Saturday, August 8, 2009

An Upside-Down Church—What Are We

Now that I've posted about where we came from, "About New Life - Our Beginning", though not in too much detail, I can let you know what it is we are doing.

First things first, let me explain a bit of my philosophy and why I have it. I have been a part of many churches in the past. I've held leadership positions and worked, more often than not, in such a way that I was as privy to information about the nitty-gritty details of the churches as the pastor. Indeed, I was an assistant pastor for a time at one church, and acted as co-pastor, though not officially titled as such because I refused, in another church. I've youth pastored as well. This is all just to say that I am aware of what's going on in most churches. Now I know you may think it is a leap to have been involved in what amounts to a relative handful of churches and then make conclusions about most churches. I understand that sentiment, but one doesn't have to be involved intimately in all, or all types of, churches (denominations, etc…) to get a grasp for what the norm is. It would be a fair assumption when I hear someone speaking of similar situations in a church or churches with which I am not remotely related, to take that report as fairly reliable. After all, I've already witnessed these things elsewhere. Additionally, when you see the same results in church after church, it's not too much to conclude that the same activities, ways of thinking and doing things, garnered them.

So what is it that I see? Among other things, I see an almost total lack of focused outreach. I do know of churches that are focused and reaching out to the lost, to be fair, but it is far from the norm. Most churches are so wrapped up in themselves and their own interests that they practically forget there even is a world outside. This is a deadly downward spiral in which the sheep that are coming usually become extremely sickly, and often die, because they become abused to some degree or another. They may be neglected in some areas of need, and then put upon greatly in others. The leadership knows there is no vibrancy of life, and they focus the blame on the members. "They should give more. They should work harder.", they'll think, and then begin to make it known, whether by words or deeds. It's crushing to the sheep, but the real problem is that the pastor has no vision.

Ah! Now I've said it: Vision! It's like a magical word to a vast majority of Christians. When we want to sound like we are very spiritual and interested in the work of the Lord in this world, we start asking about vision. It's not that there is no biblical grounds for doing so, it's that we've made it some mystical magical thing, and though it somewhat is that, it's mostly just a very practical every day thing. It's not future, it's now! We think vision is only what we think, but usually just hope, will happen in the future. Sorry! That's wrong, wrong, wrong!

We end up relegating the work of the ministry to the future, the blessings to the future, the harvest to the future ... And what's worse, we always put some very arbitrary starting point to when it's going to begin happening. "Oh! When we get the new building." "Well, we just need a projector first." "If we can just get (fill in blank), then we can really get to work." Aaaargh! And here I thought that Paul said something about being able to do all things through Christ, not coming with anything fancy, just Christ and Christ crucified. It's very tempting to think like this. Just recently I thought this very thing, even though I know it's dumb (the projector was mine...).

The fact is, if you have truly been saved and are full of the Spirit —God's requirements—then you have everything you need to do the work, assuming it's what God has called into being and not yourself. This isn't to dismiss going through God's process of preparation at all, but rather, in being saved and filled, it is the only way of actually fulfilling those requirements of preparation, whether that takes you through a cemetery… I mean seminary (Leonard Ravenhill's line), or not; whether it takes you to bible college or not; whether it takes you into an established denomination or not.

And so this is why I want to strive for a backwards, upside-down church. I don't believe we are aiming for what is backwards according to scripture, but backwards according to the accepted norms of the day. There are one hundred and one things which, to the average church today, do not make a bit of sense that I should not have already started doing. It's tough knowing that many otherwise like-minded saints do not, or would not, approve or understand our methods (or lack thereof).

What Is A Backwards, Upside-Down Church?

It's a church that is willing to maybe look a little odd by todays standards, and one that reaches out to a dying world with as much emphasis, probably more, on doing so as preaching and teaching. What is the preaching and teaching supposed to be for, anyway, if not for the equipping of the saints for the work? It was the clear and focused goal of the early church to share the gospel with every creature. Now we just hope they'll catch it on TV.

And that's not all. While I know of some churches that really are focused and reaching out, I know of many who would be shocked to find they are not among them. There are many churches that have outreach programs. They are legacy programs often, and ones that never worked even when they were begun. Other churches have newer high-flying programs that would make Hollywood take notice, but what "fruit" they get will be a direct result of how the seed was planted. If the "converts" needed the bright lights and fancy shows to get them, they'll leave just as quickly for the same excitement wherever they find it. It wasn't the Holy Spirit that captivated them, it was Hollywood style.

There are many more ways in which we delude ourselves into thinking we are doing our part, too many to elaborate on here. Let's just suffice it to say this: Any honest Christian would be forced to admit that our methods have not, and simply are not, working. There may be a new work that springs up here or there and they'll get a lot of members, but they're usually not converts. I believe it was Kenneth Hagin who said something along the line that most churches are fishing out of their own bathtubs. If that is so, and I think it is, it means the fish are not happy and are looking for better waters. Again, the ministers are failing.

I repeat, it was the clear and focused goal of the early church to preach the gospel to every creature. Every meeting was geared towards that end. It's like being in a delivery business. Who among you would question the boss preaching about making sure the right oil, and enough of it, was put into the fleet of vehicles? I mean, they are in the delivery business, right? Not the oil business. Likewise, just because in the early church not everything said and done was the preaching of the gospel itself directly to an unsaved person does not mean that it wasn't the ultimate goal always of everything they did.

Now, I'll admit that in the everyday doings of the saints there is something above preaching the gospel, and that is just simply loving and worshiping God Himself. How, however, can we justify not having His ways, His desires, and His purposes always before us if we claim to love and worship Him?

For this reason I'll strive for a backward, upside-down church; one that puts first things first. We'll strive to share the gospel, the unadulterated gospel, with everyone we come into contact with. We'll pray, and do pray, for the opportunity to share; that God will bring hungry people our way, or send us their way, to lift Him up. We desire, as God desires, that all should repent; that all should be broken before the altar of God. We dedicate our lives to being free of burdens that would preclude us from answering God's answer to our prayer. Amen.

Note: This was originally published on my old blog, September 14, 2007.

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