Chapter 8 The Church Growth Movement
In the next chapters, we are going to discuss several major movements in evangelical Christianity – The “Meta Church” and then the “Cell Church” Movement, followed by a discussion of the Apostles and Prophets Movement. If we are in the “last days”, one would expect some very good counterfeits. The Meta Church, also know as “The Purpose Driven Church” or “Seeker Friendly Church” represents an extremely successful movement in terms of church growth.
My first reaction is that anything so popular probably isn’t good. If a movement is so popular that people are flocking to it, I think of Jesus warning that “broad is the way that leads to destruction and many are those who enter by it.” (Matthew13:7) It would seem that anything wildly successful would be suspect since the gospel message although good news to those who believe, is bad news for those who don’t. The apostle Paul warns, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths”. (II Timothy 4:3-4) Is the “Purpose Driven Church” hugely popular because it stands for the truth or because it is telling people what they want to hear?
I want to be fair and accurately describe the Meta Church and what it stands for. I read everything I could get my hands on, and watch a local church I am intimately familiar with begin to implement the “forty days of purpose” crusade that thousands of churches are participating in beginning today (October 11, 2003) Warren has taught these seminars to over 175,000 pastors and church leaders from sixty denominations and forty-two countries and over 60,000 pastors subscribe to his weekly email letter. The program is literally being simulcast by satellite to thousands of churches around the world.
Saddleback Church, a Meta Church
In 1979, Rick Warren and his wife arrived in an Orange County Community, and to his credit, determined to build a church with unbelievers, instead of stealing them from other churches. He started by taking a survey in the neighborhood to find out what people were like (their interests, attitudes, goals, etc) and what they looked for in a church. He also did a survey of the hundred largest churches in the U.S. to find out the secret to their growth. He even worked with the famous business consultant/writer/academician Peter Drucker from Clairmont College and conducted market surveys from door to door.
The result of these market surveys was to mold a church designed to be “seeker friendly” in order to reach the unsaved Southern Californian yuppies. The music, the message, the service are carefully crafted to reach new people, and it works! This is combined with a careful weekly analysis from cards that are passed out during the service, asking people what they like and didn’t like about the service. If you read Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Church” you will realize that he has created a well oiled machine. Everything aspect of the meeting is carefully choreographed from the greeting at the door, to the type of music, the message and follow-up as people leave.
Now some of you may not like what I’m about to say. I thought he had some very good points. According to Warren, the traditional church sends a mixed message – singing songs the unsaved can’t relate to and then preaching “to the choir” (a message aimed at members rather than new people) followed by a two minute alter call. He says you have to know the audience you are trying to reach, know the purpose of the meeting and pursue it single mindedly. You don’t mix messages. The Sunday morning meetings are gospel oriented only and members are discipled and taught the basics in other meetings during the week. Warren found that Christians from other churches were more of a hindrance because of their preconceived ideas of how a “church” should operate. He says most churches are two mental. Emphasis is on learning rather than doing. Warren says, “The truth is this: Spiritual maturity is demonstrated more by behavior than beliefs.” (The Purpose Driven Church, p. 336) In other words, it isn’t what we know that counts, it is the practice of what one believes that counts.
Another positive is their emphasis on encouraging the members to develop their own lay ministries and there are many, depending on the various needs. They clearly see that doing physical labor such as setting up chairs and cleaning toilets is not a ministry, but work the staff does. Saddleback has a clear path from salvation to committed member to ministering believer.
As an MBA myself, with experience in marketing, finance and management, what Rick Warren has done is apply sound management principles to church growth. Know your market. Do market research. Get feedback and readjust your approach. Tailor the gospel to appeal to and meet the needs of your target market. Apply modern systems theory to church growth. Turn the church into a fine tuned marketing machine to bring in and assimilate new people. If you are going to be a big church institution, you may as well be a good one. Follow his advice. If you are going to be an organization, be an effective one. If you apply the principles he proposes, you will be successful (at least in terms of growth). The problem is that a couple of Unitarian Churches applied the same principles with great success. So is this a move of God or man?
