Smoke and Mirrors?

My Dad used to have a saying, ” if it aint broke, don’t fix it”. In other words if something is working well don’t mess around with it in case you break it. With that in mind, why did I go to all the trouble of breaking two apparently successful churches that were growing and enjoying great meetings? The key for me was all to do with what do we mean when we say that something is ‘successful’?

Success surely has to be when a plan or a project delivers that which it was designed to do, it is when we get what we set out to achieve? What happened to us was, I changed how I defined success, and therefore our churches went from success to failure overnight without anything in them being changed. To be honest there was more of as process than I have suggested but the result was the same.

Under the old way of thinking success was measured mainly by the number of bodies that turned out on a Sunday Morning, then there was how well the praise and worship went and of course whether or not my preaching was up to scratch. This was all well and good until we started to compare what we had with the New Testament. The big one for me was Jesus’ command for us to make disciples, and I discovered that there can be a big difference between a disciple and a church goer. In our case we had some folk who would fight to have a church service but couldn’t pray with a brother or sister in their home; to simply share the love of Christ and break bread with someone was beyond them.

The New Testament paints a picture not of the church being an organisation but a movement of believers who simply lived their lives as members of God’s kingdom. We see a church family where every believer has the responsibility to be used of the Holy Spirit in ministering to the saints as well as testifying to the world. For sure teachers would come through town to assist in the equipping of the local believers so that they could carry out the work of the ministry; but there were no regular services geared around the pastor. In this condition the Gospel spread all around the world, unhindered by national or cultural barriers. Compare that to the typical 21st century church where we have trouble getting the Gospel around the corner let alone round the world.

Let’s take this a little further; we have TV, Radio, Internet and the ability to mass produce any media we like. Our meetings can have lights, music, multi-media and soft chairs; we can offer hot and cold drinks, bagels and muffins, short meetings and the list goes on and yet the number of new believers is limited at best; the majority of church growth is merely believers transferring from less well equipped fellowships. The early church on the other hand had no choice but to rely on the power within the Gospel and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that the majority of our modern ‘advantages’ are simply ‘smoke and mirrors’; things that appear to do the job yet with no genuine measurable substance.

Some questions we should answer for ourselves is, where is our faith and expectancy? Are we reliant on the leading of the Holy Spirit and the power that is inherent within the Gospel Message, or are we merely trying to persuade people to attend something? Or perhaps we have given up all together?

Is it possible that genuine believers have misunderstood what Jesus meant when He said church? Do we actually know what the Gospel is?

If even some of these questions have been answered in the way that I suspect they have then our lack of growth and effectiveness is no longer a mystery. We don’t need better services; we need confident believers who know that God’s ability to use them to touch others is infinitely greater than their ability to mess things up. Any volunteers?

Blessings all 😉


About Mark Neale

Husband to Sandra, dad, grandpa, Christian educator, and a John Maxwell Team Member.
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