The fall kickoff for ministries is in full swing. With the launch of new programs, as well as getting prior ministries going once again, this is a big time of year for many churches. Outside of Christmas and Easter, this may be the biggest and also the busiest time of year.
Year after year the goal is on getting more people connected and involved. New people, new groups, and a renewed focus. This gives off the appearance that the church is engaged and growing through what they say is evangelism, discipleship, and everything in between.
It used to be that connecting people to small groups was so that as many people in the church as possible we’re learning, growing, and walking along side other believers. Within the small groups, they were going through a book of the Bible or even going through the passage the pastor went through. Nevertheless, it was encouraged and expected that people were meeting together outside of Sunday services in order to grow in their faith.
Outside of small groups were basically Sunday School groups as well as some other child care.
Then somewhere along the way, and in order to appeal to a broader demographic, other groups and so-called ministries started making their way into churches. Churches changed “small groups” to “life groups”, and pretty soon there was a long list of different groups you could attend. From groups separated by age, gender, married or unmarried, and even by what they were studying. And not only based upon those criteria, but also by interests, hobbies, clubs, addiction rehabs, and a ton of others. Sadly, many began replacing Bible study with going through popular “Christian” books or even worse, groups that simply gather to do whatever activity together as a mere social club.
In essence, churches have ended up becoming a one-stop shopping experience that caters to whatever your needs or desires. It’s a “we’ve got it all” approach to ministry. When did churches become reduced to nothing other than a community organizing institution??
What is so concerning is that many sit inside these churches and think that this is normal. And even though it is common, it is far from normal. Much can try to be debated about any merit to these programs and groups, but what can definitely be said is that much of what we see today isn’t much different than if these things were being done outside churches.
Sure, these programs and groups might have the appearance of being “Christian”, but at the core they are feeble attempts to build the church through man’s methods, not God’s.
Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about what the Church would look like stripped of all the things our North American churches look like and do. Take away the buildings and all the fancy stuff that is put in them, the programs and events, the money, and even the marketing and promotion materials. Take away those things and most churches are nothing.
So if many churches are built on those things, why do so many continue to pursue them?? It can be said that there may be nothing wrong with those groups in and of themselves, but if there is even a hint of a possibility that it can give people a false assurance of faith, why in the world would we want to put those stumbling blocks in people’s way?? Is there no fear of God??
As I look around, this is no joking matter. Some might call me a “hater” or “biased” because I’m a house church guy. But I believe something bigger is at play: the souls of all people who need Jesus; not some flashy program or group geared toward what appeals to them.
So much of what churches do is so unnecessary. When you get right down to the bottom of it, the real evaluation is not how many people we can get or even how it appeals to the masses, but rather seeing people truly growing in their faith and obedience to the Lord. What I think we miss is that most of these “ministries” are not really making disciples, but rather building their own kingdoms here on earth. Some might have the purest of pure motives, but in practice may not discern what is actually taking place.
My hope in writing this is that it would cause each of us to pause and really think through what is going on in our churches. With so many things being thrown at us as to what to believe and what is church, we must get to the place of separating what is necessary from that which is unnecessary. May the Lord give us the eyes and ears to discern the Truth and return to the simplicity of walking in true faith and obedience to Him.