catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 21 :: 2011.11.25 — 2011.12.08


Changing methods, unchanging message

I’ve been a PK (preacher’s kid) since I was six and a P (preacher) since I was twenty-six. Prior to then, I cut my teeth on the back of pews and rattled the nerves of nursery workers and teachers. Even as a rebellious teenager and unfocused young adult, I maintained my commitment to the church. I’m one who can say I went to church before I was born.

I’ve seen the worst in people and the best. I’ve watched good friends run my father off, and I’ve had apparent supporters stab me in the back. I’ve been in churches where the congregation could fit in the living room of an old home, and I’ve preached in churches that would seat 500. I’ve talked with church planters who couldn’t scare up one interested individual to attend a Bible study and listened while others told of starting with a few and producing a thousand.

The church is an interesting organization and perhaps therein lies the dilemma. Jesus didn’t design it as a structured institute but an organism that lives, breathes and grows. He told the nucleus of the early church, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV). He gave a message to share, but avoided any method except going.

Churches began as small groups in individual homes. Fellowship and eating were common. In time, elaborate buildings, traditions and customs developed, often obscuring the original simple message of God’s love. Churches once stabilized communities in the U.S., but no longer. They are still found on every corner in the Bible Belt and randomly scattered in the remaining states, but one statistic remains steady: only twenty percent are growing while eighty percent are plateaued or declining.

Churches can only emanate a life-giving message when they die to what’s killing them. Adhering to the original message while changing and even killing methods will ensure this happens. Inclusiveness will build the church, while exclusivity will destroy it. Most of the eighty percent could be resurrected if racial, gender, social and tradition barriers were removed, but laziness, stereotyping and refusing to change keeps many churches out of the twenty percent.

The heavenly church will be what most earthly ones aren’t: united, diverse and non-denominational. Doctrine is essential, as is the original message. But methods, traditions and mindsets must constantly change if the church is going to live for a dying world.

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