Dedicated to helping the church in America find their purpose, define their mission and reach their community. Vol. 3
Editorial What is your church doing to keep people from becoming “done”?
Article The Rise of the Dones
9 12 14 17
By Steve Hewitt
By Thom Schultz
Reviving the Small Church Part 6 – Keeping the Fire Stoked
Cover Story Have We Overemphasized Evangelism? Why is the church in America in decline By Steve Hewitt Part 3
By Michael Henderson Editor-in-Chief
Steve Hewitt - firstname.lastname@example.org
Staying Power Resting in Your Call
Contributing Editors Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz David Murrow
By George Cannon
Copy Editor Gina Hewitt
From Church Hoppers Same-Sex Marriages By Jerry (Doc) Bentley
No Longer Church As Usual It Ain’t None of Our Business!
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What is your church doing to keep people from becoming “done”? If you read the article from Thom Schultz this month, you will see his reporting on the Future of the Church Summit held by Group Publishing last month. One of the reports presented during the summit related to new studies that show a growing number of past church members who are stating they are simply “done” with the church. They drop out. They are not stating they are upset with their pastor or are leaving due to some conflict within the church, but they are simply burned out and done. They do not see any value in continuing to attend and support their local church. So, here is my question to you! What are you doing to prevent your members from becoming burned out or “done”? I am not sure I have the solution. I HAVE read some good authors who offered some suggestions, but I want to know what our readers think. Or, if you are experiencing this in your church, people simply dropping out, what do you think should be done? The American Church Magazine®
Drop me an email (email@example.com). I will compile the best comments and solutions offered into an article we will publish next month. Do not worry, I am going to keep all comments anonymous, so please don’t worry, your comments will not come back to haunt you. Be as honest as you wish! This is a growing crisis for the American church and we need to hear from pastors in the field!
Together We Serve Him,
Steve Hewitt firstname.lastname@example.org
Have We Overemphasized Evangelism? Why is the church in America in decline – Part 3 A series by Steve Hewitt
everal years ago, while watching a LifeTree Café episode on what people think about Christians, I heard for the first time a new complaint. People on the street basically said, “All churches want to do is have you “get saved” and then they don’t care anything more about you!” I have to be honest, my first reaction was, “Wow, I suppose people would complain if we threw water on them if they were on fire!” But my second reaction was to give this some thought. If you have been a long time reader of CCMag, you may know that I was a pastor for many years, in a denomination that strongly emphasized evangelism. You were always expected to offer an invitation at the end of the service, which limited the The American Church Magazine®
“meat” of your sermon since it was to be designed for the “non-Christian”, at least as you prepared to wrap up your message and offer the alter call for evangelism. I also remember a few years ago, as I started a new church. The church was non-denominational and my messages had changed. My messages emphasized helping people to learn better how to love God and love others. We didn’t give an invitation at
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the end of the service, and after just a few months, it was made clear to me by a family that had visited, that they wouldn’t be coming back BECAUSE we didn’t offer an alter call invitation at the end of the service. We baptized 8-9 that first year, which was pretty good considering we only started with five people when we established the church and if we had 35 it was a great crowd. We actually had a special time after our Sunday services called “Pizza with Steve” about once every three months. During this time I shared what was required if people wanted to become members of our church, and of course the first requirement was that they be a Christian. In the course of sharing how a person became a Christian, we saw the decisions by people to become a Christian, and thus the baptisms. What message did I send to people back in my days of being a pastor in the late 70’s and through the early 90’s when I was an “evangelic” pastor? In looking back, I think I might have erred. I was driven to bring people to Christ. And what about after they had been baptized? I have to confess, I think I measured their discipleship by their continual attendance. As long as they continued to come on Sunday and hear me preach, and as long as they hopefully attended what we called Sunday school, I felt I was a success. In retrospect, I now doubt my success. After all, what separated me from an insurance salesman? Most insurance sales persons are not all that popular (remember the salesman in “Ground Hog Day”?) Insurance sales people basically want you to sign up, commit to making your payments, and they basically drop out of sight. I think that might be why State Farm runs those commercials and has the theme song “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” Two guys are out sightseeing in a park with buffalo, and one sticks its head inside their car. They sing the theme song, and the State Farm agent appears, and “pop” they are safe back in the State Farm office. Of course no one really believes State Farm agents can teleport themselves, but the point of the commercial is “we care what happens to you after the sale”. I think I failed to do this when I was a pastor. And, from the comments I hear from the “unchurched” they feel others have failed as well. What have we been offering new Christians after they are “marked”? The opportunity to serve on a committee? The opportunity to give us their money The American Church Magazine®
