Leadership Makes Disciples Not Church Buildings – part 22

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 12:22-25)

God has combined the members. In some versions, God has arranged the members. The Church is Christ’s one body worldwide. The Christian body in one city is the entire body of members in that city. The only reason once set of members is called the church in such and such city, is because cities are separated by geographical distance. The name of the city is used to identify the body of believers in that geographical space. The church is not the building you go to when you attend church services. Today’s concept of the church does not come from God. It is not Biblical. We have fragmented the body by dividing the worldwide living body into buildings and physical gathering places where we have our activities on a certain day and hour. Remember the diagram of the box? Today’s concept of the church as a building or gathering place is the box. This box gives way to a worldly style of leadership which creates competition over who is in charge of the box. The box will eventually lead to division and then when another person wants to be in charge, it will lead to what is commonly known as a church split. It is actually an entity split. The box splits into two boxes. The true spiritual body of Christ cannot be split. The reason the box creates competition is that there are leaders in that box who are superior to other leaders in other boxes. We smaller members quarrel over those men and their doctrine. We create a better belief system within our box which is better in our own minds. It is easier to control our meeting place which has a name different than the other boxes. We call it “a church”. I follow Cephas, because he preaches better than Apollos does. He preaches better because his system of belief, tradition, or government of the congregation is better and so we meet in a different physical place than where Apollos teaches. We do not meet where Apollos teaches because we don’t like how he holds his church services. Those who follow Cephas believe in his doctrinal preferences. What would have happened had either Cephas or Apollos simply humbled himself?

We modern Christians divided over buildings, men, belief systems and doctrine and still consider ourselves part of one worldwide body. The problem is that we don’t act like we are part of one body. We would rather propagate our specific kind of buildings, style of men and doctrinal statement than act like a true body.

Church growth principles refer to systems that can be learned on specifically how the pastor or leader can fill up your you’re your entities building in order to have a successful (bigger numerically) ministry. You keep constructing a bigger building until you become so big that you need more than one building. Once you have more than one building you have become a movement or network of affiliated church buildings. The definition of mega-church is “a building where services are upwards of 2,000 people in attendance in one or two services under one roof.” Even the secular definition of church refers to buildings and services. When Christians meet another Christian they ask, “What church (building) do you go to?”

Our current concept of “church” is completely against New Testament teaching; in fact, it is strictly prohibited by the apostles (Romans 16:17, 18). We are specifically warned by the apostles that this is prohibited and that the result of this behavior leads to division (Mark 3:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:10-31; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 1 Corinthians 11:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 12:24, 25). I understand that some apostles refer to the different groups of believers in cities as churches but they also taught that all believers form one body. Cities were separated by distance and logistically it was easier to meet as one body within one city. Today we are 1,000 times more divided than the first generation of believers after Christ’s ascension. One city has hundreds if not thousands of divisions. If we were not separated by buildings, men, and doctrine, it might be considered ok to have a body of believers that gather on the north side of town and another body of believers in the south. Cities are larger today than they were when the apostles were alive. But we are not unified as believers within the same city. Division starts small and grows into something that causes a split among the believers. The division between two “leaders” within a “church” could start over something as insignificant as how to rake leaves. It grows to the point that we separate from fellowship with our own brothers and sisters. Once you are no longer fellowshipping with your brothers in Christ, something is wrong. So what do you do? If you want to extend his kingdom, the last thing you do is cause division, and this you will do as soon as you gather people around you as the leader of your building or your superior doctrine. You may not even realize that you have exalted yourself above those other servants who are gathering together in Christ’s name. They will have to choose to follow you or stay where they are at. Once you start representing your building’s name or whatever doctrine you emphasize instead of Jesus Christ, you are on a downward spiral toward further divisions, even within your own movement. Those who represent their denomination or movement are accustomed to constructing buildings with names on them. They are typically called “church plants”. Sometimes a church gets planted in a home. Once the gathering grows numerically to the point that they no longer fit in a home, talk begins about constructing a building. The fact that a building is constructed is not necessarily sin. What is sin, is the reason why we cannot meet in the building of other Christians a mile or two up the road. We are not a body, or we would be more concerned about making disciples instead of church plants.

