“And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.” ~ Jesus
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 no 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 need to register as a tax charity. Churches will loose their tax deductible charity status in Canada within twenty years, at most. Get ready for it!
Already, church are told we can’t lobby on Canadian policy issues. Now we are free to do whatever you wish about Canadian policy as a Christians, for no threat to pull a churches tax number has any meaning anymore.
There are struggles,however, as the same old patterns wants to 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 the book of John together. Each one of us was required to read a chapter each week in John’s Gospel, a way of taking charge of our own spiritual growth, doing some rudimentary time in study over it ourselves. Then we would gather and every person shared their insights, ask any lingering questions they had about the text over the week. 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 done and incredible job pulling out the truths and heart of the Gospel together as a group.
However, as the months passed, with new people arriving ( our group had an ebb and flow of various people over the year), we would have a disaster with some families. We’d have fifteen people show up, having read nothing in the scriptures all week, they came with nothing to offer. They arrived expecting church. 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. This might, and that is a big “might”, accentuate their study, but it is no substitute for their own efforts. They would sit there 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 show as their only spiritual growth plan, one 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 told them so too. This is a family seeking Christ together, if we do not wish to expend effort to grow, then go sit in a church somewhere. And I asked others to host the gatherings too, and no one would.
I saw this reoccur three times with various families moved in and out of our fellowship. They wanted to arrive, but not carry out the many dozens of activities Christians are commanded to do for “One Another” as a body (teach, love, show hospitality, encourage, pray etc. Follow this massive theme in the New Testament, it will revolutionize how you see the functioning of body).
I just let it die. It was dead anyway.
Our Sunday forms have all but crucified the discipleship of obedience. We already know most coming will rarely set out on a deeper down journey, especially if it is up to them to exercise some personal effort and initiative. We all know this.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone. But i walk with those who wish to exercise their spiritual effort to grow now 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 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 am 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. If you say a dying man had potential, that is not very good. The truth is potential is still zero in both cases. Nothing is produced with potential, only active obedience produces fruit. So he advised is to shift our focus by no longer investing 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 will give them.
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. When we see no hunger for discipleship, service, scripture reading, or speaking of Christ, are we hungry babies obedient to our spiritual hunger for Jesus?
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 from the masses.
“… 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 grow in Christ. Not have it handed to us for an hour a week.
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.
Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. v9