so we can afford to keep up our buildings and pay our employees? Of course there is so much more to Christianity, but I think it benefits us well to do some self-examination to be sure we are really leading people to a greater relationship with God and not just a membership in our organization. If we have indeed started them in the right direction, what part does church actually play in their ongoing relationship with God? How many times do they need to hear a sermon on Noah and the Ark? How many times do the need to study David and Goliath in Sunday school? How do they relate to serving on the kitchen committee as part of their relationship with God? In this issue, we are republishing a blog written by Thom Schultz. In it he explains a new demographic that is growing in our country. Of course, most realize that 20% of Americans now designate themselves as the “nones”, meaning they are nonaffiliated with any religion. But, as he points out, a new group, designated as the “dones” have risen. They are people who say they are Christians, have a history of being involved in a church, but presently have declared their self “done” with church. They didn’t leave because they were mad at a particular pastor, or because of a conflict that happened at their church, but they simply came to the conclusion that they were “done”. It makes me wonder if we have overemphasized evangelism, and simply failed to present a reason for these people to stay with the church. Thom is getting a lot of response from his blog, and I want to hear from you as well. Check out this month’s editorial, and watch for an email after Thanksgiving that will repeat the “question of the month” as it relates to this subject. I am not going to be bold enough to present solutions to this problem. I believe I do understand the feelings of those that are being expressed by the “dones”, and I have some opinions, but I want to hear from pastors of all denominations, church sizes and locations. So, drop me an email and let me know what you think about the question asked in the title of this article, and read the editorial to find the follow up question for this month!
The Rise of the Dones By Thom Schultz
ohn is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously, and leads others passionately. But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event. John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”
John is one in a growing multitude of ex-members. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They have not joined the also-growing legion of those with no religious affiliation–often called the Nones. Rather, John has joined the Dones. At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best. The American Church Magazine®
For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support, are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews. Why are the Dones done? Packard describes several factors in his upcoming book, Church Refugees (Group). Among the reasons: After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One of Packard’s interviewees said, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just
done with having some guy tell me what to do.” The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn. Will the Dones return? Not likely, according to the research. They’re done. Packard says it would be more fruitful if churches would focus on not losing these people in the first place. Preventing an exodus is far easier than attempting to convince refugees to return. Pastors and other ministry leaders would benefit from asking and listening to these long-time members, before they flee. This will require a change of habit. When it comes to listening, church leaders are too often in the habit of fawning over celebrity pastors for answers. It would be far more fruitful to take that time and spend it with real people nearby–existing members. Ask them some good questions, such as: • Why are you a part of this church? • What keeps you here? • Have you ever contemplated stepping away from church? Why or why not?
WITH A MAJORITY OF ALL SPENDING HAPPENING ELECTRONICALLY WHY RISK MISSING OUT ON ENCOURAGING A LARGE PORTION OF YOUR CONGREGATION TO GIVE? MEMBERS ARE MOST LIKELY TO TITHE WHEN THEY CAN DO SO CONVENIENTLY.
PEOPLE IN THE
It’s time to listen. Even as I’m writing this today, another high-capacity lay leader emailed me with his decision to leave his church. He’s done. Like many others I know, he’s also a nationally known Christian leader. But he’s done. Your church, even if it’s one of the rare growing ones, is sitting on a ticking time bomb. The exodus of the Dones, the rise of the Nones, and the disappearance of the Millennials do not look good for a church afraid to listen. It’s not too late to start. (Thom Schultz is the co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.)
Will They Use Technology to
AS THEIR PRIMARY
• How would you describe your relationship with God right now? • How has your relationship with God changed over the past few years? • What effect, if any, has our church had on your relationship with God? • What would need to change here to help you grow more toward Jesus’ call to love God and love others?
