“If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief.”
Let me recap some of what we have been covering. First, we find “church” has gotten to be a spectator sport in that a crowd gathers regularly to watch a group of professionals entertain them. I know that sounds very cynical, but it is supported in the fact that there is little (if any) wholesale evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit changing people’s lives. After all, we have the Creator of the Universe living inside of us, don’t we? Yes, some enjoy great fruit, but we simply don’t see that across the board. Furthermore, we see little evidence of spiritual discipline in place. Take tithing, for example. While a case can be made that tithing is not supported in the New Testament, we do have great principles to follow. Are we tithing? Not even close.
Furthermore, what little money that is given is immediately soaked up in overhead – building and salaries. Yes, some churches may give some money for mission work, but, really, churches are forever banging the collection cup. There is no real “excess” that make it into the mission field.
But wait a minute, Mister! Aren’t buildings and pastoral salaries mission work?
You could argue that, but I would counter that there are more efficient ways to spend the money on reaching the lost, for example parachurch organizations. We are required to be wise with all that God has given us. Are we getting the most bang from our buck, or are our pastors getting fat off the flock?
Certainly, the New Testament makes the case for the church supporting the apostles. It also makes a great case of the apostles supporting themselves. For an excellent discussion on this, see: https://www.bible-bridge.com/pauls-income-four-reasons-why-paul-worked-day-job/
Still, the apostles were the ones going “out.” They were the missionaries. Paul said they had the right to be compensated by the church, but he also worked for his living (remember, he was a tentmaker). What about the local pastors back then? Did they get all their compensation from the local church, or did they have regular jobs like Paul? I don’t know. I’ll bet they were more like Paul than what we see today.
We need to look at things differently if we hope to emulate the early church. We can’t envision our pastoral staff working regular jobs, can we? Who would have the time to do both? That is true, because they are highly-trained specialists with sharp divisions of labor. Besides, they are trying to minister to a huge flock, most of whom are there out of habit rather than for real change. Remember, I argued that there are very few members who are really engaged. If we focus on the few who are, then we have a different picture.
In fact, we have an entirely different picture. Remember my example the other day? We went from a staff of four to a staff of one. We also had a highly-motivated congregation who is eager to assume leadership responsibilities. In fact, that one staff person might be able to do a great job leading on a part-time basis. Who knows, maybe it could even be a voluntary position! Could it be that the pastor then could spend a great deal of time sharing the gospel to a lost and dying world? Or, maybe he gets a full-time job for compensation outside of the church so that he may be an agent of change in the marketplace?
Think about this, folks. Go back and review https://hislightshines.com/2019/05/23/2019-05-23-the-80-20-principle/ for a look at the numbers. What if most of that money from the “core” group was available to directly impact the kingdom? Right now, the few pay for overhead for the majority with little real impact. What if the majority of money was spent elsewhere?
Folks, I’m heading in a direction that is far, far different than church as usual. What if that “core” group of 40 families split up into eight home churches? We’ve already established that these folks are fully capable of understanding the gospel and making disciples. Why do they need to be tied to a church that prevents them from doing either? And why should they give their money to a church that doesn’t bear much fruit, if any fruit at all?
Might we make a far bigger impact for the kingdom by going small? Might the whole idea of big be counter-productive to the gospel message?
You tell me folks. Are you seeing the same kind of behavior in your church as was recorded of the early church? Is Christianity exploding in the USA? Or, are we ignoring warnings that we find in scripture?
Ezekiel 34:10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Revelation 3:1-6 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Folks, these warnings should terrify us. Do they? They did me. Honestly, I tried to talk to my church, several times, but it all fell on dead ears. They are proud of their accomplishments. So, I quit. Jesus’ warnings absolutely terrify me. If my church won’t change, then I’ll change without them.
Father, I need wisdom. And courage. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers
Photo courtesy of Candace Hensley of C&C Photography http://www.candcphotog.com