December, 12 2019
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Doing the stuff!

Apr 26, 2014 at 23:37

 

"Billions of dollars have been wasted in constructing and maintaining unscriptural church buildings, in glitzy, manipulative media evangelism and dishing out toothless paper degrees.  None of these tags provide entry into heaven.  All this wealth could have been used for advancing the Kingdom by training skilled fishers of men, ameliorating poverty and in meeting the needs of the 10\40 window countries.  Remember there will be no shanty towns in the New Jerusalem (Acts 20-33-35)."  Meta Church, Victor Choudhrie

Quotes like the one above from Victor Choudhrie,  who has multiplied disciples into the millions, make some of my friends on Face Book want to "unfriend" me.  One wrote to me in a very respectful, brotherly manner asking me why I do this.  He was mature and thoughtful and did not demean the discussion by accusing me of thinking this way because I had been hurt or had issues of bitterness so I took some time to respond.

Dear Friend, Thank you for your thoughtful push back regarding our emails and Face Book postings.   You feel we unfairly attack the institutional, congregational church.   For the first 35 years of my christian walk I worked hard,  sometimes double tithed, gave offerings, fasted, prayed and generally did all that I could to make the congregational system work and multiply.  We saw some small "success" and made some friends in the journey but never really saw any fruitfulness worthy of the One who called Himself "The Lord of the Harvest".  

We loved preaching and some of the most exciting life moments were on the stage.  However, I realize that those in the entertainment industry feel the same "anointing" as they preform.  The sound of the football chants, the U2 concerts and the high praise and worship is the same.  The emotional fulfillment is the same.  The crowd dynamics are the same.   Why would Jesus send the crowds away in order to invest in the 12? We judge success by the size of the crowd and the feeling of the moment.   He did not.  I began to question the system.

I  began to question the system when we began to hear about disciple making movements that were baptizing hundreds of thousands and mobilizing labourers from those same harvest fields to multiply that process of disciple making in a simple, relational process where ever life happened- in the street, in the home, in school, under a tree, in a tea house or at work.  Movements like the one begun by Victor Choudhrie.

Our questions about the system became stronger when leaders failed.  At first  we thought that was the result of character flaws, lack of friendships and, of course,  that is  true but we began to question the system in which relationships are hierarchical, positional and organized by power as being the largest contributing factor to such failure.  Friends speak the truth to one another.  In a hierarchy you do not have friends.  You have competitors for your position, your place is contingent upon performance & gift rather than character and you have members who support you.  We began to question all of this when we confronted gross sin, financial mismanagement and lies in the circles that we touched.  We began to question it even more when we began to hear about disciple making movements whose disciple makers were primarily lay, bi-vocational, trained on the job and baptizing thousands of new followers.  Yes, there are still moral failures but at least the system does not work against relationships and truth telling and reward gifted con artists.

We questioned our  involvement in the congregational system when we faced the reality that centuries of mission work to Muslims had born absolutely no fruit but that in this century we are now seeing at least 80 (as documented by David Garrison's "A Wind in the House of Islam" ) disciple making movements creating hundreds of thousands of followers of Jesus all across the Muslim world and that all of these function outside of the institutional system that I had served for so long.  

Yes,  there are many committed, sacrificial servants of Jesus within each denominational system.  I was one.  However, I had to face the truth that what I was doing was not fruitful and and that most of the resources in people and funding were committed to keeping the buildings and the leaders going while the poor got second best.  The mortgage got first priority, the leader's salary got second while actual mission and the poor got the left overs.  It was a religious business.  Jesus gave the poor first priority.  Are we not to be His followers?  Yes, many good communities exist doing good things but I like Peter Drucker's statement that "Nothing is a useless as doing well what should not be done at all."    That is my view of the building and event based system even when it is doing its best.  To me it has become abundantly clear that if we build church, we lose the Kingdom but if we seek to make devoted followers of Jesus first and serve the poor,  then community is shaped by and around that and we extend the Kingdom. 

"If we would do what Jesus commanded and exampled and make disciples then He could do what He promised and build His church."   Church is a family on mission with Jesus.  Church is not a meeting,  an event, a place or a building.  Most would say that and then in practise deny it.  We do not lack orthodoxy.  We lack orthopraxy.  And I am not an advocate of house church per se.  If you put your butt on a pew or on a couch makes little difference if you are simply a consumer of spiritual information and experiences.  House church solves nothing if the mentality has not changed. It makes many problems worse.

All of these factors came together so that I could no longer work in the congregational system.  For the third year now we have taken no money from our donors for our personal living or travel.  We are working & investing to build business income streams so that we can live and travel on our own dime.  Acts 20:32- 35 came to loom larger and larger in my consciousness until I simply had to act accordingly.  

If what we are saying is so distressing to you, by all means "unfriend".  However, I think you may wish to ask yourself why you are so distressed.  You may find that you are wrestling with these same issues.

Wrestling is good and you may wish to wrestle with David Garrison's Church Planting Movements as a starter to understand why I could not longer support building, meeting, preaching based expressions and when I began to read the scriptures through the lens of disciple making movements why I found all other expressions to be less than what Jesus asked us to do and be.  Maybe give our Luke 10 Manual a read and understand our journey?

The congregational system  in a building or in a house is simply is not a vehicle for harvest and for disciple making.   The Jerusalem model of church did not last.  It was not sustainable then and it is not sustainable now.  As Neil Cole says, "The main impediments to disciple making movements are the three big "Bs"- Big Shots, Budgets and Buildings."

My main problem with the congregational system is that it  cannot get the job done and actually proves over and over again to be an impediment to getting the job done that Jesus asked us to do.

 

Your brother

Steve

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