Christ’s body should be making disciples instead of church buildings

The minute you build buildings or put names on your movement, you have wrecked the true spiritual extension of the Gospel. Naming your ministry, movement, entity, box, or whatever you call it will end in division and turn your work into a sick and festering group of divided Christians. If you name your entity (especially after yourself) you are worldly and mere infants in Christ and do not understand spiritual things according to the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 3:1-9). If you start a new entity with a new name, you have further splintered the body of Christ and could shipwreck your own faith (1 Timothy 1:1-20).

“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.  (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power”.

(NRSV, 1 Corinthians – 1:10-17)

If you are following the eloquent preaching of superior wisdom from a number one leader with a well-known name, and you are propagating his or her name, and thus you are emptying the cross of Christ of its power. There is no power in the name of that famous preacher. There is only true spiritual power in the one name, the name of Jesus Christ. The enemy has a right to divide you once you start to promote men instead of the Messiah. Propagating doctrines of men instead of the simple teaching of Christ disqualifies you from extending his kingdom. His kingdom simply will not be extended because you are extending the kingdom of some other person. If you can bring yourself to change, now is the time. I will offer some radical options in the next chapter. It is hard to believe that all the movements, denominations and their church buildings are not Biblical. It is harder to believe that they are not extending the kingdom, but it is true. If we are divided, we are not in Christ and are extending something else.

I grew up in “the Presbyterian church”. Did you notice how I wrote that phrase? I did not say I grew up in the body of Christ in Amarillo, Texas; I mentioned my childhood denomination. I went to Westminster Presbyterian Church, located at 2525 Wimberly Road. Notice how I wrote that phrase? Did it sound correct to you? I didn’t know why we were Presbyterians; I just knew that we were superior to all the other denominations. I don’t even believe that I was taught that we were superior. It just entered into me at some point while growing up in that place. We did all our church services, functions, camps, and activities with other Presbyterians. It’s human nature to think that what our parents do is the correct thing to do. It is the sinful carnal nature to think that what I am doing is the right thing to do. We are innately sinful and carnal. We are immature infants and mere men by thinking that we belong to the Presbyterian denomination. Think of the millions of children growing up Buddhist or Muslim. They think that their religions are correct and superior to ours. They will also think that the particular sect of their religion they belong to is better than all the other sects of that same religion. It is interesting that Satan has also divided the other religions against themselves. His purpose is different, though; it is to make it harder for the Christian missionary to get into those people groups because they are also divided over doctrine. One people group now has two Buddhist sects within it.

My wife and I train missionaries. We have had hours of conversations on how we are going to send new missionaries. We both grew up in the Presbyterian denomination and later changed to another with the manifestations of the power of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But our personal beliefs and what we think to be correct are irrelevant. We must agree with one another and not be divided over doctrine and personal preferences, especially if we are to send missionaries into areas where the Gospel has never been taken before. All of the current mission models are irrelevant as well. Our methods have to be Biblical if we really want the missionaries we send to spread the Gospel. Actually, we are not doing the sending, the Holy Spirit is (Acts 13:2). If we cannot follow the New Testament teaching, we will be a hindrance to the great commission and will do more damage than good on the mission field. We must teach and send our missionaries without agency names, logos, icons, denominational preferences, and most importantly, men’s missiological methods. Look for my book called “Missions to Remote Unreached People Groups; Radical Missionaries Needed Now.” All new missionaries are to be sent as followers of Christ and they are to preach and teach Christ’s and the apostle’s teachings alone. The Gospel of Christ spreads naturally because it is a living organism; rather, he (Jesus) is a living person. He is not a doctrine to be taught, and he is not a religion to be adhered to.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God”.

