UnChurching – The Modern Church Dilemma

DilemmaThis article about “unchurching” furthers the discussion from our article “The 12 Reasons Why “Mature” Christians No Longer Go To Church”. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you see if you identify with any of the reasons why so many believers in the West are unchurching… why so many struggle to fit in a traditional, institution church setting.

Many of those who are “unchurching” state the contemporary, institutional church is a man-made construct and therefore is irrelevant. There are other reasons these believers give for unchurching, but if you will permit me, I want to tackle the issue of why some believers say they no longer need a traditional church after their formative years.  Let’s look at the beginning phase of our spiritual journey to see how it might affect our perception of a church community today.

Your First Family-Church Model – Winning People to Christ.

This is like our biological family. A man and a woman (pastor and board) enter a marriage covenant (church bylaws) so they can bring children (new believers) into the world, in a safe, structured environment. The father and mother are the preeminent authority in the house (church). They are responsible to protect, provide, and train their children for least 18 years. Our parents (God), has His hands all over us during this season of life. When we are children (immature believers) we are completely dependent on the adults who provide us with a house, a bed, a bathroom, cloths, food, water, electricity etc. Since these new believers are vulnerable to deception and abuse, it is important that they submit to their spiritual parent’s loving authority. Accountability to this authority is needed during their formative years. Here are some things they will experience in this environment:

  • Regular Meals and Shelter.
  • Authority and Order.
  • Right and Wrong.
  • Discipline and Punishment.
  • Protection (covering) until They are Adults.
  • Their First Community Culture.
  • Their First House.

When people become part of an existing family (church) as adults (mature believers) the dynamics are much different. Accommodating these “adopted grown-up believers” can sometimes be a wearisome challenge for leadership.

For the millions of believers who are “unchurching”, they often express the same kind of disillusionments and disagreements that an emerging young adult experiences with their parents and siblings at home.

Is This About Cross-Less Christians?

Critics of “unchurching believers” say those leaving church think they are too mature to stay home, but are actually too immature to lay their lives down to help around the house or start their own family. Could these “dones” be unhappy because they feel it is all about them? Are their criticisms simply a case of “Moses and Cross-less Believers”? I once heard of a survey of 1000 pastors and churches that asked; “What is the purpose of the church”? 91% of the pastors stated; “the purpose of the church was to win the lost”. Not surprisingly, 89% of the people in those congregations said, “the purpose of the church was to meet the needs of me and my family”. As you can see, leadership and their congregations often don’t see eye to eye. One leader responded to criticisms of his church by saying; “We may be doing Church wrong, but I think God likes the way we are doing it wrong better than the way you are not doing it all”Unchurching

Is this a case of believers who carry a cross and follow Jesus and those who don’t? In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus said we each need to deny ourselves, take up “our” cross and follow Him…daily.

Maybe It’s Not About Carry A Cross, But About Gifting

Some believer’s dissatisfaction with church might be connected to the fact that they no longer appreciate the dominate gifting of (dad) the lead minister. For example; if you were raised by an evangelistic pastor, you may now be drawn to a teaching pastor, or vice versa. If we reluctantly stay at home, conflict may arise from our criticisms, and we may unknowingly try to create our leader according to our preferences. This is when we attempt to “Create Our Leaders in Our Image”.

Just what is the dominate gifting of the leaders at your church? According to Acts 2:42-47, there are 5 purposes of the Church. Rick Warren wrote about the five purposes of a church in “The Purpose Driven Church”. Your leader and your church may have one of those purposes driving their identity and mission. Some large churches try to be and do all five.

I will leave you with this diagram to look over and to ponder; Is there one aspect of the 5 purposes of the Church that has influenced your decision to stay or leave? Is the group you are a part of now doing one or more of these purposes? Does one of these purposes reignite your passion for the ministry of Jesus?

5 Purpose of the Church

We Are Jesus Christ Regional Hospital

As believers from different camps continue to work together as never before, I find it helpful to use the following analogy whenever misunderstandings do arise. Sometimes we divide over our lack of understanding about how the Lord gifted us and our ministry houses. The Lord gave to the Church those with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching graces to bring the Body of Christ to health and maturity. We humans can be down on what we are not up on. In my book “Working Together for Jesus” I use the analogy of a hospital to help believers see Christ’s Kingdom in operation in their town. Just as in the natural realm we can see that each of the different ministries is necessary to heal the lost and hurting of our world. Follow me as we spend a day at Jesus Christ Regional Hospital in your local city.