IN ONLINE GIVING TO FAITH BASED
“Will They Use Technology to DONATE” is three of a three part series for
ONLINE DONATION MYTHS REVEALED ONLINE GIVING
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Reviving the Small Church
Part 6 – Keeping the Fire Stoked By Michael Henderson
n a past installment I spoke about vision and making sure that the Church was aligned to it. I would like to expound on that as a final tip in this series. Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. A servant will not be corrected by mere words; For though he understands, he will not respond. (Proverbs 29:17-19 NKJV) The context of the passage is instruction for obedience. In verse 17 it is applied to a child who must have godly instruction—even discipline—to help guide him as he grows. Without it parents are in for a life of heartache and trial. In verse 19 the same principal is applied to a servant. Just as mere words are not enough to sway a child to walk in an upright way neither will they work on one who is older and in your employ. Tucked in the middle of the passage is vs. 18. In its context having revealed or projected visionary boundaries that are enforced by a strong reason to move only within their bounds will keep us all on a path to victory. From the child, to the servant, to the church vision or prophetic revelation is necessary to see the victory of the Lord in our lives. A child needs to understand why godly living will keep him in good health, give his body strength, and his mind the clarity it needs to make good decisions. An The American Church Magazine®
employee needs to know that following and obeying what is required—even entering into what is required with personality, zest, and zeal—will reward him with prosperity that will trickle down even into his own family, propelling his future forward. The Church must have revelation as well. How can a Pastor Deliver God’s Revelation? It is always best when considering our vision in the Church to consider why we are a part of it in the first place. There is always a reason why people join up with specific churches. I think Acts 2:42 is always a best place to start in receiving more into your fellowship. Three thousand souls were added to the church on the day of Pentecost. Do we think these new members of the body were organized into specific churches? At first, no they were not; but they soon would be. I think the vision for a true Church was cast in vs. 42.
They’re “spiritual but not religious.” They’re eager to talk about God, but done sitting through sermons. Want to reach young adults? Start a conversation. They’re looking to participate, not to be an audience. So let them ask hard questions. Grapple with tough stuff. Discover how God is reaching out to them. And Lifetree Café is all about conversation. Relaxing around tables, Lifetree participants hear inspiring stories, tell their own stories…and draw closer to God and each other. On college campuses, at coffee shops, and even in churches, life-changing conversations are underway. When you’re ready to connect, connect with us. We’ll help you provide tested, ready-to-go, hour-long guided conversations that let young adults experience God in a fresh, new way. Call 877-476-8703 or visit Discover.LifetreeCafe.com to learn more. “ D o i n g l i f e . D o i n g g o o d .”
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*Projected 2025 church attendance from George Barna’s Revolution
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Practice Encouragement The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a lie. We all know words do hurt. And the way a pulpit of Sunday Bible study conveys them matters. A church fellowship should be a place where people can come 1. They must be a biblically solid Church, to find acceptance and encouragement amongst teaching all of God’s word (Acts 5:19-20) the brethren. A pastor should always practice build2. They must have strong fellowship ing up the congregation within the confines of the 3. They must always remember what the Lord declarations of God. For instance when we talk has done for them through His death, burial, about salvation are we always keeping the congreand resurrection gation on the edge of their seat wondering about 4. They must be a praying Church the fate of their soul or are we exalting God for His undeserved preserving and keeping power that A Church will soon fall apart if there is no solid Peter tells us about in 1 Peter 1:3-4: and ongoing teaching from the word of God. All church-goers must be fed, but not just anything; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus they need to be fed on the solid principles that Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has align with the apostolic teaching found only in the begotten us again to a living hope through the Bible. When we bring in our own teaching and our resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inown doctrine we will lose the blessing of God. heritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does A Church must have fellowship. Enough cannot not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (1 Peter be said about κοινωνια, koy-nohn-ee’-ah, or fellow- 1:3-4 NKJV) ship and communion together. This word speaks of Church members participating in an ongoing basis Not only is the gospel clearly portrayed in that getting to know each other—helping one another passage but the church is encouraged concerning along. A solid Church will be one that cares for its the depth of God’s love and the sure hope we have membership. in Christ. This is what builds people up to serve and A Church must never neglect participating in to support God’s work. It is a gospel of freedom the Lord’s Supper. By participating in the remembecause our salvation is reliant only on the finished brance of the death of Christ and our belief in all work of Christ that makes people see that they are the New Covenant teaches we are in reality idenindeed usable by God. tifying with the Lord who gave it. It was His blood If we beat them up Sunday