In 1998, Dr Dennis Costella attended a PDC seminar where Rick Warren taught that the following had to occur to transform a traditional church into a growing PDC (purpose driven church):
A contemporary-styled, non-threatening "Seeker Service" must replace the traditional Sunday worship service;
The dress must be casual;
The music must be contemporary, the kind that people hear every day.
The message must be only positive so that saved and unsaved alike can feel better about themselves after a message that often mixes psychology and an uplifting Scripture text;
Church ministries must be geared to meeting needs, with support groups for depression, eating disorders, infertility, homosexuals' family/friends, post-abortion, and marital separation. Warren scoffed at the idea of passing out gospel tracts or going door-to-door since the typical "Saddleback Sam" is offended by such old-fashioned evangelism;
Doctrinal instruction is not given to the church as a whole on Sundays, but is available in sub-groups apart from formal church services;
A spirit of pragmatic compromise must prevail. Warren said, "It really doesn't matter your denomination, folks. We're all on the same team if you love Jesus." (March-April 1998, "Foundation" evangelical magazine)
Now, before I tell you what I really think, I’m going to go on to what others who have to say about the “Church Growth Movement.” Then I’ll come back to my own opinion, which is very different from those who oppose it, and for very different reasons.
Analysis of Church Growth Movement
As we will see in the next several chapters, the “church growth movement”
actually has three major branches:
Robert Schuler, who started the Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim, got his inspiration from Norman Vincent Peal. This is more liberal and a little less “fundamental” but certainly mainline and successful in terms of numbers. The emphasis is more on self-esteem and self-fulfillment, but he certainly provided the inspiration for the rest of the church growth movement and is very close to its leaders.
The Meta Church movement is represented by Rick Warren and Saddleback Church and Bill Hybels Willow Creek Church in Illinois and closely connected with C. Peter Wagner and the leadership of the Cell Church movement as well as Fuller Theological Seminary.
The Cell Church popularized by David Yongi Cho of Korea and Ralph Neighbors appears to be more of a home church movement, but as we shall see in the next chapter, is far from it.
The father of the “church growth movement” (CGM) is Donald McGavaran. He was born in India to missionary parents, educated in the States and spent his early years as a missionary in India. He was a pragmatist and believed that effective evangelism should measure success by numbers of converts. In 1965, he became the Dean of the Fuller School of World Mission. In 1970 he wrote “Understanding Church Growth” which has been revised and edited by C. Peter Wagner. In 1970 John Wember (founder of the Vineyards) became the founding director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller. Fuller then became the focal point for the church growth movement founded by such evangelical luminaries as Ralph Winter, Charles Kraft, Win Arn, Wagner and many others. Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Carl F. George and others became practitioners of the CGM principles. Another member of the group is George Barna, founder and president of Barna Group, a full-service marketing research company in Glendale, California who works with corporations such as Disney, Focus on the Family and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as well as Fuller and mega churches. Please remember all of these names as they will come up again and again. Note the succession from McGavaran to Wember to C. Peter Wagner, now the chief apostle of the Council of Apostles.
The church growth movement is, above all, pragmatic. They distinguish “biblical principles” and “church growth principles” which may or may not be derived from the Bible or from sociology, demography and market research. There is a strong emphasis on pastoral leadership and church members in ministry as well, building up and enabling the laity. The major emphasis is on the Sunday morning service which should be informal, relaxed, with contemporary, short, uplifting, positive sermon. They develop programs to meet the specific need in the community and integrate people into smaller groups within the church. They should be commended for reminding us of the importance of the Great Commission, for forcing traditional churches to reevaluate what they are doing and for challenging to laity to “give” rather than just “get ministered” to.
Those that are critical of the CGM would point out the danger of
Letting the world set the agenda – the “message”, not the audience should be sovereign.
The gospel is not always a popular “user-friendly” message. It contains bad news as well as good.
Some churches apply “church growth” principles that work beyond their wildest imagination (e.g. Unitarian and other non-fundamental churches).
Management techniques can replace truth.
There is a danger of relying on technique rather than God.
Was the early church “user friendly?” Did they gather to entertain the lost? Did they gather to develop various programs to meet market niches? How did the early church manage without the managerial “know-how” we have today? We have endeavored to create a “culture-friendly”church so that coming to Christ is as easy as humanly possible. Can you imagine the early apostles doing a survey of the lifestyles in order to come up with a “sinner-friendly” gospel?