(NIV, 2 Corinthians 5:20)

If you begin to make disciples, you will be naturally spreading the Gospel and there will be no need to gather people under an entity, logo or a name. What is more, it will not be necessary to put up walls in order to hold church services. Your disciples must emphatically know that they are to make other disciples, and when the house fills up, it spills over into the next house. When there is no more room under the big tree, the Gospel will spread to the next big tree. Better yet, when disciples start to testify, you should move farther out, extending the Gospel into other areas where it hasn’t been taken. Jesus Christ is the light of the world and he naturally wants to shine in the darkness where there is no light. Houses provide a more personal atmosphere and cannot be easily seized by the government or shut down by persecutors. Normally, the government throws the people into jail who are gathering in houses. They don’t normally seize the meeting place, because it’s someone’s house. The government does however love to seize church buildings. Once this happens, all that construction time and money spent is wasted. When I was a new missionary, we were starting a new gathering in a very resistant area and the unchristian neighbors burned the house where we met. We just moved the meeting to another house. The unchristian neighbors only burned one house. I guess they figured out that we were not going to give up. Jesus and the apostles borrowed the buildings they used. Neither Jesus nor the apostles built buildings. Let’s follow their example: if you need a building, borrow one.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people”.

(NIV, Matthew 4:23)

“And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea”.

(NIV, Luke 4:44)

“Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret”.

(NIV, John 18:19-20)

“At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God”.

(NIV, Acts 9:20)

“When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper”.

(NIV, Acts 13:5)

Don’t build buildings; they will cause division as soon as someone inside your building decides to become the new leader. Or division will come as soon as another Christian building goes up nearby. If you build buildings, the number one leader also has to stay put because there is a building to keep up. Then the movement becomes stagnant and starts to grow inward. All good missionary training centers have a church-planting course, and they teach you two important lessons. The first lesson is that you do not take your denominational preferences or doctrinal baggage to the mission field. The second lesson is that you should not build buildings. Church growth principles at a mission training  program will teach you that your movement will peak out once you start to build buildings. This is considered a very basic church growth principle taught to missionaries going where there are no Christians yet. Most people don’t listen to the first lesson, so it usually ends up that they build a building in order to keep their doctrinal preferences separate from the other Christians. In modern missionary methods, starting churches more often than not means constructing buildings. Once some other group comes into the same area and starts a church and constructs a building, they will have to put a name on it to distinguish it from your building. If you are the first one there, you don’t need a name until someone else comes in with another building. The fact that there are two buildings in the same town forces the people to make a choice between which building to attend. Burger City puts up a store across the street from McRonalds; now you have two choices to eat a hamburger. Which one is better? The difference between the hamburger industry and the Christian church is that Burger City never tells their customers not go to McRonalds. That would be unethical. It would also look bad. Our own carnality, combined with a little help from our enemy Satan, has twisted what Jesus taught us about the leadership. Jesus could have built buildings but he chose not to. He knew what he was doing and led by example. I was part of a church-planting ministry for several years. Notice that I did not say “discipleship movement.” That ministry constructed church buildings. It was part of their missiology. We had a meeting every week with about twenty-five pastors to talk about their problems. Almost all those pastors had their own building. There were a few who did not, and they were looked down upon for it. I learned a lot about division in the three years. Once a week, I had to listen to all the problems of those pastors. I remember hearing every kind of contention, jealousy, fighting and bickering over their buildings. One building was even robbed by another pastor in the same movement.

“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”.

(NRSV, Mark 10:35-45; See also Matthew 20:20)

Over the centuries, we Christians have made “church” what we want it to be. We have distorted it so that we can exalt ourselves so that we can be in control so that we can be served, and so that we can get from Jesus (and the congregations) whatever we ask. Not so with you! You be different and get all your leadership models from Jesus.