Here’s an interesting exchange I had recently. I have many like it. It seems when people leave an old system, their first passion is to start a new one. The unspoken thought is that systems will work pretty well if the right people are in charge. The reality is that systems themselves are destructive to relational and organic growth.
It seems all of this stems from the fact that we really don’t trust that Jesus is capable of building his church—that he cannot give rise to the reality of his family if we don’t “start something”. It’s as if living loved and loving just won’t be enough to let him do all he wants to do.
Here’s a passionate brother who is anxious to start his own church and my responses:
Mike: I just found out about you and what you are doing because my daughter sent me to your web for information about how to start an open church at home. I am just a new born baby, about 4 years now, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit about 3 years ago and I have been preparing myself to follow God’s plan for my life. I am considering going to a Bible college this September and the Lord spoke to me and asked me to start an Open Church with some of my family members and friends. I have read some of your articles regarding Church and think have helped me tremendously on how to approach the Lord’s command.
My response: I’m pleased to hear of your passion, but I don’t have any advice on how someone should approach starting a church, except to tell them not to. People who start a church end up basing it around their vision or gifts and it will either bog down or simply become the outgrowth of one person. I am convinced real church emerges as an organic outgrowth of relationships people are already sharing. So the question is not, how do we start a church, but rather, how do we facilitate people caring for each other and growing spiritually together and see over time whether or not church life emerges from that reality? I really don’t think we need to start churches. Jesus started the only one that matters at Pentecost 2000 years ago. We just need to live in that reality instead of starting more institutions that only further divide the body. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but I honestly thing the way God works is very different than the way we do…
Mike: I guess I used the term CHURCH incorrectly, because what I want to do is getting people… friends… family and share with them my experience, to try to have them become true Christians and then share our love with Jesus. I love your honesty. God bless you.
My response: I’m sure Father will lead you. If I could encourage you in anything it would be to share your life freely, but look to come alongside someone else’s journey. Once we try to get people to have the experience we have, we’ll manipulate them instead of serve them. Jesus just wants you to come alongside folks and give them truth as they are ready for it. Once we start trying to manage people’s spirituality, people will run from us. God will show you. I love your heart and passion, but church leadership has done this wrong for a long time and its why people are fleeing from the church instead of finding God in her.
Mike: Thank you Wayne, I understand what you are saying. Please tell me in your opinion then what I should do. How do I try to tell people about how wonderful Jesus is, about eternal life, about relationship with GOD. I am so new at this. I am a 71 years old newborn baby so willing to do good. Any advice will be incredible for me.
My response: What should you do? Follow him. If you don’t know what that means yet, just live in his love and love others around you. In time it will be clear what he wants you to do. If you don’t know now, other than to follow someone else’s form, then maybe you are moving ahead of him. I’m really serious about this. We’re just asked to love like he loves us (John 13:34-35), to proclaim the gospel as we have opportunity and to help others follow Jesus who want to follow him (Matthew 28:19-20). We are not told to plant a church, for he said he would build his own. He’s good at this. He knows what to do. Just help others as God gives you grace. Don’t try to start something. Don’t try to ‘get people’ to do anything. Live your life before them until they are hungry enough to ask for help. Then help them learn to live loved and follow Jesus. And the gospel will spread…
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When I last heard from Mike, he seemed to have captured what I was saying. We must not forget that the ‘early church’ did not arise out of a plan to get people to do anything. The early church emerged out of a revelation of who Jesus is, and hungry hearts responded who wanted to know God and live in his life. There was no recruitment campaign and no strategy to manage people through a hierarchical system. They lived as a family and grew to discover how they could embrace his life together and live transformed in the culture.
I actually think when we try to ‘start something’, we’ve already made a step away from his reality. It’s not that God won’t go with us and that our efforts won’t be fruitful at some level, but they will never help people discover the depth of relationship and transformation that comes from a relationship with him. Unfortunately, for many, the thing we start will be come their substitute for knowing God themselves.
Somehow we have to think differently—that our calling is not to build the church, but to present an authentic demonstration of the Gospel in how we live and what we say. Then, we take the time to equip those who want to know him, how to live in a relationship with him. As a pool of people discover how to live loved and love, then the church can take on a variety of forms and expressions in various times and seasons.
Our focus will remain on him and what he’s doing in the world, rather than sustaining our institution, be it in a building or a home. Then we have a shot at the church of Jesus Christ being known in the world as a people who are being transformed by him.