Why Local Church Doors are Closing: We Are Doing Too Much and Need to Do Something Different
I would wake up in the morning thinking about the day before and dreading my day to come. I didn’t want to meet people. I didn’t want to teach anymore, or give advice. I didn’t want to answer questions. I didn’t even want to spend time with God. I just wanted to sleep; sleep or watch television. I was done.
After preaching, this is often how I would feel. My wife probably knows my patterns like clockwork now. It had nothing to do with me doing things in my flesh, because I was “pressing into the Lord.” It was because I was functioning outside of my gifting, and my desire.
I know many of you can relate to what I am saying. I frequently hear many of my fellow co-laborers say how they are burned out, or close to it. They say they are doing too much, and they hate it. We start talking about width and depth in ministry, and they describe themselves as forgetting the definition of what depth looks like. They are passionate. I am passionate. However, we are hitting our walls. Leaders are cheating on their spouses. They are stealing money from the Church. Disciples are not being made, and Church doors are closing all over the world.
We are trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus while giving with crushed forearms and walking on broken legs.
We, the Body of Christ, have created an environment of Church and discipleship that burdens the few, and we feel comfortable with doing it. We have taught generations that it is “ok” to not know our calling in gifts and leadership. We have taught people how to sit and listen, without ever responding. We have taught followers of Jesus how to feel safe in a Church which is barely functioning, and ready to fall apart at any time.
First things first:
For me, it wasn’t until recently that I was really challenged to think about my role in the Body. I wish it had happened sooner. Why? Well, when we understand our roles in the Church, we begin to desire to function in our calling. We start to understand our identity in Christ, and we realize that we are drawing closer to Him as a result. (I will point out what the Bible says happens to the Church a little bit later).
When is the last time you have been challenged? Have you asked yourself what your spiritual gifts are? Are you an apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, or pastor? (Ephesians 4:11) Did you cringe when you read that list? “Did he just write apostle, or prophet? Is this guy charismatic? Is he one of those people?” Or perhaps you said, “Amen brother. I am an Apostle, it says so on my business card and in my Bible.”
What has happened:
There are many churches, which have completely missed the mark in this area, for various reasons. Probably more reasons than I can say in 1,000 words, but I have a feeling you can pick them out. There are also some churches, which have almost “got it” in some sense. They are doing Myers-Briggs testing, and spiritual gift tests. They are talking about leadership, equipping, and training. Unfortunately, for many of these churches the culture is not set up to support the opportunity for people to grow in their specific gifting. There are also some churches that feel comfortable with the spiritual roles. Unfortunately, often times, they are too focused on the title and not the responsibility behind it.
Why has this happened:
I believe it has happened because we have become caught up with the wrong things. We have completely lost the meaning of what a biblical leader looks like, and what healthy ministry looks like. We have allowed the world’s perception of the Church to taint what God says the Body of Christ is.
I also think it is because there has been so much of an emphasis on certain leadership roles that we have submitted ourselves into an unhealthy, unfit Church. Unfortunately, I don’t know what came first here, the chicken or the egg. I am not sure when it happened or for how long it has gone on. I just know it has happened, because for all the churches we have, there is little fruit.
Our foundations and our definitions are all messed up; that is why we are doing too much, spreading ourselves too thin. As a result we are only doing part of the discipling and equipping. We are leaving parts out. We are afraid to say “no.” We are afraid of the Body rejecting us. It may even be more personal than that. Maybe we are enabling each other to sin corporately so we will feel better about our sin. I don’t know.
How God can fix it:
A few articles back I wrote about the relationship that Paul had with the Ephesians. (Put the link). Not only was it strong, it was long-lasting. Can you imagine having three years with Paul? (Better yet, can you imagine three years with Jesus?) So the letter to the Ephesians is what I look to when I start looking at how Paul approached discipleship, leadership, growth, admonition, and encouragement. I will let Paul do the talking here because I CAN NOT say it better:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
Why did he do it?
to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
What happens as a result?
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. — Ephesians 4:1-16
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