after Sunday, soon that was spilled for our transgressions. Participating you will find yourself alone. also keeps us humble. That is, if we remember the purpose of His death we also remember that we Practice Faith are sinners and in need of His blood to continually Every day we need to be an available resource forgive us of our sin. that models what faith in God means. The small A Church must pray. Enough cannot be said things are always where it starts. I remember my about prayer. Jesus modeled it through the confirst answered prayer. I had two days to get a certistant practice of keeping in touch with the Father fied birth certificate in the mail or I could not play in Heaven. God is always with us and we need to in the State Little League baseball tournament. My understand that in order to be the powerful overmom applied on Tuesday and I received it on Thurscoming presence in the world that God promises day. Only God can do that. Faith in the small thrusts we are—a life that reflects the glory of Christ one to faith in the weightier things of life. All in all within—we too must commune with the Father. teach God’s people, lift up the Lord and in doing so But let’s make sure that our prayers are not just for you will find that the congregation will be lifted up our needs but for the saving power of God to touch as well. the lost. Truly a prayerless life is a powerless life. To convey the vision that God has for His Church we need to start with those four principles.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42 NKJV) Peter listed four things that I believe are most relevant for the Church to hear and see:
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Resting in Your Call By George Cannon
orking with established churches presents many struggles and difficulties. Surprisingly, the most trying aspect of pastoring an established church is not opposition from others. But rather, it is the mental torment we undergo on a daily basis. Our distress emerges from frustration with the church, fear of the unknown, and self-doubt. Destructive thoughts begin to invade our self-image. Convinced we mistakenly assumed the pastorate at our church, we begin to desire a vocation with less stress. We start imagining about what it would be like to pastor another church. Questions arise about if God truly called us into ministry. Perseverance is the greatest asset for a pastor serving an established church. Not only is persevering in pastoral ministry about standing strongly in the face of opposition and setbacks, it is confronting our personal mental torment. The key to perseverance is not doubting the call to ministry, but resting in it despite any the struggles we endure.
that moment, the pastor surrender all other options in his life to pursue serving God. With the decision to pursue ministry, the pastor embarked on a journey of education and service to fulfill the desire that God gave him. When looking back at that time in our lives, it is important to recognize two key factors that dominated our thinking at that time. First, we decided to The Simplicity of the Call respond to the calling despite the unknown. If we Examining Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s call on a ministerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life will aid would reflect on that time, we would remember him in persevering through difficulties. There are that we had little or no understanding of the reality numerous opinions and positions concerning the of ministry. Yet, we still felt compelled to pursue the nature and validity of such a calling. But rather than ministry and the unknown excited us. explore the various opinions and positions concernWe also made the decision to serve God whering the call, we will address a more simplistic view of ever he wanted us to be. We did not consider church the call. For the purpose of this discussion, we will size and locations and gave no thought to how define the call as a point in time where the pastor difficult ministry might be. Our desire was simply sensed, whether on his own or through the leading to serve the Lord wherever he wanted. We had no of the Holy Spirit, the desire to pursue ministry. From stipulations on our commitment to follow His call. The American Church MagazineÂŽ
So when we think of our call to ministry, we must embrace that fact that even though we had no clue what ministry would be like, we were willing to go anywhere to serve the Lord. That, my friends, is the simplicity of the call. Complicating the Call As we look back to that time of our calling, we must consider when we began to lose our perspective. To many of us, the calling seems to no longer be simple as it once was. We have complicated our understanding of our calling to the point that we question it. The calling appears distant and confusing. In order to understand how we have complicated our calling, we must examine the major influences that are confusing us. 1. Pastoral Training/Education - The first major influence that can cause us to confuse our calling is the pastoral training and education we pursued in preparation for ministry. In the process of this preparation, we began to expose ourselves to various models and examples of ministry. We developed a standard for ministry and adopted a mindset of pastoral success. While exposure to ministry models can be helpful, it may mislead a pastor concerning the relation between his ministry and calling. 2. Denominational Influences - Our denominational structures also complicate our view of our call to ministry. These structures communicate to us their standards of a successful ministry. 3. Conferences/Books - Another major influence that can impact our understanding of our calling is attending pastoral conferences and reading about successful ministry models. The purpose of these resources is to present a model for ministry success and the means to achieve it. Confusion occurs when the pastor begins equate his call to ministry with the success portrayed in the resources. 4. Pastoral culture - Closely related to the influence of conferences and books is the pastoral culture of success in North American Christianity. The size of the congregation and its budget becomes the measure of success. Success is also measured by the number of outside speaking engagements the pastor is engaged in. Being The American Church MagazineÂŽ
