s the goal?
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” –Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)
The goal is to develop a community of healthy believers – believers who are solidly grounded in God through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit. Believers who know how to feed themselves through God’s Word, operate in their supernatural gifting and deeply care to develop those around them.
We want to see all five offices by God’s appointment operating in a biblical and healthy way. The size of the church should be directly proportional to effective discipleship, development and impartation. Church growth is due to God’s leading and not marketing schemes. We want to create an environment where believers can safely fail and grow in their Holy Spirit-given gifts. We want to develop a community where every member is equipped to teach God’s Word and hear His voice. We will pursue an environment where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are valued equally and are as vital as the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We desire to become a people who overlay our lives on God’s Word and not the other way round. We seek a place of order, yet absolute freedom. A church where evangelism is a beautiful honor. A place where there is leadership, but everyone has equal ownership. A place where we are united, but no two have to be the same and where we truly invest in each other’s lives.
~ Brent Phillips