Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Did We Get Here, Part 2

Do you ever feel like your church is tired, weak, irritable or looking somewhat pale? Maybe the answer is Geritol!
Many people in churches feel like the woman in the Geritol commercial (1960), tired and unable to dance. In the context of the church, they are unable to follow the lead of the bridegroom (Jesus) because they believe that they just are not capable of doing so. This feeling of inability to do significant things for the Lord is not what we find as normal for the church in the New Testament.
Here are some key principles taking place in the churches found in the New Testament that we have wandered away from in most churches today;
  • Interactive gathering of saints (Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7-12 & 1 Cor. 14:26)
  • Servant and consensual leadership (Matt. 20:20-28 & Acts 15:22-29)
  • Priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-10, 1 Timothy 2:5 & Hebrews 10:19)
  • The expansion of the church by common people (Acts 8:1-4, Romans 16:3-5 & Col. 4:15)
  • Equipping of the church so the people would do ministry - not do the ministry for the people (Matt. 28:19-20, Eph. 4:11-16 & 2 Timothy 2:2)
A thread through the five principles listed above is that professional or skilled leadership in the church has taken over these areas of faith. The taking over of these five areas have caused saints to need the following;
  • A professional to give a sermon and lead worship in order to enjoy church each week.
  • At least one or at most a few men to tell us what we are to do as a spiritual community.
  • Ordained men (sometimes women) to do the more significant work of the Gospel.
  • Highly trained and/or skilled people to begin new churches and organizations.
  • Professional people to do the baptizing, administering communion, conducting church services, sanctioning marriages and officiating at funerals.
This dependence upon skilled leadership in the church has contributed to her becoming weak, tired, irritable and pale. Most people sitting in the pews of churches across the world do not feel empowered, able or competent to do many of things that were commonly done by all believers in the first century as I pointed out at the top of this article.
So what should we do? To begin with, we should NOT beat ourselves up over this. It is correctable. We still have the same Godhead to call upon for help in addressing these problems. The one thing we shouldn't do is to keep on doing the same thing. But change is hard and as human beings we are typically lazy. If someone else will do "it" for us, we typically will let them do so. This is what has happened in our churches today.
Here a few suggestions from my brain to yours on how to see the priesthood of all believers become a reality in your community.
  • Come to grips with the truth that for most folks, this transition to feeling competent will take a lot longer than you anticipate. That may sound like bad news to you but I believe it is true and therefore will end up being comforting because it will match your experience.
  • There will be no transformation to a more Biblical way of spiritual engagement apart from a work of God in the lives of people who love Jesus. In other words, it is a supernatural work so increase your conversations with God about the issue.
  • Plan for things to fall apart. My good friend Neil Cole calls this 'planned neglect'. If people are going to do significant things for the Kingdom, they will have to see that there is a need for them to do something and that will only happen as the significant things do not get done.
  • Encourage people with Biblical and practical truth that they are able to do something significant. They may have to find what it is and you may be helpful in causing them to think through what it may be, but they will find it and they will see God work through them.
  • Plant seed ideas in the hearts of people and then get out of the way and let them run with the idea the way they want to. If they come and ask for direction, certainly help guide them. Offer positive input along the way so they will know they are on the right track.
  • Know ahead of time that some will hate this idea and move on to another spiritual community. This will happen and it will hurt but it must happen.
  • Remind, remind, remind, remind, remind and remind people of the truths found throughout the Scriptures that they can do significant things for the Lord. Paul often reminds people of things throughout his letters. We would do well to follow His example. Here is just one Scripture that speaks to this whole issue:
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 3:6
The Spirit gives life and the Spirit, He is the one who makes us competent. So move out in the competence that Christ has given you. I am surprised way too often with people coming up to me after a spiritual gathering to tell me that they knew God was prompting them to do something or say something and they hesitated. I constantly encourage people to err on the side of moving out but usually people take the safe way out and err on the side of silence. We can't learn about following the promptings of God if are usually silent when we sense them.
If you have a thought about these ideas, feel free to comment on them for all to read.