Obstacles in the Church to Mission Mobilization
CHURCH STRUCTURE: WHEN "NOTHING" IS HAPPENING
From: Jean-Claude Chevalme <JChevalme@aol.com> Fulfilling the great commission, reaching the lost, taking cities for God, is, if not the heartbeat of every Christian, at least on the mind of each. Scores of pastors in cities all across America are motivated by this vision. Many have come together in prayer summits, many have begun regular prayer time as never before, hoping to catch a common heart and vision for their cities. Great ministries have been birthed, independently from churches, to serve as catalyst in implementing systematic approaches to reaching cities for Jesus. Prayer is going up as never before. Citywide projects have been presented to churches by local nucleus of pastors with the intent to encourage the rest of the body to participate. These projects are well-advertised, well-designed, they hardly could have a more encompassing or less threatening strategy to invite cooperation among pastors.
Yet in spite of all these efforts, we have yet to see a city over 20.000 people, where the whole Church has been mobilized, to reach the whole city, with the whole gospel.
In confirmation of this, in the last three years I have been speaking with many "City Reachers" or "City Facilitators". That is the name given to a new breed of people that God is raising in cities across the USA. These brothers and sisters, each with a heart "to bring the church to work together," recount that for the most part, no matter how hard they try, only a minority percentage of congregations within cities (up to 30% in some cases,) are actively participating in ongoing "city wide" projects. Furthermore, the majority of these groups are largely composed of Caucasians pastors. In general, there seem to be a lack of motivation on the part of brothers and sisters of other races to work in unity with Caucasians, or with each other for that matter.
No matter how great the strategies, how encompassing the vision, it seems that at one point in time, the working unity of the Church in the city reaches a plateau and stays there.
So what is the hindrance? Why is God not answering? Are we not doing all we can, with all our heart? Are we not we praying enough? Do we need to have better projects? Do we need greater visions? Is it not God's time yet? Are there things that are still lacking in the body of Christ? What are some of the possible answers? I would like to suggest the following.
The purpose of God in revival is not only to see the lost saved but also to be effectively discipled. God has said that the world would know that we are His disciples when we have love for one another. According to the scriptures, in Ephesians 4: 15-16 and Colossians 3:14, complete unity is the result of the perfect bond of love; not through ministry nor organization of churches. We are brothers and sisters before we are ministers. To God, the minister is more important than the ministry, otherwise He would have taken home His wayward ministers before they fell and left their ministries in shambles.
We all know that the way the church functions today bears no resemblance to the New Testament model the way God originally designed it. Therefore, I believe that with the present model, it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to cause His love to grow in the saints for one another, to develop intimacy. I believe that as long as the structure of the Church is designed to only gather the saints in groups of hundreds or even thousands, sitting side by side once a week to listen to one man speak, effective love or reconciliation will not be possible. We do not, and cannot, make disciples the New Testament way with the existing structure of today's church; nor will we be able to effectively take care of all those who will be saved when the Spirit of God is poured out.
The sad thing is, we know this but somehow, we still are not changing our ways of doing church. We persist in our old ways knowing that not only they are not biblically patterned, but that consequently, they do not work. When are we going to be convinced that more will not make it better? We hear the call of God, but we are bound by the chains of old wineskins, and therefore God cannot bless.
I believe that the Church in cities will remain unable to be mobilized as long as we are proceeding with reconciliation and mobilization only from a structure based, ministry based, organizational base, top down, program oriented, create positions, fill in the blanks, and work through the pew method. This method has led the Church of Jesus Christ to its present stagnation mode, and the condition of our nation. More of it will not make it more effective. It is time for us, not only to admit that our way of doing things has lost effectiveness in making disciples and in reaching the lost, but also and especially to purpose to do something about it. There must be a paradigm shift on our part in the way we shepherd the Church to function. I believe that God is waiting on us, not us on Him.
