And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20
The world is in desperate need of Jesus Christ and, many times, members of "churches" are the stumbling blocks to people wanting to take that final step to committing themselves to their One True King. Understand, that I believe that being part of local body is a key component to the sanctification/maturation process of every believer! Scripture commands it:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Fellowship with other believers is essential for Christians because being around other Christians keeps the flames burning. At times, it may be just embers, but the collection is still warm enough to have an effect! But a key part is often missed between both passages above: Who is the church?
The early church was not the monoliths occupying land around the world. The early church was in the homes of stalwart converts eager to learn and love The Light of the World in towns and cities full of darkness. The Great Commission is about touching souls! The Great Confusion is about breaking land!
The Great Confusion is the nonsensical plan of church communities to over-saturate towns and cities with church buildings of many, if not the same, denominations. In Indianapolis alone, there are many corners with as many as three (3) separate churches! Differing personalities foster an atmosphere of contention as they fight for the hearts of a community that needs selfless servant-leaders!
Sadly, it's not only small churches that carry on in this horrible practice. Mega churches (+1500 members) are planting churches within one mile of preexisting churches with the hope of reaching the community better, or in tandem. But how does this really build disciples when attending church becomes a buffet option rather than luxury feel? Albeit, there are many churches serving fast food Christianity and may need a more mature presence. But the current trend seems to fly in the face of what the Bible declares:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth Acts 1:8 (emphasis added)
and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation Romans 15:20 (emphasis added)
This is not a slam on planting churches. It is only a word of caution to those with visions to reach a community and city that has more than its fair share of churches. Instead of sharing the Word, we create ministries focused to catering to their preferences of worship style or ethnicity! The real goal is to be teaching and living the Word so it becomes a savory delight for consumption, conviction and conversion.
One of the biggest problems in over-church-planting is the need for funds, volunteer members, funds, volunteer servants and funds! It is more than reckless to expect any family (regardless of their finances) to pay for more churches in the same city! Worse is the fact that we build more structures that remain UNOCCUPIED throughout the better part of the week! Utility bills and taxes need to be paid to maintain a building that is not always available to the community it is supposed to serve! How is this fulfilling the Great Commission?
Worse, in the desperation to build more churches, the clergy will disparage the laity. Sermons are carefully crafted to talk about relationships with Christ with the ultimate goal of squeezing out more time, talent and treasure from failing families already over-committed! Clergy guilts attendees for not being at church every week! WHERE IS GRACE?
Do we even know why some people will not make it to church on more than one occasion? Are we willing to ask the right questions? Or are we so desperate to have things "our" way that we are willing to accept the collateral damage of our egos?
I remember serving in a ministry where I was a teacher. I was expected to be at the church 30 minutes early to prep for class. Somehow, someway, that extra 30 minutes was going to make me a better teacher than the week of preparation already accumulated! I am sure we can find the Bible passage to support such heresy! I was a divorced parent whose child had many issues with incontinence. So, there would be many times that when I should have been driving three minutes to church, but was patiently waiting for my child to work through their constipation. Was there grace? NO! I was publicly ridiculed for not being early to teach! I am thankful to the Holy Spirit for assisting me in enduring such folly.
Even now, I have three (3) beautiful princesses who, on occasion, also get sick. So, church is missed because my wife and I respect the ministry and other parents to not bring a petri dish to the nursery nor children's church! Instead of being appreciated for not spreading an outbreak, we receive condemnation. I have served in several churches where parents bring their sick kids to church and have gone home with death-like flu symptoms! Praise God I am alive because the mutant green nasal secretions were a clear indication of sickness. How many of these parents brought their kids out of obligation to attend to avoid being bullied for staying home?
Hebrews 10:24-25 becomes the war cry for mandatory perfect church attendance. The guise is speak against Lone Ranger Christians. The goal is get that check coming in the door to sponsor egos! Again, how does this positively touch souls for Christ?
If there is to be any condemnation to people, it should come from Trinity! Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me!" It is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict, not us! Preach the Word with clarity and compassion!
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,1 Peter 3:15 (emphasis added).
Be the Church!