Many people like myself, get saved and are told that going to and being part of a church is what is needed for growth in the Christian life. My wife and I got saved in 1982 and have now “been around the block” a few times. While working hard to support my family I studied part time to receive my Bachelor’s Degree in Theology. We spent 6 years pastoring a small multi-cultural church in NYC and have spent many hours in evangelistic efforts. During the past 30 some years we have been to many different churches and been a part of several “apostolic” organizations.
I know that today there are many who have dropped out of the local church or been disillusioned by it too many times. People often feel unloved and neglected by the church and I believe the heart of God is grieved all too often by this.
What follows are some observations about seeming shortcomings and resolutions regarding how many churches are founded and how they function. Hopefully this may explain why in many ways “the church” doesn’t always work the way we expect it to and why so many people are leaving organized Christianity.
- Often a church gets founded by a man and his wife, who may or may not share the same vision. This man often holds down a full time job and tries to minister in his “spare time”. The stress and strain of this load often leads to burnout, as this minister attempts to do more than God intended for him to do.
This stress usually has sort and long term negative effects upon the man, his marriage and his family. Recent literature I cam across says that most pastors struggle with depression, and some 1500 pastors resign from ministry weekly in the U.S. God did not call a man to destroy his life in the process! We should look to God and the scriptures as the pattern for church planting.
- Biblically, outreach was an apostolic function and church planters were people who had God’s hand upon them in all 5 ministry functions: apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher. True apostles have this anointing. These men were to be financed by the church, wherever possible, in their church planting efforts.
The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”. What God ordains, He sustains. Alongside these men should be people who volunteer a year or two to help in the church planting effort. People who are “wings, not weights” who can help in the work of the ministry, as Timothy was to Paul.
I believe “well begun is half done”. If true apostolic men were released, supported and helped, churches would be stronger, more vibrant and have much more impact upon our communities.
- I also believe that church funds are often misused. By this I mean that too much money is going for building structures, rather than building people. When do we ever see the apostle Paul laying the cornerstone of a building? Most businesses would never have a facility that was used so sparingly. Drive through many older towns today and see how many church buildings are abandoned or hardly used!
Facilities can easily be rented for meetings that are held only once or twice a week for congregational gatherings. Many times homes can be used for small group meetings. In the early church funds were used for apostolic outreach and for helping the poor. Our government has now taken over the alms giving that is the church’s true call, not supporting buildings and church staff.
- The development of the whole five fold ministry is missing for the most part in the local church. Church leaders need to know and understand their gifts and function within them. According to scripture the “office” of pastor simply didn’t exist in the early church. Paul’s letters were sent to the “saints” at Rome, or the “church” at Corinth, but never were addressed to “the pastor”. Leadership of a church was by a group of elders, not just by one man.
Apostles helped strengthen the churches, helped lay foundations and identify those in the church with a true call of God on their lives. Prophets would speak God’s heart for the congregation or individuals within the body. They would also help oversee the development of future ministers.
A strong evangelistic effort is required by today’s church. While ministering in NYC I spent time on the streets almost daily handing out tracts or ministry letters. I was the only Christian minister out there, while the cults were very busy trying to gain converts on a daily basis. Consequently, very influential community leader told me, “This area has many churches, but no impact”. You can’t catch fish unless you go fishing!
Our nation needs effective churches that function properly and have anointed ministers who truly reflect the love of Jesus Christ. I once sat in a meeting with a well know pastor in our area who said to me, “money, it’s what makes it all go around”! It’s been hard for me to shake loose the effect these words have had upon my desire to be a part of the established church. The Church of Jesus Christ needs leaders who have true servant’s hearts, are humble and who reflect His character.