Tuesday, September 06, 2011


A friend of mine sent me this Church sign. He found it misguided and sad.

My question in response to this sign is, "If church buildings are so important, why are so many of them empty?"

Or maybe, "Why are so many of their members empty?"

My friend who sent me this photo is a senior pastor of a traditional church in the South. He and I spoke over the phone recently and he shared his personal struggle with me as he wrestles with the tension between Church as a business and Church as Jesus intended.

My friend loves his church, the people, so much that he's ready to lay everything down - his career as a full-time pastor - in order to demonstrate to his brothers and sisters that THEY are called to be priests and not depend on him for everything.

On Saturday I spoke to another senior pastor in California who finds himself in the same position. He and his wife are now fully convinced that the traditional church system is not what Jesus intended His Bride to become, and now they're struggling with how to transition out of the pulpit and into the neighborhood.

The challenges for these two pastors is very real. How do they care for their church family in this process? How do they provide financially for their own family? What will Church look like in their community? How will God lead them next?

As I listen to these brothers share their heart with me over the phone, I can only encourage them that the same God who is calling them out into this wilderness will also provide for them once they take their first steps.

There are no easy answers. This is real life. The bills are real. The spiritual battle is real. The opposition to this path is very, very real. But, as someone who walked away from all of this and searched for full-time employment for over a year, I can say now that it is possible, and most of all, that it is very, very much worth the struggle.

Pray for these two men today, and for their families. Pray for their church families too as they confront the reality of "being the Church" themselves rather than remaining spectators on the pew.

Going back to the sign at the top of this article, the answer of course is that Church is very, very important. The Church is a living temple made up of living stones who are being built together by Christ Jesus as they daily offer themselves as living sacrifices to God and who minister to one another and encourage and teach and edify one another daily.

The Church is what Jesus the Messiah died and rose again to breathe life into. The Church is the Body of Christ, as long as Christ is the head and as long as the people themselves operate as an interconnected organism in love for one another, and for Christ who is their life.

The question is not whether or not Church is important - it is. The real question is "What is the Church?" and how you answer that question - and how you live out that answer - is what matters most.

Where you meet (in a building, a house, under a tree) doesn't matter so much as what happens when you come together as a Body. Is any one of you exalted over all the rest, or is Christ Jesus the actual Head of the Body? Is every member free to function according to their gifting? Is everyone (women, children, elderly) treated and loved equally?

Church is a "Who" not a "What". It's not a meeting you attend once a week. It's not a performance. It's a family, an organism, a Body, and a Bride.



bill ziegler said...

Coming out of the wilderness of the building we call church (which by the way is old english, french and other, is building. The word is just much antiquated.)Coming out of the structure and into truth is a place of freedom. That is freedom in the Lord and freedom to do His will instead of being chained to a pulpit. Coming out is not to a wilderness but of freedom in the Lord to finally break the bonds of the wilderness we have been in.

bpb said...

The processing that your two pastor friends are going through is very familiar to me. For the reasons given (and some others too) I had a crisis of conscience after 12 years of ministry and eventually resigned as pastor of an otherwise healthy church. Lots of people misunderstood or misinterpreted my choice and the journey has been rocky at times but God has been faithful.
Now my wife and I minister when and however we're able to and in a much more practical and healthy way. We're also now involved in the earliest stages of two separate house churches composed entirely of unchurched but spiritually hungry people. I have no ... repeat, NO desire to go back to managing a church.
I've already begun praying for these brothers...