“Meta” means transformation or change, and it takes transformational leaders to pull it off. Pastors from around the world who are desperate to succeed, bring the Saddleback checklists, scripted messages and videos. Os Guinness writes, "The two most easily recognizable hallmarks of secularization are the exaltation of numbers and technique. Both are prominent in the church-growth movement. In its fascination with statistics and data at the expense of truth. …In such a world of number crunchers, bean counters and computer analysts, the growth of churches as a measurable, “fact based” business enterprise is utterly natural. The problem with this mentality is that quantity does not measure quality. Numbers have little to do with truth, excellence or character.” (“No God But God, Chicago: Moody, 1992, p. 164))
Warren makes fun of the traditional church caught in their 50’s “time warp” and defends his approach because it works. He defines successful as fulfilling the Great Commission (p.64, The Purpose Driven Church). But when it comes to the opposition, he says, “Be willing to let people leave the church. And I told you earlier the fact that people are gonna leave the church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you’re choosing who leaves. You say, ‘But Rick, yes, they’re the pillars of the church.’ Pillars are people who hold things up…and in your church, you may have the have some blessed subtractions before you have any real additions.” (Dennis Costella Foundation Evangelical Magazine) Opposition will be marginalized. “The pastors will talk them down; they will even preach about it, they will even preach about the people who are dissenters. We have heard of pastors preaching about blessed subtractions – prayed people out of the church. We have heard a pastor do that, that he actively prayed that certain people would leave and so at some point, yes, the pastor starts out with this noble cause of wanting to get a lot of people and do a lot of great things for God. But at some point – there is a point where they meet this opposition and then it raises its ugly head and they start to do things, which are unthinkable.” (Interview of Dr. Robert Klenck, Orthopedist, by Dr. Monteith)
If you would like more detailed information, including references, I would refer
you to the excellent work done by Banner Ministries (http://www.banner.org.uk/apostasy/cell-church-cont.htm)
There are also the two books by Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and church consultant,
Carl F. George (author of “The Coming Church Revolution”)
THE BOTTOM LINE
If we are in the “last days” the Bible is very clear. The church will fall away. In Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3, there are the letter to the seven churches of Asia. Many scholars believe they referred to specific historic churches, but also epochs in Church History. I would like to briefly deal with them but only in terms of one theme – church organization.
The Church in Ephesus, the early church. They were commended fore testing so-called apostles and found them to be false. They were warned about leaving their first love, but commended in verse 6 “yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” So who are the Nicolaitans? The word in Greek means “subdue or conquer the laity”. In other words, they were a group who were promoting a clerical hierarchy. Hierarchy is a part of all man-made religion, even Old Testament Judaism. (Revelation 2:1-7)
God didn’t have anything against the Church in Smyrna. “I know your tribulation and your poverty.” (Revelation 2:8-11) They were told to not fear what they were about to suffer.
Then we come to the Church in Pergamos. God had something against them. They had allowed pagan teachings and practices to enter the church (Balaam and Balak), plus “you have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans”. This represents the period in between the early church, the suffering church and the full blown Roman Catholic Church (Thyatira). But you see that the clergy/laity system begins to take hold. (Revelation 2:12-17)
The Church of Thyatira talks about full scale idolatry. “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads my bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:18-29). For any who don’t appreciate the evils of the Roman Catholic Church, I would refer you to the Chapter 4 "Ecumenism and the Roman Catholic Church" in this book . There is not only a mixture with pagan religion but the church has become the official religion of the state (under Constantine and will stay that way for many centuries to come) along with the full blown clergy/laity system from priests to bishops, archbishops to the pope.
The Church in Sardis represents the churches of the Reformation. Notice, they did not get rid of the clergy/laity system and God isn’t very complimentary, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up…Remember what you have received (i.e. salvation by grace and the other fruits of the Reformation). Please see Revelation 3:1-6.
