For several months we’ve been trying to make our assembly “more inspiring.” A survey told us that inspiring worship was our “minimum factor” and that we need to use our strengths (loving relationships) to raise our minimum factor.

Several weeks ago we decided to send out an email exhorting the members to begin preparing for the upcoming assembly. I try to send these out on Thursday mornings. They normally have a brief overview of the message I intend to share that Lord’s Day.

This week I am not preaching. Instead, our missionary from Geita, Tanzania is here. Brett Harrison will preach during the AM assembly and give the church a report during our PM service.

As I tried to prepare this week’s email exhortation, I arose early, made my coffee, and then typed out what was on my heart. I’ve said this so many times in so many places that it just sort of oozes out of my pores.

When I had finished venting I made another cup of coffee, returned to the computer, re-read the exhortation and cut the heart out of it. Frankly, I am so sick of saying this that I am sick of saying it. It discourages me to say it over and over and over. I think it would discourage those who read it. And that would defeat the purpose of our weekly email exhortations. So I cut it all out.

But, you know what? Someone needs to say it. And keep on saying it.

So, I’ll say it here instead of sending it to every member of my church. That way I can feel good about myself that I at least said it and no one else will have to get discouraged that I said it (again). Except for those few who do read my blog. And to you I say, “Sorry if this is a little discouraging. It just comes with the territory of being a missionary on the inside and a Professional Pulpit Minister on the outside.”

Just one more note before I cut and paste the guts of my email exhortation here, the photo is of my oldest son, Austin, and his teammates in Mexico City. He and the entire AIM bunch are among those who are trying to stay on track.

Why do I enjoy spending time with missionaries? Because it reminds me of how easily we can get off track.

The organizing principle for the New Testament church is contained in the Lord’s Great Commission. It instructs us to

  • Go into all the world.
  • Make disciples of all people.
  • Baptize them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • And teach them to obey everything Christ taught us.

At first, Satan attempted to destroy the church—wipe it out, eliminate it from the face of the earth. He failed at that. Always has and always will.

Being the wise being that he is, Satan implemented Plan B—neutralize the church, render it ineffective, take away its power. How can he do that?

The place to start is with God’s organizing principle, the foundation, the core, the crux of the matter:

  • Instead of God’s people going into the entire world—meeting people where they are—let’s get God’s people to locate themselves in one place and then demand that nonbelievers come to them.
  • Instead of God’s people equipping, empowering, and releasing new disciples into the world let’s create an environment in which most non-professionals sit and watch while only the trained experts perform the activities of church life.
  • As crazy as it sounds, let’s get them to argue over the core initiation ritual of God’s New Creation. This will divide them, distract them, and neutralize them. (How this ploy gains so much traction I have never been able to understand. Read the NT and see what is pretty obvious: if you want to become a Christian, you get baptized.)
  • And here is the key to our success—the core idea that will neutralize God’s movement in them and through them: destroy their desire to become a multiplying organism. Whatever they do, they can never taste the power and glory of true multiplication, reproduction, and exponential growth. We must make multiplication and reproduction appear to be a negative thing instead of a God thing. How do we do that? Emphasize the institutional character of God’s kingdom. Any “sending out” of existing members to new places to teach new people must be viewed as divisive, detrimental, and destructive–a threat to the existing institution (“we will lose our best people and their contribution. That’s an absurd idea!”). This will keep them contained in one place, demanding that all non-believers come to them, join them, support them. And this brings us full-circle to a group of God’s people isolated and cut off from the rest of God’s creation assembling weakly and wondering why the world is not beating a pathway to its inner sanctuary.

Why do I enjoy spending time with missionaries? Because it reminds me that there are lots of people in the world trying to stay on track.

  • They are going into all the world—even the hard-to-reach, hate-to-live-here places.
  • They are making disciples instead of organizing church goers. Listen carefully to what Brett is about. He does not conduct church on Sundays (OK, sometimes he does, but only when they won’t let him sit back and allow them to do it). No. Brett’s ministry takes place throughout the week. On Monday nights he is with the small group of leaders from Church A. He teaches them, equips them, empowers them, and then releases them to carry out their ministry. He won’t even see them on Sunday. They are on their own. On Tuesday night he is with another group from Church B. And so on.
  • He baptizes people into the work of God. By the time they come up out of the water they know that God has a claim on their life and that they have been called into kingdom life.
  • His entire paradigm is driven by principles of reproduction. Don’t introduce anything into the culture that they cannot sustain themselves. Work yourself out of a job. Better yet, don’t agree to take the job in the first place—train one of them to do the job. [Try this as a “Professional Pulpit Minister.” You’ll be looking for employment in a heartbeat. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing]. Every job, every activity, every function within the kingdom is carried out by someone who understands this principle of reproduction. The only way a person can be doing a kingdom job is if he or she is equipping at least one other person to be doing that job as well.

Well, that is my rant for the day. It may be discouraging to see how far off track we are but hey, someone had better say it. And keep saying it.

The church of Christ is NOT a human institution. It is a living organism. And if we are going to be true to our Commission we had better stop treating it as a human institution and begin living within it as a living, thriving, reproductive organism.