The Lord showed me that neither man, nor human organizations could ever hope to bring unity in the body of Christ, that only He could. In all things, He must have the pre-eminence. He alone must be lifted up. However, as Peter Wagner says: "Only God can make a cauliflower grow, but we must plant the seed." We are co-laborers together, and with God. Therefore, even in the process of bringing His Church to complete unity in love, as He surely will, God expects us to take some steps; to do the work necessary to "plant the seed". Once we have done that, He will do the rest.
I believe that with the support and encouragement of the existing leadership of the Church, we need to approach mobilization, not only from the top down, but also and especially from the bottom up. This, from the grassroots, growth oriented, relationally based, with natural identification of leaders, birthing in every neighborhood a nucleus of Christians neighbors who will get to know each other and fellowship with one another, just as they did in the early Church. This will enable the Holy Spirit to reactivate the giftings in the saints and cause them to develop relationships and bonds of love on a neighbor to neighbor basis. Then and only then, will the Church be in a position and condition not only to nurture their newly saved neighbors, but also to absorb their large numbers when God pours out His Spirit. I have much to share about this but allocated space does not permit.
I will have joy in my heart when the Church has been turned around and neither man nor any organization can take the credit for it but only Jesus. It is for such works that I have been laboring in prayer. It is for such works that I live. Works which will be accomplished not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit. Works which will make people say "Surely, the hand of the Lord has done this."
From: Kevin Guttman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have been thinking a lot lately about the function & structure of the North American local church. It seems as if we are designed and staffed to minister to Christians rather than the lost (it doesn't have to be either or!). We all know how we got to this point, the question is what do we need to do to change in order to be more balanced? I would like to ask you to consider prayerfully and thoughtfully replying to the following questions:
How we can design and staff local churches that will reach the lost? What would it look like? How can we recapture a New Testament model of church?
My impression is that we can no longer do business as usual (Christianity in North America has remained flat or declined for the last 50 years!). As we approach the new Millenium, what do we need to do to build churches which will be Great Commission local-global churches, focused on reaching the lost? I eagerly await your reply and dialogue.
From: Roy King <RKING@ciu.edu> Very good questions about hindrances in mobilizing a city. The problem, in my opinion, is not structural or programmatic; the problem is relational. The only cure to a relational problem is long-term investment in trust and commitment to one another within a community. In our surveys of pastors for a new ministry I am starting for Columbia International University, The Center for Church Health, one of the leading symptoms of lack of health is the loneliness and isolation of the pastor. They have many surface "politely civil" relationships but little that goes beneath the surface of the soul. Unity cannot be built; it has to grow. It has to grow from one soul to another. We can be intentional and we can create a culture where it can grow but we must hold up a vision that unity is more than working a project together it is binding our hearts together. Press On!
From: John Olson <73551.3251@CompuServe.COM> (efcm)
..I want to give you mobilizers a word of encouragement. I just did a short tour and met with several individuals, a committee and had hopes of doing a network fellowship with about eight churches. But only 3 out of eight showed up. (2 from smaller churches, 1 from a large church). Was I discouraged? NO! At the end of the meeting they all said we were ready to quit before this meeting but now we are excited about continuing on! Was there a lot of hype? NO!
The big question was, how to balance the need to reach the 10/40 Window and still carry on with the other needy, nominal Christians living in lands where less than three percent know Christ and those not discipled? Thanks to Chris who gave a good answer from a missions pastor AND a missionary view point, on Sept 17. Thanks to Brad Cronbaugh for your word on the need for small & large churches. They both basically supported what I say to all churches. It is not either or but both. Yet some churches are throwing out the old for the new. Sometimes I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot with too much emphasis on one area: regional supt, policy, strategy, 10/40 window , etc.
My word to you is that ALL churches need encouragement. You may think the big ones have it all together-and they may think that too but encourage them all! Even churches with "missions pastors" may have that staff person dedicate less than 10% of their time to missions!