The Church in Philadelphia is very interesting. God doesn’t have anything bad to say about them but acknowledges their insignificance “you have a little power, and have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:7-13) I believe the Church in Philadelphia represents those little groups of Christians who turned their back on the church establishment. This was started by some of the Brethren in the 19th century who left the organized church and the professional clergy system emphasizing for the first time since the early church the true priesthood of the believers – that all members are gifted and need to exercise those gifts. But like all true moves of God, even some of these assemblies became institutionalized and began to divide and go off in bizarre directions. We will come back to Philadelphia because I believe it still represents the remnant of simple believers who still gather in living rooms across the world to simply worship God and experience the simple life of the true church.
The Church in Laodicea represents the mainstream Western “Christian”
church of the last days. Remember, most of the churches co-exist today – the
suffering church, the Roman Catholic Church, her daughter churches born out of
the reformation as well as weak little Philadelphia. To me, no church
represents the modern mega church better than Laodicea.
”I know your deeds, that you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:15-18)
Laodicea was a wealthy city in Roman times on the trade roots of Asia about 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia. There was a hot spring on one side of the city and a cold one on the other that flowed into the center into a lukewarm fountain. The historic church in Laodicea was profiting from all of the trade and had a lot to lose if they didn’t go along with their Roman masters and it is a story for another place that, although they seriously considered bowing to the Roman Emperor, they were all martyred. That was the end of the early Laodicean church. What of today’s?
The passage speaks of a church that is wealthy (rich, overflowing with material goods), a church that is so molded with the world that it is spiritually lukewarm. Yet it thinks of itself as rich, satisfied and “in need of nothing.” This certainly sounds like the church of Robert Schuller, Saddleback Sam, Bill Hybel, Kenneth Copeland, Crespo Dollar, Pat Robertson, John Wember, C. Peter Wagner, etc. Crouch, Jack Hayford, Charles Stanley, D. James Kennedy, Tim LaHaye, the late John Wimber, Juan Carlos Ortiz, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, David Yonggi Cho, John Paul Jackson, James Ryle, Frank Damazio, Ed Silvoso, Claudio Freidzon, Roger Mitchell, Ted Haggart, Paul Cain, Chuck Pierce, Rick Joyner, etc.
There is one more thing we should notice about the Church in Laodicea. In the catholic and protestant churches, the pastor and priest typically ruled the laity with an iron fist. There was no argument. Remember the Nicolaitans where the clergy ruled the laity? Now we have “Laodicea” which means rule by the laity! The typical “evangelical” church today is ruled by a Board of some type (deacons, elders, etc.). The average pastor serves at the pleasure of the Board. If the church needs a pastor, a search committee interviews potential pastors, has them come in and audition (by preaching at the church) and then there is a vote – usually by the full church membership. If the pastor alienates enough of the church, they are removed by vote and a new search begins. This is so far from the Biblical model, it isn’t even worth defending. But the result of the new “democratic” laity-controlled church, you have people gathering teachers who will “itch their ears” as quoted in the II Timothy passage at the beginning of this chapter.
A lot more could be said about Laodicea, but the point here is that neither model – the Nicolaitan (clergy dominant) model nor the Laodicean (laity dominant) model of the “seeker sensitive”, market driven church – neither represent what God really wants. God’s intention is for a body, an organism rather than an organization. No matter how much the Rick Warren’s and C. Peter Wagner’s of this world will protest and say that their model is the model of a body (especially in the cell-church movement), the fact is, they are controlled from the top down and bear no resemblance to the spontaneous life of the early church. But once the early church leaves its “first love”, stagnation and death are sure to follow.
The question is this: is the “laity friendly church” part of a great “end times” revival or apostasy? The Bible clearly declares that in the “last days”:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first . . . ” (II Thessalonians 2:3a).
“Now the Spirit expressly (i.e., “explicitly”) says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with hot iron . . .” (I Timothy 4:1-2).
“And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should
believe the lie” (II Thessalonians 2:11).
And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. (Matthew 24:10)
The Principle of Leaven
In Matthew 16, Jesus warns the disciples of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees”, the religious leaders of the day. Even the smallest amount of leaven will infect the whole loaf, causing the loaf of bread to rise. Verse 12 tells us he was referring to the teachings of the religious leaders. Now I will be the first to admit that nothing is black and white. There is a lot to be said for Rick Warren’s approach and his teachings in “The Purpose Driven Life.” They are uplifting, fundamental teachings, exhorting believers that it isn’t about them and what they get out of it, but about God and what they can give. His emphasis on evangelism is admirable. His effort to support the laity in developing their own ministry is terrific, and I’m not being facetious. I see nothing particularly wrong with his suggestions on making the church and our lives more relevant to the unsaved.
