Wednesday, December 26, 2018 -
Today I was very engrossed in reading Francis Chan’s book, “Letters to the Church,” which my son William gave me for Christmas. In fact, I just finished it. Francis Chan was a mega-church pastor who God convicted that he was going about church in all the wrong ways. He believes as I have believed for decades, but unlike me not following the Holy Spirit’s leading, he did – giving up his church and starting over, this time planting house churches no larger than 20 people. So far there are 40 in Northern California. He is doing this and wrote this book, not because it’s a better strategy for church growth, but because it is the Biblical way – portrayed in the New Testament. The American model of church has become one that pleases man, rather than pleasing God. It actually inhibits spiritual growth. The first church was built on the things that pleased God most. The people were devoted to God’s Word (the apostle’s teaching), prayer, fellowship, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:43). They had all things in common, meeting one another’s needs. Today, the average person spends maybe 90 minutes at a church merely as a consumer – for what they can get; and never contributes anything, stirring no one to action (Heb. 10:24-25). The structure of today’s modern church actually stunts people’s growth, and the whole body is weaker for it. We must ask, is larger really better?
In our arrogance, we have created something we think works better. But with Scripture acting as our starting point, we should, instead of asking what people would like, what would please God most. Awe and miracles followed the early church’s simple obedience. They did nothing to conjure it up. They devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). By trying, in today’s church, to keep everyone interested and excited, we’ve created a cheap substitute for devotion. What if we spent more time publicly reading the Word and encouraging others to read the Bible? Do you think God really wants a bunch of well-attended mega-churches filled with people desperate to be entertained, or a much smaller number of people truly devoted to God’s Word, holiness, and one another? God’s Word should be riveting enough!
In that same vein, everyone should show up willing to serve (Phil. 2:1-8) others. Paul says in I Cor. 12 everyone has a supernatural ability to bless others in the church with a specific gift. Furthermore, the early church matured and disciplined its numbers, creating a multiplying effect of both leaders and churches. Today, there is a great lack of the church nurturing its members. Instead, any member of any church should be able to be dropped off in a city where they could grow in Jesus, make disciples, and start a church. Each person must be trained to be independently dependent on the Holy Spirit. Church buildings are instead filled with self-centered people coming to consume. The answer is not just telling them to stop being so selfish. Pastors need to engage them in helping the lost and desperate around the world. The church also needs to look for unlikely leaders. Furthermore, today’s church should accept and embrace suffering for righteousness’ sake as the norm. Scriptures are loaded with this recurring theme, which the Western church has come to look upon as an alien concept. When these things happen, an army of mature, multiplying believers is released upon the world, just like in the early church.
Francis Chan then concludes with the practical ways, not necessarily biblical principles, which will impact the world for Christ. For example, there is no need for building projects, for paying pastors and other staff, freeing up tithes and offerings to be used to help others in need, tackle severe social or societal problems, and to support the missions efforts of those actively reaching unreached people groups where you or I cannot go. But it is going to take the humble in spirit to move in this way, completely sold out to God’s Word and dependent entirely on the Holy Spirit. This book has truly convicted me of what God showed me years ago, but which I sinfully neglected to act upon. For that, I repent.