All over the world there are people who have committed themselves to Christ in the sense that they have prayed the prayer, bowed the head, or raised the hand. They want an insurance policy for the life hereafter — but they are not committed to the church! They disdain the church. Watch out for those. You don’t want those people around you. Call them to commitment to the church. Our movement is full of people who are uncommitted to the church. They see it as something to merely accommodate them, to meet their needs. They do not see the church as the vehicle for the mission of Jesus. The first and foremost question isn’t, “What’s in it for me and my family?” but rather, “What’s in it for Jesus? What is he going to get out of this?” It’s his church. And it also means commitment to his cause. There are a lot of people who are committed to Jesus, and even to his church — but they are not committed to his cause. How do you know that? By looking at the measurements of how they spend their time, energy and money. They don’t give any time to evangelism, to ministering, to caring for the poor, to looking after widows. Look at their calendar. Look at their check book. Who are they serving? It looks to me we are often serving everything but Jesus, when we look at where our money goes. Where are you really focused? Most people are not focused on Christ and his cause. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON EVANGELISM.
At times, when I read John Wimber, I have a hard time believing that it was nearly thirty years ago as of this writing that he was saying the things that he was. The quote above is an example. Sadly, mainline Christianity across North America has, for the most part, deteriorated even further into the “what’s in it for me” mentality Wimber talks about here. Statistics show us, at best, that the church is having a hard time remaining culturally current in our ever-changing society, and those churches that are still growing are doing so by two means. First, transfer growth. That’s when people grow tired, bored, or frustrated at their current church setting and switch over to another church in town that apparently is doing a better job of meeting specific needs than the first one. Or second, churches grow in our society today by becoming consumer-driven entities, where people are attracted to the church by offering programming that appeals to our modern society.
Just recently, a local TV news reporter here in Cedar Rapids ran a special story on what local churches are doing to keep the under-forty crowd coming to church. One pastor, who obviously doubts the sovereignty of God and the longevity of Jesus’ kingdom, said if we don’t do something immediately, the church would no longer exist. Another pastor was a bit more to my liking as he sheepishly apologized to the camera for his new approach to Bible studies, where his small group meets in a local bar to study the word over an evening of drinks!
Now please, don’t get me wrong. I like a good beer as much as anyone and I do believe that we can’t just sit on our proverbial hands while the world goes to hell in a hand-basket. But sadly, it seems that the church of Jesus Christ has now become so weakened in our cause, we’ll do just about anything short of something illegal to attract a crowd. And as we discussed earlier in this book, Wimber would often point out to pastors that there is a major difference between gathering a crowd versus shepherding a church!
Could it be that the cause of Christ has fallen into such lowly estate in the eyes of his church, that it’s time for a major reformation throughout the body of Christ? Talk about your need for a total makeover! Maybe Wimber pegged it accurately when he said:
The first and foremost question isn’t,“What’s in it for me and my family?” but rather, “What’s in it for Jesus? What is he going to get out of this?” It’s his church.
Let’s face it folks. I’m a sixty-something recovering 3-B pastor. I don’t claim to have any better handle on the things of God than any of you. I’m as frustrated at the current state of the church in North America as you are. Countless books are being written today on how the church needs a seismic shift in the way we’re doing church. I concur. But here’s the rub. As I see it, it’s time to stop coming up with new ideas on how to revive the church so that we’ll be the salt and light Jesus wants us to be.
In fact, coming up with new creative ideas on how to remodel the church is what got us in this mess in the first place. Wimber was spot-on right when he said that the church belongs to Jesus. If we want to go on mission as the church of Jesus Christ, we must make sure that, first and foremost, we, the church, are not leading the cause, but that the cause of Christ is leading us!
Haven’t we spent enough time with new creative ideas of doing church so that the people will come? Stop the madness of gathering leaders in church growth conferences where we discuss yet another set of bigger and better methods of attracting people to our sanctuaries. Back up the truck on the blogs and webinars that promote man-made promotional packages picturing a twenty-first-century church attendee scoring big-time with Jesus with a Budweiser in his hand.
Here’s an idea. Let’s stop the madness for, let’s say, one year. Let’s take one year of silence and Sabbath, 365 days of quiet, 12 months of seeking Jesus exclusively on what he might want from his church in this hour. How about if pastors gather in our cities to be silent and reverent for one hour each week? No pep-talks. No BS. No git-r-done attitudes. Just holy silence, giving God time to hit the reset button, so that the cause of Christ can rise to the surface once more.
Well, that’s enough preaching to the choir for now. It’s time to go back into silence and solitude, where the cause of Christ becomes the main thing while everything else in ministry steps back into obscurity.
Father, I, for one, confess my stupidity of trying over the years to get creative so that I can attract people to my church. In all honesty, Jesus, that’s a pretty crappy goal. If indeed, your cause is the primary cause, then my causes have to take a back seat to yours. Holy Spirit, hush my mouth, so that your cause can surface once more. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- Which creative ministry ideas that I’m working on right now have been birthed out of my cause or the American cause versus coming out of the cause of Christ?
- Where am I focused on attracting people to my creative ideas while ignoring the fact that Jesus may have much better things for me to do, if I’d simply take the extra time to listen?
So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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