Ever wish you knew what someone was thinking? Our thoughts are private for the most part. Some of them we need to give the boot. Some of them we need to, pardon the redundancy, "think about". Here on this blog I am going to let you read my thoughts on relevant matters, as I "think out loud!"
Not only will I give you the opportunity for deeper thinking, some days I will post outlooks for the near and possibly the distant future. You will find this provocative at times. You may have to pray about some things I say. But the times we are living in call for voices of truth and revelation to speak out and inform and in some cases warn.
It is my hope that these posts will enlighten, inspire, and equip your life for the days ahead!
The Caustic Challenge of the Church of Competitionby Rick Bowen on February 5, 2019
If you take any of the C words in this topic title, except caustic, this might sound more like a positive article. But, I caution you to be careful not to think this is just a lighthearted idle-timed filler for me. Rather, it is a content laden piece about the common problem that faces the pastorate these days.
I hope that this will be something that both pulpit and pew will take seriously rather than being bopped around like a pinball in an arcade machine.
The New Testament Church was started by Jesus and is intended to be his body on this planet until he comes back and then we become his bride. As the church found its origin with Jesus’ words at Caesarea Philippi, he stated that he would build his church on the rock and the gates of hell would NOT prevail against it.
After his departure the newly commissioned church planters began planting churches all over the then known world. Initially these fledging assemblies met wherever they could, including houses, caves, catacombs, fields, synagogues and temple courts. Most of the time there was a church in each city. One church in each town, i.e. Ephesus, Corinth, Pergamum, Galatia, etc.
From the get go the apostolic plants were challenged with competing ideas. This competition came from those outside of the faith and even tangents thereof. Proselytes often followed error and even heretical philosophies. The Bible says they had itching ears. The implication was that the seduced sought those that would tell them what sounded good to them thus satisfying or scratching a particular itch.
As the centuries rolled by and the church proliferated throughout the world, there were those that sought to defend the faith once delivered to the saints. Since this quest was fraught with human thinking, variations were inevitable. Many times the differences were nothing more than nuances or semantics, and certainly not something to fight over nor to break fellowship about. Nevertheless at best the structuring of denominations ensued.
When these denominations would stagnate or morph into error because of lukewarm constituencies, revival movements would take center stage, again motivated by a desire for Biblical purity and faithfulness to truth. Alas each denomination seemed to run its course at the end of which it would dissipate in fervor and wind up being nothing but a shell of surreal memories.
What has been addressed thus far could be further detailed by the minutia of happenings and the plethora of events that have decorated the story of church history with interesting, entertaining, and even disturbing statistics and facts.
We have arrived in 2019 with a new challenge that is, at its heart, as old as the church, except now maybe it deserves a new characterization. I am calling it the Church of Competition.
In a nutshell this is the contemporary challenge that faces the classical pastors that have devoted their whole lives to ministry or even the wet behind the ear novice that has just thrown his ministry hat into the ring. How do I compete? Should I compete?
Compete for what? The Church member, the Christian, the congregant, the parishioner the attender. Let me share with you an excerpt from my overview of the church landscape in Muncie that I wrote at the beginning of last year and posted on our church website:
The people of God need to connect to a local assembly in which the Holy Spirit places them on purpose for a purpose. There will be some realignment. We must accept that the people are God’s people. Sometimes people will relocate. This should not be a matter of division or strife. Neither should it hurt our feelings to the degree of permanent scaring!
This statement is still true. However, it doesn’t negate the backdrop on which it is inscribed. This competitive challenge is also sweeping up those that would find a commitment in an established church (that worships in Spirit and Truth) into venues of vanity and sanctuaries of in-sanity. These strong words represent the gravity of the phenomenon that I am being made aware of even today.
Here are the following challenges the local pastor has:
The mega mania
The media minister
The eccentric extremist
The charismatic charmer
The power lusting prophet
The ignorant irritant
The evil perpetrator of division.
The corrupt culture
The complacency of conveniency
The forever floundering flesh.
The above should be self explanatory, but I will give a summary that might explain at least some of these competitive drainers of local assemblies. Sadly many churches are closing and many pastors are saying I have had enough (This is not an article about the churches that should close or pastors that have finished their assignment for that is also true).
- There is nothing wrong with a large church if God has grown it. But there is no way that every other church can compete for obvious reasons. So my suggestion, don’t be too enamored with huge churches. They are not always God driven and when they are there is still room for the smaller assembly.
- There is nothing wrong with using media to broadcast. But generally that person was never intended to be everybody’s pastor or to keep folks from finding a local assembly.
- The person that has a tangent topic focus is often off balance. They may not be submitted to anyone. They feel compelled to attack everyone else and suggest you leave your church for their new focus. Sometimes they just start a house church and call everything else Babylon (This does not include all house churches and often churches do start in a house)
- Some influential likable ministers have lots of “personality”. They are slick and can get a following. But the central focus is them. A good shepherd alway points the way to THE GOOD SHEPHERD!
- The person that is peeling away members is basically power hungry and satisfies their flesh by seducing and thus reducing the membership of other local assemblies. This person is a nefarious hustler at times when they purposely thwart the efforts of others that are actually God called and set. Look no further than Paul and the Judaizers.
- There are those that mean well but are ignorant. Because of their perpetual ignorance (not reaching for good teaching) they just become aggravations to the deeper walk that God wants to establish people in by a stable local body membership.
- There are those that seek to divide so that they can conquer. Even Jesus said a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
It is no wonder that people are tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Competition with all these forces is fruitless.
Preach the truth PREACHER!
Stand on the everlasting Word of God.
Those that God brings will stay.
Otherwise, maybe God didn’t bring them, maybe he brought them for a time, or
maybe they have been caught up in one of the above competitive winds.
The only thing you can do my friend is offer yourself as a seasoning agent as an equipping caring overseer and stand strong.
You can stand strong if you are not wrong!
Of course we are all in need of regular assessment and correction by the pure word of God and the prayers of the righteous saints. Thank God for the blood. Don’t worry God has it under control. God’s people belong to him and he will place them where he wants them, if they let him!