Statistics are clear. The polls tell the story. The American church is not well and our reputation is in shambles. Like the elephant in the room, these facts are largely ignored. News stories abound of attacks Evangelicals make on the sexual mores of unbelievers and how they take pot shots at one another. And why in the world are they looking to political leaders, i.e. Caesar, to lead us? Meanwhile, we have failed to reach Generations X, the Millennials and are failing to reach this generation.
Like dysfunctional families, some keep doing the same thing expecting different results. Others employ techniques of the entertainment world to build their churches. The model Jesus gave the apostles is largely ignored. Back then disciples were not spectators or bench warmers. Church leaders helped them find and use their gifts to lead and participate in various ministries. Today professionals disciple their people from the pulpit. A paid staff does most of the important stuff. Rank and file believers support, assist, and warm pews. Their gifts and talents are largely untapped. With a few exceptions, ministries are clergy-led. If new ministries emerge, more professionals are hired.
Jesus chose laymen. The clergy, Pharisees and Sadducees, rejected him. So Jesus turned to folks with jobs–laymen. He forged them into teams, utilizing their various gifts. He promised them His Spirit to empower them to be his witnesses. As a result His movement grew from 12 to 120 to 3000 to 10,000. The men and women he prepared succeeded by relying on the Spirit’s power and by following Jesus’ model.
Today Christians are on the sidelines, cheering the coach when they need to be on the field, blending their gifts with one another to light up the world and carry the gospel to others. Pastors need to come down from their pulpits, get to know their people, train leaders, form ministry teams and build up the body of Christ. When they do this, they help fulfill Jesus’ prayer, “Father, may they be one—may they be in unity as we are, that the world will believe.” (John 17: 21-23) When leaders trust their people to lead, enlist their talents, build community, encourage them and turn them loose, miracles can happen. New disciples can be won; neighbors take notice of us rather than scorn us. It’s what He promised. “Love each other (as equals) as I have loved you, and the world will recognize you as my disciples.” (John 13: 34, 35)
Jesus invented teamwork. St. Paul articulated it. Perhaps you have experienced the thrill of playing a team, sport or singing in a fine choir. I’ve played tennis singles and sung solos. But nothing beats shining with others to win a game or sing The Messiah. Imagine Handel’s thrill when he heard his masterpiece performed for the first time! It’s thrilling when the church functions like this. It gladdens the Lord’s heart and fulfills His vision for functional, workable, loving relationships in His body, the church
The Church an orchestra? Paul used the human body as an example of a healthy, growing church (1 Cor. 12: 14-26). We’ve changed the metaphor, but the principle is unchanged. “…a fine orchestra is not made up of one instrument, but many different kinds. If the oboist says, “Because I don’t play the trumpet, I don’t belong,” that is foolish; and if the flutist were to say, “Because I do not beat a drum, I don’t belong,” that would be absurd. If the whole orchestra were the flute, who would provide rhythm? And if all were percussionists, who would play the melody? As it is, the composer has written parts for all kinds of instruments, each to play its part in his great arrangement. And so it should be among you.”
“…So, the violinist does not say to the trombonist, “I don’t need you!” Nor does the guitarist say to the clarinet player, “I can handle this by myself!” On the contrary, all the instruments are needed, to blend together. Even the little piccolo is significant. Think how bleak “The Stars and Stripes Forever” would sound without him.”
“So, even though instruments are tuned to different keys, when each plays his own part, the result is beautiful music. But if members go off playing their own tunes, they ruin the composition and throw off the others. By the same token, when one player wins praise for his solo, all share in his glory.”
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