Local Church – As a pastor, I was a student of church growth literature. I still watch what’s happening in that world today. Recently, George Barna and Frank Viola wrote Pagan Christianity? It concludes that many of our normal local church practices are unbiblical and that a less formal, free-form church service will solve all our problems. Bill Hybels is a leader in the seeker sensitive movement and just released Reveal – Where are you? This book admits his programs didn’t produce the maturity he had hoped. Both authors offer more suggestions about changing the local church to make it more effective. There will be no shortage of books full of advice on this subject for pastors in the foreseeable future. Instead of changing the church and placing expectations on our pastor, why don’t we change?
From the Pew – I think most local churches and pastors actually do a pretty good job of getting people saved and making disciples – regardless of the style of the congregation. As a pastor, I encouraged people to get involved in the ministry of the church for several reasons:
1) I believed the local church was God’s vehicle for reaching the nations via evangelism and disciple-making (equipping the saints),
2) I believed our people could best use their gifts and ministries by helping me grow the church,
3) I believed we should hold ourselves accountable by paying attention to the number of people we successfully reached.
Note: Bill Hybels expressed my previous attitude well in his book. He says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Logically, If we believe that the local church is the hope of the world, then we put pastors in an impossible position. They become responsible for city transformation, third world evangelism, revival… and, most importantly, they become responsible for us for our entire life. That encourages us to think of the church as an island monastery full of monks and the pastor as a pope (all-controlling).
Here’s the problem – Try as I might, not everyone wanted to help me pastor and grow the church. I previously assumed that everything God was doing was through the local church. The church was God’s vehicle and, as pastor, I was the bus driver. It’s like saying schools are the hope of the world – they are important, but the world will be changed by the people that get educated and graduate from those schools. Likewise, the local church is very important as a disciple making institution but it’s not an end in itself.
I’ve since made a distinction between the local church and the Kingdom. Now I understand it’s mature believers who take their faith into the marketplace and make a difference who have the greatest “Kingdom” impact. The right of passage to being a King comes when you’re willing to take responsibility to get out and do what God has placed on your heart. The church is a great training ground but you won’t really be fulfilled until you find your role in the marketplace, contending for the Kingdom outside the local church. You don’t have to stop going to church; you do have to stop making your church the only source of your ministry fulfillment… “graduate.”
At the moment, most local churches do not have a vision to help you inherit your land in the Kingdom. That’s OK, it’s not really a church staff job to find your calling; it’s your job. Pastors are presently inclined to define the greatest expression of spiritual maturity as those who serve their vision for the local church and its activities. They will help you find a job inside the church. Serving in a local church is part of the maturing process, so it’s a good thing. However, very few Kings can survive indefinitely without pursuing their heart’s desire beyond the local church. They stagnate, get frustrated, show signs of rebellion, and get relegated to “immature” status because they are not happy serving inside the church for a lifetime.
Graduation – Here’s reality: If you’re content to define your ministry expression inside the local church, you’ll probably miss your fulfillment as a King playing a role in the marketplace and the Kingdom. Can you see that it’s not the institution of the local church that God is most excited about? He’s really excited about the fruit of the local church – the mature Christians willing to change the world. “You” are the hope of the world.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Col 1:27 KJV
Serving under “tutors and governors” in a local church is a healthy part of the mentoring process. We need to learn how to serve in a local church. However, the day comes when we Kings must contend for our inheritance. We are not household servants; we’re God’s own children.
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Gal 4:1-2 KJV
“Servant” in the above verse is doulos, the same word translated as servant in John 15:15. Pretty amazing! We are supposed to graduate from “servant” to “heirs” and then “friends” who can ask for anything in Jesus name.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 15:15-16 NIV
How long? – Many Christians that have never found their unique purpose. Others have found clues but have been afraid to pursue their heart’s desire. They are content attending and serving in church and identifying with the pastor’s vision. Nothing wrong with that. However, for Kings it is logical and normal and desirable to gravitate toward your ministry in the Kingdom and to put feet on your destiny in the marketplace. Your heart will soar when you couple vocation, prosperity and ministry in the marketplace. You’ll be amazed at the impact you can have in politics, the arts, education, and business. They all become missions! It doesn’t mean you have to leave your local church. It does mean that you lose the expectation that your pastor or church provide your ministry opportunities.
When will you be ready? As soon as you shake off the servant mentality, you and God can sort out your purpose. The goal of our local church is not monks in monasteries; we’re to produce Kings for the Kingdom who will “go and reach the nations” and change the culture to reflect Christ.
It’s here now – Have we seen a church that has made a goal of Releasing Kings? Not yet, but I believe we will in the near future. In the meantime, God is Releasing Kings on every front. Doors in the marketplace are wide open, the warfare is wide open, the fun is wide open, and the prosperity is wide open.
Surprise! – Here’s what all the expert authors don’t quite get yet; “It’s not about the local church or how its structured or programmed or marketed or pastored. It’s all about you. You are the hope of glory… the hope of the world.” The structure of the local church may never be perfect but an army of believers will become that spotless bride and contend for the Kingdom.
Please – don’t interpret this newsletter as an encouragement to walk away from your local church. We’re currently in a transition. We need pastor’s with a vision to release Kings. We need to support pastors and plant those releasing churches now more than ever. We can have both; healthy local churches that equip the saints for ministry and graduates with a focus on the marketplace that do ministry; that impact cities, and nations, and cultures, and the world.
Life is an adventure. People are a blessing. God is amazing. We’re winning.