General Practitioners – Pastors

Surrounding Jesus Christ Regional we see dozens of doctors’ offices and clinics (churches) where they attend to their patientsDoctor day in and day out. From infants to the elderly, these general practitioners (pastors) see everything under the sun. They are the true backbone of God’s health care system. They know every part of human anatomy and treat their patients with love and great concern year in and year out. They inspect their patients from head to toe looking for any sign of sickness. These G.P.’s are usually over-worked as they attempt to care for all their patients in their congregations. “How do you feel? How are you doing? Where does it hurt? It’s going to be alright. I want to see you in two weeks” are common statements heard in these doctor/pastor offices. These shepherds gladly embrace the responsibility of every individual’s well-being in the Body.

Paramedics – Evangelists

Suddenly we hear the sound of sirens and air horns. We see flashing lights of an ambulance (sounds like a typical evangelistic service) and a rescue squad as they leave the hospital to another tragedy. These paramedics (evangelists) rush to the scene with great boldness and energy. In dramatic fashion they arrive at the accident scene with a sense of urgency with their “Jaws of Life” to pry open the awful wreckage caused by the devil. These aggressive ministers move quickly to the hurting, often risking their own lives as they enter the fiery accident or collapsing building (the devastated situations people get themselves into).

They can appear to be rough and abrasive as they tear off the clothes of the injured and insert tubes and wires into them. They often beat on their patient’s chest, blow in their mouths and sometimes cut off limbs in an effort to remove them from the wreckage or bring them back to life. Their eyes scour the scene (the congregation or crowd) looking for any signs of other victims who need their help. Paramedic

An ignorant bystander might think these insensitive rescue workers are doing more harm than good and cry out, “Hey, what are you doing?” Their quick, assertive response sounds almost threatening as they shout back, “I’m trying to save their lives!”

You know you are near one of these ministers because you hear phrases like deliverance, set free, power of God, healing, anointing, breaking strongholds. Everything at the accident scene (the evangelist’s meeting) seems like a life or death situation needing dramatic action. This is nothing like the pastor’s office. Crowds of people are quickly attracted to the action as they drop everything to see what’s happening at the scene (the revival service).

The general practitioner (pastors) rarely sees this kind of excitement and activity in their office (local church) but appreciate (or they should) the paramedic’s function. With lights flashing and sirens screaming (sound systems blaring) they rush to the hospital with great drama. They go from one dramatic event to another. They blow in, blow up and blow out of town as quickly as they came.

Medical School – Teachers

Meanwhile, students from the Medical School which is attached to the East Wing of the hospital are observing procedures in Teacherthe Emergency Room. As the ambulance arrives and victims are carried into the hospital (the local church), the paramedics (evangelists) appear to dominate the atmosphere of the E.R. The visiting professors (teachers) with their new students offer insights as they critique the rescue workers’ procedures. These teachers are needed to introduce new or corrective techniques into the ministry to help save lives. Their research has also revealed the strengths and weaknesses of certain ministry styles and philosophies. They are alert to the theological ramifications that the rest of the ministers often overlook. Their work has revealed the harmful effects of certain medicines and procedures that need to be heeded. But sometimes their classrooms are so far removed from the reality of the sights, sounds and smells of the real world, their advice can fall on deaf ears which is regrettable for all, especially if you’re the patient.

Surgeons – Prophets

Further in the hospital complex we see a surgeon (prophet) entering the O.R. for a specialized surgery on a difficult case. Sometimes considered aloof or even elitist, these spiritual surgeons rarely deal with the mundane, day to day work of caring for people. They are not usually seen as a team player (though they should be). Their work is specialized. Once given the signed consent from the patient they perform delicate, critical invasive procedures with great skill. Let’s face it; most of us don’t want to find ourselves truly needing their ministry. It is usually after trying everything else and experiencing great personal suffering that we go to the prophet to hear the penetrating word of the Lord.

