Yesterday I thought out loud about the idea of “professional ministers,” recognizing that most seminaries exist because many churches have failed to properly disciple people and have thus failed to build up leaders. “Leadership development” has thus primarily become about the transfer of information (as has most preaching), so we send our young men off to an academic program believing that they will return equipped to shepherd. Pastors are treated as professionals so that we have to develop proper resumés and go through rigorous interview processes because, as we’ve already noted, churches are not discipling, so we have to hire leaders form the outside.
Much of this mindset also accompanies another subtle but powerful idea that I will not go back to: business = holiness. Many churches fill up every possible day and evening with something on their schedule because we have come to believe that if we’re doing more for or at the church, then we’re somehow more holy. The result is that we look down on those people who have lives outside of scheduled church activities as somehow being less holy, and if they really cared about the Lord, they’d be here with us, because, after all, nothing good can outside of these walls!
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that our entire lives should not be devoted to the Lord. I’m just saying that, as a pastor, I would rather our people have their neighbors over for dinner than help keep a program running at a building. At Church of the Cross, we only have two regularly scheduled events on our calender: Gathered Worship and Community Groups. If you compare our calender to some others, you might conclude that we don’t do a whole lot. And, maybe we don’t in the traditional sense. But, I’m comfortable saying that we actually ask much more of our people than many churches that offer something every evening of the week. Rather than participate in a bunch of programs, we ask you to radically reorient your entire life around the Gospel. We ask you to learn (with us) to live everyday life with Gospel intentionality.
I’m not convinced that business = holiness, so we don’t have a lot of things on our schedule. Everyone’s time and resources are focused and funneled inward rather than outward to be a blessing to our neighbors and communities. We huddle together rather than living like missionaries. I think that part of the reason for this tendency is because we often define holiness as not just separation from sin but from sinners. So, the more activities we can come up with to occupy ourselves, the less contact we’ll have to have with “those people.” I think at least one more reason might be because, many of us really do want to know as much as possible. So we want a class for everything. Rather than be equipped to learn ourselves, we would rather be taught, so the more programs our church offers, the better. But, the truth is, most Christians know much more about the Bible than they live. Learning more only increases what you’re accountable for.
Thom Rainer talks about Simple Church, while Tim Chester and Steve Timmis talk about Total Church. Though the authors come from different backgrounds, both books share the conviction that too many of our churches simply bog down our people and bottleneck the discipleship process with business. The most effective churches at disciple-making are the most focused and streamlined. Full church calendars do not always produce fully-formed disciples.