These are not the things that bother me. Several things bother me:
These churches avoid controversy and unpopular topics in their effort to
appeal to their target audience. If we are living in the “last days,” are
they preaching the escapism of the pre-tribulation rapture, or do they just
ignore prophecy completely? Do they ever deal with prophetic issues? Issues
of preparation in times of great upheaval and suffering? Or do they just
address the “felt needs” of the people and develop programs so that their life
will be more complete and full?
Do they allow leaven into the church? I am aware of otherwise outwardly
appearing fundamental churches which allow and even promote: Psychological
counseling (please see
Psychology - The Trojan Horse), 10 Step AA type programs (demonic in
origin – please see Psychoheresy by Martin Bobgan), the Alpha Course
http://www.banner.org.uk/misc/alpha.html) , the Promise Keepers ( please
Case Study - The Promise Keepers) and support such dominionist
organizations as YWAM, and many other modern movements that are very
questionable – ecumenical, New Age, apostles and prophets movements, etc.
There is a tremendous amount of fellowship between the leaders in the Church
Growth Movement, and one would certainly be suspicious when a pastor is seen
rubbing shoulders with leaders such as Robert Schuller, Tim LaHaye, Benny Hinn,
C. Peter Wagner, etc.
What is their attitude toward politics and patriotism? Most churches blindly
support their “Christian” President and his policies around the world. In
fact, many have a patriotic fervor and sense of America’s destiny to bring
Christ, capitalism and democracy to the world, by the point of the gun if need
be. If we are in the last days, the Bible is clear that the “church” will
fall away. It will ally itself with the political system and ride the beast
and the antichrist will go forth to conquer. We have dealt with the issue of
America in prophecy in many articles. The church should be very careful in
terms of supporting the state since this is central to the “last days”
No matter what system the institution of the church supports – whether the
“Meta” Church or the “Cell” Church, it is still an institution – whether
Nicolaitan or Laodicean. No matter how much they protest, they are
organizations and not organisms. They are hierarchical and controlling, even
the cell church as we will see in the next chapter. Jesus was very clear in
his analogy that we are not like a tree connected through smaller branches,
then middle sized branches and finally to big branches and then the tree
trunk. He said we are like a grape vine where every person is a branch that
is connected to Him as the source (John 15). We are not like a military
organization organized from the top down. We no longer need a hierarchy
because we are all kings and priests. We need no middleman. We have a
relationship with one another because of our relationship with Him.
The Life Principle
I have written whole chapters on what God really wants but I would prefer you pick up the New Testament and read for yourself. Read Romans, Ephesians and the rest of the epistles. God’s way is to put His life into each person who is born again. That life grows from within and transforms us. He calls each of us to a work and gives us gifts. He likens us to a body, connected to one another, flowing life to one another – no part is more important than the other. Man’s way is to create offices, hierarchies, and organizations. God’s way is to create functions and real life connections. We are not to have the office of a pastor but to function as one (if that is your gift) We are not to have the office of a teacher but function as one. God speaks in terms of functions, not offices – an evangelist, an elder, a deacon (one who serves others), being given to hospitality, visiting the sick, etc. These are things Christians do, not offices they hold. You don’t have to go to Bible School and Seminary. You just let the Lord flow through you and do it! Let’s look at Romans 12 and the true nature of the church:
1 “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all members do not have the same function,
5 So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly; if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
7 If service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives with liberality; he who leads with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness…
16 Be of the same mind toward one another; but do not be haughty in mind; but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”
Not to belabor the obvious, we notice that we are not to be conformed to the world so where does that leave the “seeker friendly church”? But even more, notice the simplicity that from a life point of view. We each have a measure of faith and a function in the body and gifts which we are to use. Let these words sink in. Does this sound like today’s institutional church? Let’s go on to I Corinthians 12:
4 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 and to another effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues and to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills”
The source of gifts and ministries is the Spirit. Does it say anything about going to Bible School and Seminary? What is lacking in the Body of Christ today are divine gifts and ministries exercised by every member of the body. These are functions, not offices. This is what these people do – minister gifts given by the Spirit – not positions they hold. These are works of the Spirit in people not of some religious educational system. The verses continue:
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many
15 If the food should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body, it is not for this reason for any the less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But now God has placed the members, each of them in the body, just as He desired
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?...
