Posted tagged ‘Acts 4’

Advocating for The Program-less Church

May 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 1, 2016

                  

I’m about to walk on thin ice with lead boots, but here goes!

I’m advocating for a church that has no programs! And just so we’re clear here, I’m not simply going to substitute the word “ministry” in place of program. We do that quite often to make it sound legitimate.

I’m not saying that programs like Awana, Frontier Girls, after-school programs, senior fellowship groups, Bible Quiz Bowl, Royal Rangers, Young Adult ministries, spring rummage sale, church softball teams, and church bowling leagues have no merit. They do…kinda’!

My concern, as one who has created programs/ministries and trumpeted their merits for three and a half decades, is that programs start driving the cart instead of being the cart that follows the horse.

In case you’re confused, the horse is God, and his ways and purposes…and ministries and churches are following in his trail in the cart.

Sometimes churches create programs out of a sense of “spiritual impatience.” We are over-caffeinated people (I’m sitting in a Starbucks as I write this!) who have a very difficult time waiting upon the Lord, and I would say even “being with the Lord.” We get into the “I need to be doing something!” mindset.

This is not meant to be a blanket statement, but many times programs/ministries get adopted by congregations who get tired of waiting upon the Lord. The Methodists down the street are getting a monopoly on a ministry to seniors, so the Lutherans jump into the fray to get part of the market share. The Assembly of God church has a rockin’ praise team so the Baptists look to upgrade.

Another dilemma sometimes happens when the program becomes what is worshiped. If it is drawing a crowd it is suddenly seen as being anointed by God. Like the crowd following Jesus as he sat down on a hillside and gave a series of blessings and teachings, programs often create followings of the devoted. Conflicts in churches happen, more often than not, over programs. I rarely see conflicts in churches over God!

I’m wondering if a church should do a “program moratorium” and let God guide the wagon. What would that look like? The picture in Acts 2, 4, and 6 would help us figure that out. It seems that what rose to the surface in the beginning days of the church was the caring of one another, the proclaiming and teaching of the gospel, worship, and prayer. The Body was built on the strength of relationships knitted together. Acts 6 shows the development of a ministry to widows, the forgotten group.

The saints would gather together, check in on one another, encourage one another in a time when there were more reasons to get discouraged. And the Holy Spirit moved in their midst!

What would happen if the only thing on your church’s schedule this week was the gathering on Sunday morning or Sunday night? Would you love your brothers and sisters enough that you’d connect with them in other ways during the week? Coffee at Starbucks? An evening walk in the park with a friend? Going with a couple of others to see a sick friend? Calling a young mom and seeing if there is anything you could pick up for her at the grocery? Praying together?

Congregational vitality is based on our connection to who is driving the cart, and commitment to one another.

What connects you to the Kingdom of God?

Momentum Church

October 20, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           October 20, 2014

                                        

Momentum is not a scriptural word…unless you go to The Message paraphrase, and then it appears once in Matthew 4:25. Other than that there is no momentum in the Bible.

And yet we talk about momentum quite a bit in the ministry of the church. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of our over-zealous sports world mindset. There’s hardly a game that can be viewed on TV without “The Big Mo” word used during it. Teams have the momentum, grab the momentum, make a play that changes the momentum, can sense the momentum shifting…and on and on.

And so we hold it up in the church as a key part of our success…or failure. There’s a couple of problems with momentum. One is we try to make it a spiritual concept. Or on the other hand, we translate a spiritual revival or awakening as a sign of building momentum. Increased attendance at worship is seen as meaning there is momentum. An increase in baptisms, or those wanting to become members of the church, or financial giving, or a building project…all of those are viewed as spiritual indications of momentum building. We crave it. We even idolize it.

But where as the Spirit is steady, momentum is fickle. It can come and go at a “moment’s” notice. The hardest Sunday of the year for a pastor is the Sunday after Easter. Easter is a spark of momentum. The Sunday after Easter things go back to the way they were. It’s almost like Jesus goes back into the tomb. So much for momentum!

There’s been a few years where the excited momentum of Easter was quickly followed by the depressed loss of life.

Which brings me to a final question that I don’t necessarily have an answer to, but I want to ask it! What is the difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum? The early church experienced both. I love the Acts 2 and 4 passages where the believers met daily in the temple courts, praised and prayed, took care of one another. The difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum is that transformed lives are the result of the Spirit’s moving. People who are changed are left in the trail of the Spirit’s wind. Ananias and Sapphira’s “special gift” mentioned in Acts 5 was an indication of being caught up in the momentum of the times. They weren’t moved by the Spirit, but rather by their greed and need for recognition.

So…any time there is a sense of momentum there will always be the anger of false acts of spiritual devotion. It’s the Christian version of “fifteen minutes of fame!”

How do we know what is of God and what is of our own creation? I don’t entirely know, but I am taken back by the story in the gospels where Jesus notices the gift of a poor widow that everyone else has discounted as meaningless.

Something to think about!