August 14, 2012

Modern Ministry Miscues

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to trends I see in the modern church. Human tendencies toward self-confidence and self-sufficiency have led to the creation of ministry models that are man-centered rather than God-centered. The result is an overwhelming number of churches that are more style than substance.

We plan events and implement programs, certain that our efforts will reach people for Christ. We  disregard Jesus' words in John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. If we don't get the numbers we expect, we plan more and work harder.

Why have we not realized that these modern ministry techniques are not based on Scripture?  Have we ever considered:

Jesus wasn't "seeker friendly". The rich young man wasn't willing to be obedient to Jesus' command to sell his possessions and give to the poor.  Jesus didn't follow after him  to offer a compromise or beg him to change his mind. He let the young man go because He knew that not everyone will respond to the Gospel. (Mark 10:17-27)

Jesus didn't call us to convert everyone to Christianity. The Great Commission instructs us to make disciples, not converts. (Matthew 28:19-20)  As the Word Incarnate, Jesus spent His ministry teaching the disciples about Himself.  He modeled discipleship for them. He was intentional in His relationship with them.  "...[He] gave himself in depth to 12 disciples, not refusing to bless the masses, but not neglecting to invest in the few." (source)

Here is where we must begin like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don't live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. We must decide where we want our ministry to count---in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. (source)

Jesus didn't become like the masses in order to win them.  Jesus met people where they were, but He never offered Himself as a substitute for an earthly pleasure. Jesus told His disciples that He had called them out of the world (John 15:19). Likewise, we are not to conform to or love the things of this world (Romans 12: 2, 1 John 2:15-17).  Are "Christian alternatives" setting us apart or helping us fit in?

The first century church didn't have strategy sessions and long-range planning committees. In Acts 2:42 - 47, Luke tells us that the believers were devoted to teaching and fellowship. They took care of each other, prayed together, and spent time together. They lived their lives according to the ministry principles Jesus had modeled for them. They understood the function of the Church is to disciple obedient believers to go out and do the same (Ephesians 4:11-16).  The result was that God increased their number every day. 

Now there's a program worth following.

1 comment:

Persis said...

Good thoughts, Melissa. This preoccupation with numerical group is more American than biblical.