For many believers, their walk has been superficial and full of denial about their sinful habits or compromise; if given permission the surgeon can remove that cancerous denial or idol and save your spiritual life. This kind of ministry requires a sterile environment. Thus atmosphere (worship) plays a big part in the success of their ministry. They work under extremely bright lights and want everything exposed to the light. They are gifted to see and understand a person’s insides (MRI) to get to the root of the problem. They also have unparalleled insight and knowledge (discernment) of the latest techniques to fight disease (the devil) and the inner workings of the human body (heart & soul) as it relates to a holy God.surgeon

Many times they use unorthodox and never before seen measures to save a life. Sometimes it may take years before the rest of God’s health care community (the Body of Christ) will ratify and accept these new procedures. Some of these ministers appear almost other-worldly in their demeanor. As super-spiritual as some of these specialists (prophets) may appear to be, if you needed spiritual brain surgery this is the ministry gift to do it.

We need to be grateful to the Lord that these prophets have separated themselves for their life’s work. We need to thank God for the function they serve. Your life, or the life of someone you love, may depend on them some day.

Don’t You Wish More Christians Would Understand This?

As you can see, at Jesus Christ Regional Hospital every ministry gift serves a vital role to the well-being of the people. Each gift could be jealous or critical of the other, but if we focus on the hurting it becomes clear, that we need each other. If you were the one hurting and you were being cared for by these four spiritual professionals, wouldn’t you want them to communicate with each other concerning your personal spiritual chart?

Why haven’t we been working together better? What can we do to fix the dysfunction in the Church? What about those with an apostolic grace? I’ve been hoping you were going to ask that. In the next few pages we will discuss that missing element in the Church today.

Don’t you think more people would reach maturity if these professionals worked together? Ministry leaders need to recognize that every Christian needs to be touched by all the Lord’s health professionals if they are going to be whole. Let’s work together so the Church can truly be an effective hospital to the world. “Here’s a good place for someone to say Amen.”

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus

The Tension Between Those Who “Defend” And Those Who “Extend” The Faith

Clip 21To help illustrate the tension between Christians and the ministry leaders in our towns today, we will initially categorize them into two basic groups. Just as the human heart pumps blood away from it to the body and back to it, Christian Ministry also flows in two directions. Please allow me the liberty to generalize these groups for our discussion. Those who “Defend the Faith” are primarily Pastoral and Teachers. Those who “Extend the Faith” are primarily Apostolic, Prophetic and Evangelistic. Those who defend the faith are similar to a mother caring for the kids at home. Those who extend the faith are similar to the father taking the kids with him to work. One is wired to be care-takers, while the other is wired to be risk-takers. For more on this see God’s Ministry Assembly Line.

One camp could be characterized as settlers, the other as pioneers. Similar to our early American settlements, one would be concerned with establishing Boonsboro. The others, like Daniel Boone himself, would be looking over the next mountain ridge to scout out new territory for God. Without pioneers, the Church would never take ground; without settlers, the Church would never keep the ground which has been taken.

One group is mostly concerned with “Maintaining the People of God”, while the other group is focused on “Advancing the Purposes of God.” One group desires to establish the people in Biblical Truth while the other motivates the people to exercise Biblical Action.

It is the tension between these two camps that results in much of the disunity among Christian leaders in cities today. These differences are even more prevalent than the doctrinal and cultural differences that divide us! Most of our problems with each other are more psychological than theological. In fact, most of the attacks we suspect are from evil spirits working in other people are actually our misunderstandings of their gifting.

When a person in ministry doesn’t flow the way we are gifted, we can view them as a hindrance to what we believe God has called us to do. Pastors/teachers may see the emotionally charged or “hyper spiritual” services of the prophets/evangelists as a carnal or even demonic attempt to manipulate and coerce the people. Prophets/evangelists sometimes believe the reserved and cerebral emphasis of the pastors/teachers and perceive they are operating in a dead religious or Pharisee spirit. To see this in operation see We Are Jesus Christ Regional Hospital.

This can separate leaders for months and years. Much of what some do in ministry today is often more about slamming the other camp than advancing the kingdom of God. If we remain teachable, the Lord will reveal to us that those other ministers are not from the devil but are the other ministry gifts we are supposed to work alongside of.

The balance we and God’s flock need is not found in our own kind, but in those ministers we often think are working against us or holding us back. It usually takes years and many broken relationships before the typical minister realizes this fact. Unless a minister has attended “Roadkill Seminary” and experienced true brokenness he or she won’t be able to fully incorporate this revelation into their daily lives. The reason is, we are too busy building our kingdoms, our way, to be bothered with material like this, that addresses the believer’s inner life. Be forewarned! God is much more concerned about reaching all of you than He is about you reaching all of the world!

Excerpt from “Working Together for Jesus”

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