enamored with the pastoral culture of success in our day adds to the confusion concerning the call to ministry. 5. Ambition - Finally, our personal ambitions that we have for our ministries complicate and confuse our callings. As a pastor becomes immersed in the North American ministry culture, he develops certain goals that he wished to attain in pastoral ministry. These goals can be financial, educational or vocational. Because all goals cannot be attained, the pastor can question his call to ministry. While these influences are not necessarily detrimental, they can cloud our perspective of our calling to ministry. We no longer measure ourselves by our faithfulness to the initial calling. Rather, but by these influences. The outcome of this is almost always defeats pastors. Back to Basics As we begin to understand how outside influences have dictated our view of what faithfulness to the calling is, we must reorient ourselves back to the simplicity of our initial calling. This can be accomplished in several ways. 1. Remember that we were willing to go anywhere to serve God including our current churches 2. Recognize that we were not guaranteed success, but we were okay with that. 3. Accept that suffering and hardship are a part of ministry. 4. Strive for faithfulness, but understand that it is not the same things as success. Now is the time we stop questioning our call to ministry because failed to secure the success that we desire. What matters most is our faithfulness to serve him. We must reclaim the initial zeal we experienced when we decided to enter ministry. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to find contentment with where we are currently serving God. George Cannon has served as the pastor of the Curwensville Christian Church in rural Pennsylvania since 2001. email@example.com
From Church Hoppers
Same-Sex Marriages By Jerry (Doc) Bentley
he subject at hand is a very sensitive issue throughout America and even more among local churches. Churches are faced with the decision of whether or not to allow same-sex marriages in their facilities and whether the ordained and licensed ministers will be allowed to perform them.
As a government employee, magistrates, justice of the peace, judges, deputy clerks, etc, based on each state regulations, are required by law to unite any couple that is in compliance with the state regulations. But in regard to the clergy, the rules are at the discretion of each minister unless the individual state requires their participation, which according to our research is not one state has such a requirement. Every church must make decisions today to be prepared for harder decisions tomorrow primarily because your community is at stake. The need for a marriage license was not in question until the mid-1800s. Prior to that time, common-law marriage was the standard. In 1923, the Federal Government established the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act (they later established the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act). In 1929, every state had adopted marriage license laws. When each state took their positions for marriage licenses, they became a contractual agreement, and from the state’s perspective it was and is about money, assets and marital deprecation when the marriage ends in divorce. The liberals of the country say they want separation of church and state. However, when the The American Church Magazine®
church takes a stand or refuses to comply with the state, then they cry, “Discrimination.” On the other hand, conservatives say that the church and state cannot be separated because the beginning of the United States was built on Christian doctrine. But, when the state refuses to comply with the moral code of the church, they cry, “Legislation. “ The argument of same sex marriage in church is a moral issue for ministers who are against and a moral issue for those who are for it. Some ministers do not want to get in the way of their Biblical view of marriage, one man and one woman forever, and others do not want to get in the way of others’ rights and freedoms of the people. In either case, it comes back to each minister and what the church believes about marriage. The fear in many church leaders has more to do with whether each state will try to legislate the mandatory marrying of same-sex couples in the church. It’s understandable, especially when the history of government legislation for churches has taken a stronger position due solely on the unethical behavior according to the Internal Revenue Service of the past in many churches. Remember, with the IRS and church it is about money and politics, the church takes
in huge sums of money every week and attracts massive groups of congregates who can be easily influenced in voting. (Tax-exempt status can be in jeopardy) Ministers and churches have autonomy and must decide their position on the matter without destroying the community (a benefit to choose) whereas the government employees do not. The choice is simple yes or no but with either the local body must understand the consequences. It is easy to present the Bible and its authority without consideration of the congregation and community but what makes it better is prayer and commitment from the leaders. Remember unity is everything in the decision with the team so that a small issue does not become a major issue in the future. The vertical command from God to the church has not been given to marry the community. So those churches that want pastors to visit the sick, marry the people and bury the dead might reconsider their stance for a leading minister. There are two realities that ministers and churches must take into consideration irrelevant of the decision.
