DO CHURCHES FAIL?
Movements become institutions and institutions become monuments.
This often repeated phenomenon is also true of most churches. In
fact it was true of several of the churches established during
Paul's time in Ephesus. By the time John wrote chapters 2 and 3
of Revelation most of the churches were already on their way to
becoming monuments. How does that happen with the Church? What
is the road to failure?
The movement>>>institution>>>monument continuum
often looks like the following:
FAITH TO FEAR
Like the heroes of faith in the Hebrews 11 hall of fame, founders
of new churches launch with their eyes focused on Christ but
often that faith is replaced with fear as they try to live out
their Christian lives in their own strength. Fear causes us to
be reactive rather than proactive, to protect rather than attack,
to withdraw rather than engage. It is self defeating and feeds
on itself. The Church belongs to Christ (Mt 16:18). Only he can
build it. Only he can change lives. Let's not accept for ourselves
that which only Christ can do.
OUTWARD TO INWARD
While the Church is in the world it exists for the world. When
our task is finished the Lord will come for us. We are supposed
to be in the world but not of it. In our fear mode many of us
have withdrawn from it becoming irrelevant to it. Consequently
we are disconnected from non-Christians having formed our isolated
evangelical sub cultures. The offence of the cross is not the
chief block to the unsaved. It is our remoteness, traditions,
strangeness and our defensiveness.
PASSION TO COMPLACENCY
Remember the first days of your salvation, how fresh, wonderful,
clean and passionate you were. How easy it is for that passion
to be replaced by complacency. The tone we as leaders set will
be reflected by others in the church. Christ still calls us to
deny ourselves, take up or cross and follow him.
FUNCTION TO FORM
Organic reproducible models of church give way to institutions,
traditions, buildings, degrees, and hierarchies. Forms are sanctified
over time and have the weight of Scripture. A certain style of
music or dress is identified as spiritual even when the culture
no longer connects with it. Churches that adopt strict forms
and are not able to distinguish them from the functions of worship,
teaching, fellowship, stewardship, evangelism etc. will be bypassed
by the ever changing culture.
EMPOWERMENT TO CONTROL
Churches that are lay driven give way to those that are clergy
driven. Lay people become spectators in stead of participants.
Clergy become overworked, the laity underworked and the growth
of the Church slows to the pace the pastor can handle or directly
The Church will grow when every believer is a minister and every
leader an equipper of ministers. Effective leaders believe in God
in others and communicate that confidence.
INTIMACY TO INDIVIDUALISM
The church was intended to be our spiritual family where we experience
fellowship and intimacy, where we are known, accountable, supported,
and cared for, where we exercise our spiritual gifts in support
of others and are valued. Such body life diminishes rapidly after
a group exceeds 12 people. The church becomes less of a community
and more of a gathering of individuals. We rejoice when churches
grow. However, the larger they grow the less intimate they become.
Unless leadership is intentional about small or cell groups the
trend will continue.
UNITY TO COMPETITION
One aspect of the image of God in Adam and Eve was their reflection
of the unity and diversity of the Trinity. That image was distorted
by the fall. The mystery of the Church is that in Christ there
is no more Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female. As the family
of God we reflect the trinity by our unity in diversity. Our
divisionism, distrust, and competition are an affront to the
Trinity and an impediment to the lost. Jesus himself prayed in
John 17:23 "...may they be brought to complete unity to let
the world know that you sent me."
VISION TO MAINTENANCE
Jun Balaio, is the former leader of the Philippine DAWN movement
that has seen 50,000 new churches established in 20 years. I
asked him to give me the three most important reasons for such
impressive growth. His answer: "vision, vision, vision" .
One of the main tasks of the church leader is to keep the vision
of the church in front of the members. Vision leaks and must
be regularly replenished.
THRIVING, REPRODUCING CHURCHES ARE ON ANOTHER ROAD
FEAR TO FAITH
INWARD TO OUTWARD
COMPLACENCY TO PASSION
FORM TO FUNCTION
CONTROL TO EMPOWERMENT
INDIVIDUALISM TO INTIMACY
COMPETITION TO UNITY
MAINTENANCE TO VISION