New Wine for New Wineskins November 2019

By , November 2, 2019 10:34 am

Church Growth v Church Building

Do you know the difference? WARNING – It can be a very subtle difference!

growththe process of increasing in physical size

buildingthe process or business of constructing, shaping, developing, or forming a particular thing

Jesus didn’t say, “I will grow my church” – He said, “I will build my church

organisationan organised body of people with a particular purpose

organisma whole with interdependent parts

The church as an organisation can become something that provides what I need but the downside of that is that I have to keep coming back to the organisation to have my needs met and so I tend to become a consumer rather than a producer.

The church as an organism is dependent on every part doing its share and fulfilling its function and so I must remain a producer rather than a consumer. The church as an organism also has the ability to reproduce itself and to multiply without losing its individualism and personal identity while still retaining the same DNA.

The church as an organisation only requires that you give your money in order to sustain it.  The church as an organism requires that you give your life in order to not only sustain it but reproduce it!

If your primary goal or focus is church growth then you will be continually looking for new and innovative ways of getting people into your church organisation.  You may also be tempted to compromise certain aspects of truth in order to appeal to more people and cater to their tastes or sensibilities.

It is a recognised fact in our day of accelerated technological advancement that the world changes every 3 – 5 years, whereas it is also a fact that the church tends to change only every 30 – 40 years – usually because the church finds itself dying on its feet at the end of a generation and decides that it must try and become more relevant which can often lead to more compromise as the church seeks to re-invent itself!

These facts regarding the disparity between the world and the church could appear to present us with a problem which is why church growth strategies have become the new must-have with countless conferences, seminars, books and other resources being made available (at a price) to help us grow our churches in these days of apparent ecclesiastical decline.

However, the reason that the church gets into trouble generally has nothing to do with its inability to change with the times.  The church has problems because it is out of order!  Jesus said, “I will build my church” – he didn’t say, “The church will build itself”! 

The church as an organisation draws people to its multi-faceted programs and services as it seeks to cater to the needs of people it hopes will attach themselves and give their money to help keep the machinery oiled and maybe even make a commitment to Jesus that will allow the organisation to gain a new member!

The church as an organism cannot live and function unless it is connected to its head – the Lord Jesus Christ!  The church as an organism draws people to Jesus and when they submit to his claims upon their lives he adds them to the church he is building!

In these days when size is deemed to be everything we would do well to heed the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson in relation to government which also apply very much to the church.

A government (church) that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.” – Thomas Jefferson

One of the tragedies of our generation is that people look to the government for answers to their problems and expect the government to provide for their every need.  That kind of attitude is what has left us in the state of economic meltdown that we are in at present.  Individuals have given up their sovereignty and lost their right to exercise personal responsibility and so their freedom is being continually eroded.

In the same way christians who have looked to the church to meet all of their needs have created an organisation that has resulted in a change of their status from interdependent to dependent.  If you are looking for a church that meets all your needs and ticks all of your boxes then you are missing God’s best for your life.  As soon as the organisation lets you down or doesn’t meet your expectation – and it inevitably will – you will be hurt and offended and go looking for a replacement!

God’s plan for us was never for us to be getters only – but to be givers! (John 3: 16; Luke 6: 38)  His will and purpose for us was never for us to be consumers only – but producers!  Our giving was never supposed to be directed towards the church only and left to the organisation to disburse it – we are to take responsibility to give personally through the mission that he has given us that will reap a harvest of souls that he can add to the church that he is building!

As you take a look at Jesus’ ministry you discover that he obviously wasn’t very well-informed regarding church growth methods!

John 6

1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

1.    Jesus cared for people and was sensitive to their physical needs.

6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

2.    At this point Jesus was everything that most people are looking for in a church leader

Jesus had just supplied their physical needs but he knew that there was more to being his disciple than having your needs met!  It doesn’t end there!  Jesus didn’t want people to become dependent upon him and to keep coming back to him for a free lunch!  His plan for his church was never to create an army of consumers – he came to empower and release an army of producers!  
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost they all spoke in tongues and they all prophesied!  The LORD opened the door of the church and set it loose in the world but now we have reversed that and we have opened the door and let the world and its methods loose in the church!

 22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

3.    When you truly believe it is at that point that all of your needs are met and you are set free to be a producer and a giver!

Remember – Jesus said that we have freely received (when we believed) and so we are now to freely give! 

30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

4.    When you come to Jesus you don’t need to see any more signs to help you believe. You are a sign and now the signs    follow you!

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

5.    Most church disputes are over the message and not the method as the issue is very rarely the issue

Remember – these were disciples.  This wasn’t a contingent of Pharisees.  They were happy to be consumers of the method but they were beginning to choke on the message!  At this point anyone who knows anything about church growth would pull back on the message and ease off the gas a little in order to hold on to folks!  What does Jesus do?  He turns up the heat!

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”  59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who
did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

6.    It is the integrity of the message that produces the supernatural confirmation

It is interesting that the verse that describes the disciples leaving is 6:66!  When soul governs spirit there will always come a point when you will not be able to swallow truth!

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (THIS IS THE MESSAGE) 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

7.    Our first question should never be “where shall we go?” but “to whom shall we go?”

The main difference between church growth and church building is that in church growth the method is central to the strategy whereas in church building it is the message that is central.  in any building the foundation is vital to the integrity of the building.  Jesus taught that our ability to hear his words and our diligence in applying them will determine the quality of our foundation. 

1 Corinthians 3: 10

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

If we continue to proclaim the message of the kingdom, Jesus will build his church on that foundation and the church will grow in stature as well as numerically as every member stands in their appointed place and becomes an effective minister.

Matthew 16: 18 (Amplified)

I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it].

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