Friday, January 01, 2016

The Church Doesn't Need More "Numbers"; Our City Doesn't Need More "Churches"

Detroit

Here in Monroe some new buildings are being constructed. Upon seeing this my immediate thought was, "Oh no - not another auto parts store!" From my point of view we already have enough of them. All we need is for each one to fulfill its mission. 

I feel the same about churches. We do not need another one. We just need the people in them to fulfill their mission.

Sadly, this is mostly not happening. The American Church today contains a lot of people who have made "decisions for Christ" but are not following the example of Jesus as his disciple. We do not need more deciders who - for whatever reasons - disengage from being disciples.

Dallas Willard writes:

"Now, some might be shocked to hear that what the “church”— the disciples gathered— gathered— really needs is not more people, more money, better buildings or programs, more education, or more prestige. Christ’s gathered people, the church, has always been at its best when it had little or none of these. All it needs to fulfill Christ’s purposes on earth is the quality of life he makes real in the life of his disciples." (Willard, The Great Omission(Kindle Locations 159-162). 

"The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as “Christians” will become disciples— students, apprentices, practitioners— of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence." (Ib., Kindle Locations 164-167)

"It is a tragic error to think that Jesus was telling us, as he left, to start churches, as that is understood today. From time to time starting a church may be appropriate. But his aim for us is much greater than that." (Ib., Kindle Locations 145-146)

What can this possibly mean? It means: Jesus did not say "Go into all the world and start churches." Right? This is hard because the American way is bigger, bigger, bigger, more, more, more. Yes, Jesus wants all humanity to be saved. But "saved" necessarily includes discipleship and spiritual formation into Christlikeness, without which one has committed The Great Omission.

Here is Willard's translation of Matthew 28:18-20:

“I have been given say over all things in heaven and in the earth. As you go, therefore, make disciples of all kinds of people, submerge them in Trinitarian Presence, and show them how to do everything I have commanded. And now look: I am with you every minute until the job is done.”

Jesus-followers take note: Forget the size of your church and focus on what Jesus commanded. Go after making one disciple, from any people group. This is for you, and not just pastors. If everyone who claimed to be a follower of Jesus just did this "the outward effect of this life in Christ [would be a] perpetual moral revolution, until the purpose of humanity on earth is completed." (Ib., Kindle Locations 148-149)