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3 THINGS THAT GET THE CHURCH OFF TRACK

 “What got the church off track then is what still gets the church off track today!”  This is what Darren Patrick shared at the Church Planting Leardership Fellowship.  He stated that through church history (and he gave quite a synopsis) that there have been three common themes that when they arise, churches struggle to be who God meant them to be!  Here are the big three that he shared:

First, there is theological heresy!  There have always been groups of people that have strayed from the fundamental doctrines of God’s word.  II Tim 2:15 is very clear about how we are to study so that we will rightly divide the word of truth.  There is a huge “God-sized” responsibility that comes with the preaching and teaching of God’s word!  Yes, there is no position like that of a preacher and there is great authority but that authority and power can be abused.  The temptation is to not allow the gospel to control but to use position, cohersion, manipulation, and brow-beating.  We must preach the word and trust in its power and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Be careful to stay away from personal preferences and hobby horses that are more extra-biblical than they are scripture.  Let it be, “thus says the Lord!”

Second, there is ecclesiological control!  Ed Stetzer wrote this in a recent article, My fear is that we have created a class system in the body of Christ comprised of the “called” and the “not so much called.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The ministry assignment of the laypeople is not to simply “lay” around and tell the called what they should be doing. Laypeople are not to be customers of religious goods and services served by the storekeeper clergy. We are all called although our current assignments may vary dramatically.”  All of us are called to ministry and there is a delicate balance between “obey them that have the rule over you” and “neither as being lords over God’s heritage.”

Third, is exporting of mission!  Many churches have excused their personal involvement in the Great Commission because of the large amounts of money they are giving to missions.  Could it be that this is a part of the consumerism that has permeated our American culture and has even penetrated into mainstream church culture?  Many feel that as long as they are writing checks to missions than their church can focus on them!  Darren said many are naturally wondering, “Where can I go to church and give the least and get the most?”  Because of consumerism many are looking for the church where they can get the biggest bang for their buck.  Remember that every church is responsible for the “ends of the earth” but also for their “Jerusalem!”

It is interesting how even the good things we promote can get out of biblical order.  As you look at church vision statements you see all kinds of cool concepts and neat mottos but there seems to be a lack of evangelistic emphasis.  Recently when helping a church with their core values a good friend asked me why the “going” element of the vision statement was last?  Looking at the Great Commision the “go” comes first and then we are to baptize and teach but in most church vision statements the “teach” element is almost always first. Have we inadvertently flip-flopped the order because we are such an information based culture?

Another example is how we view “making” disciples.  When we hear that we are suppose to be making disciples what do many think that means?  It seems that most think about helping already existing Christians to follow Chrsit better and we should.  The biblical admonition though to “make” disciples is to introduce those who do not follow Him to Jesus Christ.  Discipleship begins by building relationships with the lost who have not as of yet decided to follow Christ.  I love what David Jackson says in his book, Planted, Starting Well, Finishing Strong when talking being effective church planters.. “But I’ll tell you the ‘Miracle Gro’ secret right up front: evangelism!”

David goes on to say this, “Effective church planters and the churches they lead are willing to do new things in ways that are creative and innovative, different from the way the typical established church operates in the Western world today.  They are willing to take chances, to’look different,’ to be ‘edgy,’ etc., not just to attract attention and certainly not to be controversial; they are attempting to gain the attention of those who have not yet heard the Gospel message!”  (Emphasis added)  The question is, “Who are you striving to attract?”  Are we trying to get more Christians?  Is our focus on recruiting more Baptists?  Nothing wrong with that but what about, “Knowing therefore the terror of The Lord, we persuade men!” (II Cor 5:11)

OLD VERSUS NEW

OLD VS NEW

     Newer churches usually see more growth than older churches.  It has been estimated that it takes 88 members in a church over 15 years old to being one person to Christ.  Yet, in a church 5 years or younger it only takes 8 members to bring a person to Christ.  Why are new churches more effective? Why are newer churches so much more evangelistically inclined?  Here are some possible answers to these questions from Dynamic Church Planting International Training, Churches Planting Churches:

     First, it could be because of FOCUS!  “Established churches tend to focus on ministering to those already present.  The older a church gets, the easier it is to concentrate on nurturing and satisfying those who are already involved.  This tendency is very difficult to fight, even among people with the best of intentions.  In many new churches, the core group is small and those people know they must focus on winning the lost, or else the church will not survive.  New churches tend to concentrate on evangelism and the goal of establishing a new congregation.”

     But an older church can refocus on evangelism and pursuing the lost as Jesus did.  Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Begin living as missionaries in your zip code.  Churches should approach every day as if they are headed out on a short term mission trip because they live and minister in the third largest mission field in the world.

     Second, it could be because of STYLE!  Dynamic Church Planting International puts it this way.  “Established churches tend to prefer to use the style of ministry that was relevant and

effective when the church was started. Such traditions are usually very hard to change.  Style includes issues such as: music—old style or new, dress—traditional formal clothing or come-as-you-are, vocabulary—words and phrases that are not understood in today’s culture referred to by some as “Christianeze.”   Christians in established churches often resist changing with the times.”

     But older churches can take steps to change their approach to ministry in order to reach more people with the gospel.  You can remain Biblically sound while also remaining culturally relevant.  Truth never changes but methodology can.  Remember, form follows function!  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

   Thirdly, it could be because of a lack of VISION!  DCPI Churches Planting Churches says, “New churches begin because of a vision of starting a church to reach the lost. Established churches tend to become comfortable and satisfied with the status quo and lose their vision for reaching lost people.  Proverbs 29:18a says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Over time most churches lose their vision and passion for reaching the lost.  Instead of fishers of men they become keepers of an aquarium!”

     Once again, an “older” church can regain a vision for the mission of God.  If a church is not living on mission for God to reach the lost, disciple them, and reproduce themselves then they have lost the reason for their existence.  Jesus made it clear in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

     DCPI Churches Planting Churches training reminds us that, “From 1800 to 1960 the number of Baptists grew from 100,000 members to twenty million!  Lyle Schaller estimates that 60-80% of the people in a new church become Christians through that church, therefore it is likely that 12 to 16 million came to Christ through these new Baptist churches.  The facts are clear: Associations that aggressively plant churches reach people for Christ and grow. The more aggressive they are, the greater the evangelism and growth.”

      Do we need to plant more churches?  Most definitely, but we also need all churches to return to a passionate desire to do whatever they have to do to make sure their church is fulfilling the Great Commission in their Jerusalem!