Our evangelical churches have been thoroughly immersed in “Church Growth” ideas for the last forty or so years. We are told that we must be user friendly. Can you imagine someone wanting to “use” the church? We are told that we must entertain the people with spectacular singing programs and dynamic dramas. We are told that that we have to sustain a robust youth program that majors on “fun.” We are told the that young adults need a church softball league, while at the same time the church must also supply the vans, and workers, to help the “Antique Kids” keep the highways hot between home base and Branson, Mo.
For those who have read this far there is probably beginning to be a little irritation coming into your voice as you ask yourself…”What in the world is wrong with any of these things?” The answer, of course, is nothing, if they are done in the right place and for the right reasons. But the question is…”Is this what Jesus intended for His Church?” This goes to the very heart issues of what is a Church, and what is its purpose?
It is perfectly proper for a community organization to do the kinds of things I am talking about. It is perfectly proper, and even commendable for Christians to be involved in good clean activities that help keep young people out of trouble and older people enjoying their golden years, but is this why Jesus established His Church? I don’t think so.
Jesus did not establish His Church to be the entertainment center for the community but to be the front line in His blood and guts war against the forces of hell. Listen to His own words when He anticipated establishing his church. “And I say also unto thee . . . upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).”
Jesus did not establish His church to be the showcase of the culture with one gala performance after another. The Lord despises religious performances. He called the performers of His day hypocrites (Greek word hupokrites).
Jesus did not establish His church to be the center of “fun” for the young people. Don’t misunderstand. I am not putting a premium on boredom but I do not believe the Lord’s church has in its commission go into all the world and have “fun.” I doubt seriously if any of those early Christians who were nailed to a cross for their Lord, would have defined what they were experiencing as “fun.”
Jesus did not establish His church to be the best softball playing outfit in the whole of two counties! He established His church to be a spiritual organism, spreading the gospel message with viral contagion.
The ancient Romans had five different kinds of ball that were very popular among them. They enjoyed: Trigon, Harpastum and Expulsum Ludere. They were constantly playing Pila, Field Hockey and something called Roman Ball. But not once…NOT ONCE…in the pages of the New Testament do you find our Lord, any of the Apostles, or anyone else for that matter, trying to raise a ball team to help shore up the attendance of the church.
The Christians of the New Testament were exhorted to make melody unto the Lord (Eph. 5:19), but nowhere are they told to put on massive choir spectaculars.
Paul makes special provisions for widows that are widows indeed (Titus 5:3) but nowhere is the church instructed to make sure the seniors are properly entertained.
There is a New Testament youth program. Here it is! “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”(Eph. 6:1-2). We are nowhere told that it is the churches responsibility to provide game rooms and gymnasiums and spend half of the churches resources insuring young people their “fun.”
Someone might say, “But brother Mike, if we didn’t do these things we wouldn’t have anybody coming to our church.” What? No saints would come to be fed on the word of God? What? No Christian young people would come in order to learn how to better represent their Lord to their peers? What? No elderly people would come who have walked into old age with the banner of Christ flying proudly over their lives?
I believe you are wrong. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. I believe what He said is true. What our churches need is not another worldly program sent down from the denominational church growth gurus. No. What we need is an old fashioned revival of repenting, praying and Bible preaching. That would do our churches more good than all the worldly programs we could ever conjure up. And it would do us good all the way into eternity.