24 whereas our seemly member have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to the member which lacked
25 that there should be no division in the body, but that members should have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
30 All do not have the gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.”
The problem with the modern church today is that most of the gifts and functions of the body are suppressed by the clergy/laity system. Professionals are hired to do the spiritual lifting and the rest just sit and observe. The extent that the Meta Church reverses this trend, fine and good but it doesn’t go all the way. It is still very much a top down organization and everything is tightly controlled. Please not that we are talking about gifts to the body – appointed by God and probably recognized by the church because of their obvious function and fruit. But every member has a function and must function in order to have a healthy body. Ephesians 4 confirms:
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers,
12 For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15 But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,
16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
I do not deny that God needs people to help perfect the saints. But He calls and equips them. Again, they function because they are gifted. But the goal is not so that one man act as the professional lording it over the saints, but that all should grow, no longer children and that every part, every joint supplies one another. That is what results in a healthy church. Because of the clergy/laity system that has been embraced across all of modern evangelical Christianity, we have a generation of babies, and still born who need entertainment and ask, “what’s in it for me and my family?” I dare say, the average Christian who reads this will wonder what on earth I’m talking about. Only God can show you what He wants – a practical, living body of believers ministering to one another and reaching out as people recognize their light and life by declaring, “behold how they love one another.”
Nothing has been more damaging to the maturing of Christians than the clergy/laity system. As long as you are in a system where everything is done for you by the professionals, you will not likely find your own gifts and learn to function in a living body of believers. If you are connected to His body (other believers), you will minister life to one another. Your relationship with the Lord will become richer and you will have even more to share. It isn’t that difficult.
Even Rick Warren realizes how difficult it is for people to change. That is why he calls his church a “meta church” (a “change” church). He realizes that most Christians will never make the turn from traditional evangelical Christianity so he goes to the new converts. Actually the cell churches do the same thing. The lesson? Most people are too locked into their traditions and ways of doing things. They don’t have the growth in life, maturity or commitment it takes to do something apart from the comfort and organization of the “church.”
If you are interested in developing a real church life, you will probably need to open your home and reach brand new people who have never been brain washed. As much as we would love to share with those in the institutional church, we probably won’t reach many because they are in a virtual caldron of institutionalization, apostasy and lukewarmness….and don’t even know it. They are locked into a clergy/laity system and can’t imagine another way of doing things. Most are “still born” or remain as babies on the pastors milk.
If you are one of those who doesn’t see anything wrong with the present religious system, just keep going down the path you are on. Ignore the pleadings of His word and the Holy Spirit to get out of the system. Just read Revelation 3:14-22 and you will see your fate – and those are not my words. In the letters to the seven churches in Asia, each ends with the exhortation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
As we come into the last days, the different prophetic churches co-exist: the Roman Catholic Church (Thyatira), the Protestant Churches (Sardis), the church with a little strength (Philadelphia) and the lukewarm wealthy church (Laodicea) as well as the suffering church in various parts of the world (e.g. China, Africa, etc.). The question is, are you going to be a part of the problem or the solution? Revelation 17 and 18 describes apostate Christianity – the great mother of harlots and her children (the catholic church and those that followed). The woman (the church) is riding the beast (the political system) and makes war against the true saints.
Deception abounds and unless you have an open heart and mind, and separate yourself from the leavening influence of the church institution, you will not escape the powerful pull. In the book, “The Purpose Driven Church”, Rick Warren says that if people have seven friends in the church, they will probably stick with it. So powerful are friendships, relationships and traditions! Unfortunately, most care more for their comfort and relationships than they do the truth.
Many people excitedly tell me about an alternative to the organized church - the Cell Church Movement! Is this the answer or another counterfeit? We will see in the next chapter.
Continue to Chapter 9
The Cell Church