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First, ministers and churches must update the constitution and bylaws and administrative policies. It is better to deal with this in the leaders of the church and make a clear presentation to the church. Then the decision must be documented in the rules that govern the church with clear intent to protect both the church and the community. It protects the church based on the people who are there today whom make the decision. It is no different than churches years ago placing guidelines in the same documents that the church cannot hire a minister who has been divorced. Churches today are not so critical about it anymore, but the leaders decided that on that day due to their history that it would be better to decide on a minister not divorced. It protects the community primarily because it gives a clear understanding that the church loves the people but will not choose to participate in the matter. When the community is told yes or no by an individual then it is defined as the church is choosing with whom to participate. But when the policy of the church is presented to the community then the understanding is that the church took time to address it prior to the pre-
sentation of yes or no. In addition churches must decide how they will or will not participate for the use of the building, other ministers, and even no participation. It is no different than a church refusing to participate or allowing their building to be used in any community action such as Right to Life, ACLU, individual business meetings, etc. All churches who hold a non-profit status must be aware that allowing your building to be used for business or political agendas can be deemed has having an individual gain or political influence. Secondly, ministers and churches must present clear reasons of why and why not to the community if asked. Media preps people and communities that they have rights: when no reason is given as to the church in question’s position then the person sometimes defines it as discrimination. It is irrelevant if your local church will choose to participate in any form or not, your church must begin to use the “One Voice” in all matters with a reason. Presenting ethics or the Bible is not a viable reason, but your belief in what the Bible teaches is the validity. Making a clear presentation of your core beliefs about the matter and “the why” in a man-
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ner of respect will go farther than the unknown and critical attitude. It is not about marketing to your community, unless you choose to, it is about when you are asked do you have a clear presentation of the why or why not. Preparation is the key to dealing with sensitive matters in the community. Licensed and ordained ministers (pending on each state) are not required to marry anyone. But the matter at hand is a state issue that we have to address with an understanding of the consequences as it relates to the community. Definitions from community for your church will happen no matter the choice that you make. This is not going away. The church has been dealt a hand that she must play. Some churches will take this as an opportunity and others will take it as an attack. In either case let’s play the hand with dignity and respect within our communities. Follow the Church Hoppers: Tweet: @churchhoppers, Facebook: Church Hoppers, and Web: churchhoppers.org
No Longer Church As Usual
It Ain’t None of Our Business! By Tim Kurtz
he Center for New Testament Development is my ministry work. I started this work in 2010 with the primary mission to plant 21st century churches that reflect the values and operational structure of the first century church. This work is in its infancy, but I see the hand of the Lord opening doors to fulfill some of His purpose for His Church through us.
During the first week of October, the Center sponsored a two-day strategic summit to seek the mind of the Lord for developing regional New Testament house church networks. Participants came from Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois and Michigan to share and minister to each other. Several topics were discussed, and a framework was established for going forward in 2015. How would I describe that weekend? – One word, powerful. My purpose this month is not to cover the details of this summit, but rather to share two specific points that were stated during the weekend. As we were discussing the state of the church, two The American Church Magazine®
of the participants made statements that, I believe, are pertinent to my article this month. The first brother shared a unique summary regarding the evolution of the church as we see it today. He said, “In Palestine, the church was a community. To the Greeks, it became a philosophy. In Europe, it evolved into a culture, but in the United States it became a business.” Later that afternoon, another brother pointed out why many pastors are reticent about the changing nature of the church. He stated, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something – when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it.” These two poignant state-
ments formed the framework for the rest of this article. As much as I hate to agree, it is hard not to see the church in America as a business. In fact, it is a multi-billion dollar business. Studies have shown that most of the money it generates is not to further the gospel, but rather to maintain its budgets and buildings. I read a study that stated that only about two percent of the funds raised by churches across America go toward missions. The vast majority of money is for maintenance. Most churches are led by paid ‘clergy’. The sole source of income for many of these men and women is their church. They are leading their part of an institution that is in decline. The strain on their church budgets, and the cost of maintaining buildings is slowly eating away at the fabric of many ministries. Now comes a group of believers like myself and others across the nation who are seeing and advocating for a simpler and more organic church. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. But when the details are understood, many shirk back as it unravels the church that we are so used to. The need to maintain budgets and buildings often trump the pursuit of God’s purpose. The ‘building’ has become such an iconic part of the church landscape, that some are unable to view the church without it. Face it, most of us erroneously proclaim the dedicated building we worship in as our church. The role of the ‘clergy’ is threatened by conforming to biblical standards of leadership. This may be why some pastors reject the New Testament house church model. It is a threat to their livelihood. My point is this. There are those among us who desire to see the church, as we know it, transition to a simpler more organic model. This is rejected by some, placated by others, and considered an impossible task among house church proponents. Obviously, I disagree. Not only do I believe the opportunity to transition is vital, but I also believe that it may become necessary. I believe we have a window of opportunity to visit the eternal implications of restructuring the church. I believe it would: • empower every believer to pursue his or her calling, purpose, and ministry assignment • eliminate systems and processes that distract from God’s purpose The American Church Magazine®
