As I celebrate 12 years of ministry at Pinecrest Baptist Church, here are some thoughts for my co-laborers in the ministry.
I want to express concern on a particular subject that I have watched through the years harm the body of Christ (The Church). I am not the first to write on this subject nor will I be the last. The church growth movement that has swept across our nation and rooted its way into the very fabric of church life has proved to be a cancer. Years of not treating this cancer and letting it grow has destroyed the soul of many churches leaving them with a lot of attendees and few followers of Jesus Christ. The rub for many of us in the ministry is: Often when people take my position they are instantly criticized for being archaic, out of touch, or what is worse, not interested in reaching people. What pastor does not want his church to grow? We all are for church growth but by what means and at what costs? So let me clarify; I am for the church growing, I am for reaching as many people as we can reach, I am for nice buildings with good signage, clean restrooms and first class nurseries. I am for foyer coffee shops and greeters in the parking lot. I am for sharp materials to give to people, and I am for representing the Kingdom of Christ with excellence. I am for billboards, banners, bands, and big days at church. However, I am concerned that the thinking, “size” trumps everything and being Cool or “Kewl” is the goal, is nothing less than the lust of the flesh. This is evidence of church growth cancer.
I am not going to be guilty of saying that all large churches are in someway cancerous either. The early church grew like crazy in the book of Acts, it fact it grew beyond number. Today mega churches, in many cases, have grown to their size by systematically, consistently, with purpose and planning teaching the Word of God to their people. They have purposed to disciple people and teach them how to reproduce fruit. Many of them have persevered through tough economic times, survived church splits, overcome seemingly impossible circumstances. They have grown because they stayed true to the infallible, timeless Word of God and its principles of growing people not, just attracting crowds. And God added to their number.
Many of these churches are/were led by a pastor who exemplified what it means to be a pastor. A man who came and stayed with his people that God gave him for many years. He himself was not on a constant look for the next bigger church. (God many times does move His pastors to different churches but more often it seems churches move pastors) A man who humbly, reverently, fed his sheep, prayed over and watched for their souls, administered the ordinances, cared for the sick and dying, loved the unlovable, listened patiently to the simple, put the rod on those that needed correcting, felt hated at times by those he called brother and sister, endured loneliness in the “out of season” of life, wept with the broken hearted, celebrated the great days of their lives, married the couples, kissed and blessed the lambs and stood over hundreds of graves and once again gave them hope and promise of Heaven, and here it is… God added to the church.
Should we be concerned about the “shock and awe” advertising and promotion that is now prevalent in our church culture in America? Should we be concerned and heartbroken over the idea that Jesus is not enough of an attraction at our churches? Should it not bother us that there is more talk about the cool band or amazing worship leader, the laser light show and hip preacher that seems more rock star than pastor?
Should it not bother the people of God that many times these hip pastors are better at telling stories and showing movie clips than simply preaching the life changing Gospel of Jesus?
I know, usually the only people who say things like that are the ones who don’t have a very good band, have a lame worship leader, meet in an old outdated church building with poor lighting and/or they are not a very hip pastor themselves. I am not throwing stones here, I am asking us to examine the core of the body of Christ and see if there could be this “lust of size” that is driving us to a “bigger is better” or being “cool is king,” mind set. One thing is for sure, if being bigger is better every church that practices this will one day suffer from it because there will always be a church bigger and one better eventually. Everything that is new and hip today potentially can become old and lame. We have confused what is eternally timeless for what is temporarily relevant. That which is timeless will always be relevant. That which is real cannot be fake and that which is fake cannot be real. Truth will always be truth and truth will always need to be proclaimed and truth will always be relevant. I know that argument most of the time is “how” a church or Pastor delivers that truth. “How” is not my argument, rather it is “why” are you delivering the truth? Is it for self-glory, or to have the biggest therefore the best church in town? Or is it a response of obedience to a call that God has put you where He wants you and He desires you to pastor your flock in His stead until your assignment is changed? Every pastor complains about sheep going church hopping, what about shepherds who hop from place to place about every 18 months or so looking for better sheep to pastor? Many pastors have this cancer in them personally as well.
Authentic Christianity will always persevere. It will always produce fruit. It may look dormant at times but that is just because “patience is working its perfect work.” It may not look hip, or be the biggest in town; but that does not mean God is not doing a deep, lasting work in the lives of people and in their pastor.
May we all look deep inside of ourselves and ask the Spirit of God who prays for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered,” to search us out. Perhaps we may need to allow the Word of God that is “sharper than any two-edged sword…” that cuts down into the marrow of the bone to give us a spiritual bone marrow transplant. Spiritual surgery by the Great Physician may be our only hope to remove this deep-rooted cancer, which is the “lust of the flesh” should the Spirit and the Word find it there. Let us strive to follow Jesus and find our success only in what pleases Him.
Pastor Roy Mack