There is more Christian information available today than ever before. Online books, commentaries, podcasts, music, and television programs abound. You can even buy Christian clothing. That’s right, you can own a pair of Christian jeans. On some levels it appears that things are going quite well for the advancement of the Kingdom of God’s Son. Yet something is amiss.
A growing church should mean a shaken city.
We see in the book of Acts a church that was far less influential and far less resourced, but which still had a much greater impact. Acts shows the gospel being preached in power. Cities were shaken. The message was sometimes accepted, sometimes rejected, but impossible to ignore. In Acts 19 the city of Ephesus was shaken to its core. An entire economy changed as people repented of idolatry in order to follow Jesus.
Before we go any further I want to be clear: I am a full-time pastor. I love the local church and Sunday is my favorite day of the week. However, it’s become obvious to me that there is something wrong. There has been a divorce, and I’m not referring to the divorce rate among Christians (although that is also a problem). I’m talking about the separation of Sunday from the rest of the week.
Each week has 168 hours, and Sunday church gatherings take only one-and-a-half of those hours on average. Sadly, for many Christians, Sunday is considered sacred and the rest of the week is merely secular. That means 1.5 hours are about Jesus and the other 166.5 hours are not.
There are few things more tragic than a church full of spectators. Men and women who gather each week to watch the few “called” leaders exercise their gifts. The church of today has the feel of a pro sports event in which the mighty few perform feats of spiritual athletics far beyond the abilities and imaginations of those content to watch the show. Sure, there are the few varsity Christians who do the mission, teach the Bible, pray for the sick, and live as if the gospel really matters. But then there are the vast number of junior varsity Christians who have to call in the pros if their friends and neighbors are to be reached, and whose best hopes for participating in the Kingdom involve folding the Sunday bulletins.
The tragic development of this Clergy/Laity divide has cultivated a spectator Christianity. Followers of Jesus have outsourced their faith to the “professionals.”
I don’t say this to encourage cynicism about gathering with our congregations, preaching the Gospel, enjoying God in worship, partaking of the sacraments, or submitting to leadership. Blowing up the local church doesn’t fix the local church. I’m saying we have lost one of the core advancements of the Reformation: The priesthood of the believer.
The solution to this problem is not found in eliminating leadership from the church, but in leadership being Biblical.
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Lord of all
Christians are called to demonstrate and enjoy the preeminence of Jesus in EVERYTHING. All 168 hours belong to Jesus. In Acts, we hear that the Church grew daily. Daily; not just once a week.
The goal here is not to cheapen Sunday, but to add the Biblical value back to the days between Sundays. So, how do we do it?
At the heart of leadership is a commitment to empower the saints. The job of the leaders is not to do all of the ministry, because every Christian is a minister.
- 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
- Eph 4: 11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
We leaders must teach people to follow Jesus into their very real calling in the World. We need teachers who don’t just amaze working class folks with their exegesis, but who teach people to read and obey God’s Word. We need gifted evangelists who don’t reduce evangelism to just the large scale, but instead teach God’s people to evangelize their neighbors. And what if prophetic leaders didn’t just hear from the Holy Spirit so the masses don’t need to, but instead trained Christians to listen for the Holy Spirit to provide Jesus’ exalting direction every day?
Lesslie Newbigin wrote, “Ordinary Christians working in business, industry, politics, factory work, and so on, are the Church’s front-line troops in her engagement with the world.”
We need leaders who get ministry into the hands of the people to help reclaim the other 166.5 hours so that every day can be about Jesus. If the Church gathers to train and equip the saints for ministry the way it should, then the Church can also scatter to take the gospel into the city. And, thanks to the book of Acts, we’ve already seen how the gospel can shake a city.