• redirect resources towards building people more than buildings • nurture leaders who provide protection, direction, and correction to insure the implementation of God’s purpose over trying to maintain a religious system • restore Jesus Christ as the Head of His Church, rather than just a product of a religious system model. Lest you think I am pointing to the average American church only, I must sadly admit that even among simple, organic and house church proponents, their new methodology morphed into a business, too; specifically, among those who tout themselves as the leaders. Follow the money trail. When there was a huge interest in the subject, people would buy their books and flock to their conferences. When house, organic, and simple church methodologies fell short of expectations, the money began to dry up. When the money left, it took the forerunners with it. Some have completely changed the topic as it no longer produces the income they need. During a time of prayer, the Lord spoke this into my spirit, “Your provision is in your purpose.” I have come to realize that as I pursue God’s purpose, He provides the resources to accomplish it. It is, definitely, a new way of thinking. As long as I seek provisions first, the purpose of God always goes lacking. This pattern is peppered throughout scripture – God gives an assignment, then He provides the resources. It is a faith walk. Prior to leaving Egypt, one of the last instructions Israel was given was to take the jewels from their captors. God gave them favor with the Egyptians and they left with tremendous wealth (Exodus 11:2-3). Think about this for a moment. Israel was leaving Egypt wealthy, but with no real place to spend what they had. When they had the opportunity to enter their land of promise, they failed, and was relegated to forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:33-34). But later, the story takes another interesting turn. Moses, went up into the mountain to be with God. He was there for forty days. In his absence, the people became restless and impatient. They approached Aaron and convinced him to make a molten calf they could worship (Exodus 32:1-6). This idol was made out of gold – the same gold they had taken from Egypt – the same gold God
had intended for them to establish an economy in the promise land. They took the gold and did what churches do; they lost sight of their purpose. Whenever you lose sight of your purpose, you end up making your provision your god. Yes, finances are needed for ministry, but we must revisit our pursuit of it. By no means am I diminishing the need for financial resources in ministry. It should not be the main thing. My concern is when most of your energy is spent pursuing resources, it becomes easy to lose sight of the purpose. Money should follow the mission God has given you. In my book, No Longer Church As Usual, I said, “Whenever there is a change in structure, it usually creates a change in all subsequent processes.” The church is in transition, we cannot ignore the change that will inevitably impact the flow of money in the church. We are sticking our head in the proverbial sand, if we ignore the fact that our current church systems run more like businesses than the organic, simple covenant body of believers we see throughout the New Testament. The American church did not become a business overnight. The business model crept in slowly. Over time, our beliefs became the calling card we use to attract adherents to our brand of Christianity. The theology of most churches gradually became a little more than products of the business. Survival of the business became the primary focus. It forces church boards and leadership to weigh its needs before they consider the needs of those they serve. It forges unhealthy, and at times, ungodly relationships with world systems. From time to time it demands compromise of biblical values in order to survive. The business model is strong and powerful. It has become so normal that we fail to realize that instead of trusting Him to provide, we have given birth to so many Ishmaels that we believe their presence is normal. Until we address the business model, our efforts will continually fall on the ears of those who ‘fail to understand’; because their livelihood demands that they not understand. Jesus is still building His Church – His way in the 21st Century. It is not a business. He is building a vibrant community of believers. He is committed to providing for His Church. Remember, after instructing Adam to be fruitful, multiply, replenish, and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28), God immediately assured them that He had proThe American Church Magazine®
vided everything they needed to succeed. “See, I have given you…” (Genesis 1:29), is still His heart for the church today (Psalms 23:1; 2Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19); let’s allow Jesus to care for His Church. Whenever He gives an assignment, He gives a consignment. His Church is His responsibility. His Church is an army of blood-washed believers who are going into all the world making disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19). Paul asked a significant question, “Who goes to war at their own expense?” (1Corinthians 9:7). The warrior’s expense is the responsibility of the government he serves. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. The church is the earthly representative of His Kingdom. The church has been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s time my friend for the church to close for business and reignite her passion for God’s purposes (Ephesians 3:10). Blessings! Website: www.ntcdonline.org Twitter: @timkurtz712