In addition to the stuff I'm reading for church small groups, (Linda and I attend four: two mixed, one men only, one ladies only) stuff to critique (about six on my to-do list right now), and my first real concentrated attempt to read through the entire Bible in a year, I'm reading Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church by Peyton Jones, as a ‘pleasure’ read and because it was a free download from Amazon Kindle.
Except what began as a pleasure read has turned on me and bitten the hand that feeds it. I know – crummy metaphor, but I don’t know a ‘downloading’ or ‘reading’ equivalent to it. Somehow ‘singed the eyes that read it’ just doesn’t have the same impact, ya know? Ooh! Ooh! Here’s one that will make sense whether you speak the same language, walk in the same circles, split the same theological infinitives or root for the same football team as me ... or not … for any of those things: it has reared up its ugly head and tore a hole the size of Montana in the place I sit!
I was reading along one night just a little under a week ago and I came across this paragraph:
“From 1555 to 1562 John Calvin sent eighty-eight church planters from Geneva into France. Some were successful; nine paid the ultimate price of martyrdom. When they started, there was only one Reformed church there. At the end of this period, however, there were 2150 Reformed churches that had been planted or replanted and were preaching the gospel.”
(Jones, Peyton (2013-04-01). Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church (p. 59). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
If that’s too much information to consume at one time, let me break it down for you.
In seven years, armed with nothing more than the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, the clothes on their back, and a burning, I would dare say Pauline burden to spread the Gospel to the unchurched of France.
Broken down further:
· The Word of God
· The Holy Spirit
· A Divine Calling
· An Overpowering Burden
· The clothes on their backs.
· An ongoing battle with the might of the Holy Roman Empire (Church at Rome/Catholic Church)
They did NOT have:
· Modern Transportation
· Modern Communication
· Millions of pages of commentaries at their fingertips from their smart phone or iPad
· Denominational support
· Gatorade/5-hour Energy Drinks/Mickey D’s
In fact, nine of the original group of eighty-eight were martyred for their effort. Yet with every manner of adversity stacked against them, these guys made an average of one church plant every day for seven years! Think of it! Imagine it where you live. I’ll make it easy for you by refining the burden as it is revealing itself to me. Not the United States. Not even all of Florida, where I now live. Imagine your home state – maybe even your home town, and a group of people so burdened by Almighty God that they throw away the current evangelistic model of opening the church doors on Sunday morning and waiting for the unsaved masses to come to them, they move outside the box and go all Paul on your town! They take the message to the people instead of casting bait and waiting for the people to get snagged and reeled in.
This is the place where I get in trouble with my church. I am more and more of the belief that church is for US! The Christ followers! It’s our spiritual check-up and refilling/recharging/empowering station. It’s NOT the neighborhood outreach center and was never intended to be. Even in Acts where Luke proclaims “Daily were added to the church those who were being saved”, the group “those who were being saved” were being saved as the direct result of the Apostles taking it to the streets and preaching, not handing out flyers and inviting them to Church.
Please don’t hear me wrong. Yes, evangelism can, does, and SHOULD happen at church, but that is not the primary function of the church. Sorry – not enough room here to ‘splain all of that one coherently. Perhaps another time, k?
Here is where I was headed when I sat down to write this piece.
I’m reading Church Zero, and God is placing a heavy burden on me for church planting in my part of the world. One teeny, weeny little problem, from my point of view. I ain’t qualified. On any number of levels! And then there’s the whole health issue. A week ago yesterday (Saturday, 20th April) was the five-year anniversary of the aneurism-stroke (easier to type than the actual technical term) that left my left side paralyzed in the sense that while I am 75-80% ambulatory, I have maybe 5% upper epidermal sensory feedback on my left side, 60-70% strength compared to the right side, and 60-70% petite motor skill/fine motor control (fingers and stuff) issue. I’m not complaining. Five years ago when they wheeled me into the hospital ER, a cocoon from which I didn’t emerge for nearly six weeks, I couldn’t move or feel anything on the left side. Now I do stuff I shouldn’t be able to do; a testament to the miraculous machine God designed when He created our bodies!
No wonder David wrote “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:14 NKJV)
So I am sitting at my computer, 60 screaming megabits of downstream internet speed at my fingertips, a few of my college Bible texts still handy, access to more online, and a burden tearing at my heart that is screaming if 88 guys almost 500 years ago equipped with what they had could do what they did by the Grace of God, why are the Christ followers where I live playing musical churches and the churches so convinced that despite the first century model of taking the Gospel to the people, that the 21st century model of advertising and preaching to the choir is a better way to go? I look at the tools at my disposal and inside my head it’s screaming WHY! And I wanna do more!
I know some things have to change. Church Zero is a great book. Not so much to preach from. That’s why God gave us the word (logos – the written word) and the Word (His son). As a whole we need to set aside those topical books for much else than personal edification, and get back to preaching God’s Word from God’s Book from our pulpits. That’s what needs to be done in our churches to feed the flocks. Use the books in small group setting, but for crying out loud, pastors, God called you to preach His Word from His Word, not from the Christian book of the month club!
And the church needs to train up men to take it to the streets and then unleash them to go and plant churches, and I don’t just mean extensions. I mean autonomous, self-sufficient (as far as you can be apart from the Lord) bodies of Christ followers who replicate what happened to them.
Can I ask a favor of you? This is really becoming a heavy burden to me, and I don’t know where to go or what to do. Would you pray for me? I’d appreciate it.