“And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.” ~ Jesus (MSG)
Christianity in the west is moving toward simple expressions. With the declining attendance in traditional churches the resources to maintain those structures are disappearing. Over the next few decades we will see tens of thousands of church buildings close in Canada.
There is a secondary reason behind this. Many folks no longer want to support structures and buildings, they want to help one another, and others in need of service, directly.
When i first stepped into simple expressions of Christian community I was shocked at how little is needed to meet in homes. Without salaries or buildings to fund we were able to give away everything. We had no expenses whatsoever. We never took an offering. We did not have a bank account. Each family or individual set aside a sum and gave to the kingdom as they saw fit. They chose the ministries, missions, and people to support. They directed this themselves, it was left between them and the Lord.
Of course, this is incredibly freeing, as there is no “struggle” over how funds are to be used. Each family stewarded their own gifts as they saw fit according to the Lord’s guidance on their own lives. Money was no longer power and control for one group of people to make decisions for the others, then trying to convince the others of the wisdom of how it is used.
This also means our gifts to the kingdom are no longer under the control of the government either. We did not register as a tax charity. Didn’t want it. Churches will loose their tax deductible charity status in Canada within twenty years, at most. Get ready for it!
Already, churches are told they can’t lobby on Canadian policy issues. Now we are free to do whatever you wish about Canadian policy as individual Christians, or as a group, for the threat to pull a church tax number has no meaning anymore. You can’t be silenced.
There are struggles, however, as the same old patterns creep onto simple gatherings. As people exit traditional churches they bring many of the old expectations and opinions with them.
We began with the idea of working through books of the bible together. Each week, each of us was to read a chapter in John’s Gospel, a rudimentary way of taking charge of our own spiritual growth. Each adult was to do some time in study over the text.. Then we would gather and every person shared their insights, and ask the group about any lingering questions they had from the text. They also shared how the text prompted them to pray, or if it moved them to do some activity, or how it challenged some of their thinking. I would assure depth in the offerings by filling in things the group might have missed, providing context, or a few relevant scriptures. Some weeks i had to add very little, because they were all active in the learning just as deeply as I was. They had accomplished and incredible job pulling out the essential truths and heart of the scripture as a group. This was exciting to watch.
However, as the months passed, with new people arriving and others moving on (our group had an ebb and flow of various people over the year), we would have small disasters appear, at least in my estimation.
We’d have fifteen people show up, with their church history, and with not a single person having read the scriptures all week, they came with nothing to offer from the weekly text. They came with nothing to share, but expecting to sit and have it handed to them. They arrived expecting traditional church. They expected that I, as a preacher, would dump my study on them, as if what I had to say was their learning and spiritual growth program. (What I do might, and that is a huge “might”, accentuate their study, but it is certainly no substitute for their own efforts) They would sit in the gathering all googly eyed with nothing to say, few willing to pray at group prayer times. They were waiting for me to act as their spiritual father. They wanted church like in the building, with many inactive spectaculars coming to absorb the offerings as their spiritual growth plan. A Plane that required no effort on their part all week long, other than to show up and sit a while.
How is this growth? It isn’t.
And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ. Matthew 23:10 (MSG)
I was being maneuvered, and so I refused to do it. I said well since we have nothing to share, and no prayer concerns, this is enough for today. I shared nothing, and closed in prayer. Before they left I did say a few things like, this is a family seeking Christ together, if we do not wish to expend a little effort to grow, then why be here when we can go sit in a church building somewhere like we did before? In this group we read and reflect on at least one chapter of scripture a week (Is that really too much to ask from disciples?) They did not stay long in our gatherings, and why would they?
I saw this wave of in and out occur three times in the first year. People showing up, but not expressing any interest in “One Another” type of faith (teach one another, love, show hospitality, encourage, pray for one another etc. Follow this massive theme in the New Testament, it will revolutionize how you see the functioning of body).
I let it die. It was dead anyway.
I will help anyone grow in their faith, But I no longer will substitute by effort for theirs. Being out of the clergy (Ministry) enables me the freedom to stop feeding that broken cycle.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone. But i walk with those who wish to exercise a tiny bit of spiritual effort to grow. I cannot exercise enough of my own spiritual effort to compensate for anyone’s inertia or lack of interest in their own growth in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We need to decide whether we are we on the discipleship journey of growth and obedience to Jesus or not. I left behind serving masses of inactive observers in the institutional church. I was not going to do the same outside it.
A group of us were with Neil Cole, and he told us that “potential is zero”, it’s nothing.
“If we say a young man has potential, it sounds good. However, if we say of a dying man, “He had potential.”, that is not very good at all. The truth is potential is still zero in both cases. Nothing is produced with potential, only obedience produces fruit” -Neil Cole
Therefore, Neil Cole advised us to shift our focus, to no longer invest much time in those with potential, invest almost all of our time into people who exhibit obedience to what they are learning. The more they obey, the more time we should invest. I will never forgot Neil Cole’s words.
We might say, “Babies need to be fed and cared for.” This is true, but even babies cry for food, and frantically shake their head at the sight of a nipple and will latch onto that thing and suck for dear life. They are obedient to their hunger.
Where is the hunger in many a church member? When we see no hunger for discipleship, service, scripture reading, speaking of Christ, or prayer, are we hungry babies? Are we obedient to our spiritual hunger for Jesus or the truths we learn in his word? Are we born at all?
Much of the churches ministry exhibits few sucking sounds coming from people. It’s more like a a few people working hard to pour milk on sponges- than suckling hunger. You can’t work hard enough to compensate for another persons lack of interest or inertia.
“… getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’ 8 “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9 Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. 10 And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ. Matthew 23:7 (MSG)
The traditional church expression will always exist. New expressions of gathering can have the same old dysfunctions brought into it. The form is not the issue. The desire is. I am walking with people who desire discipleship, and who will help me in the process too, where we are “all classmates” v8 , who will stop at nothing to spiritually grow in Christ. We are not handing off our spiritual growth to another.
We need to get back to each person seeking the Lords will. A people who can not sense the Spirits activity and movement in their lives and world around them is the saddest product of our 21 century church programing. Imagine, a christian who doesn’t know what to do!
Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. v9