Thursday, April 07, 2005

Journey Out of Captivity

Somewhere around 300 A.D., the story goes, the demon hordes gathered in emergency meeting to discuss how to hinder the gospel’s spread and to impede Christ’s kingdom. Satan presided and received proposals. “Let’s persecute these Christians,” one demon suggested. “It won’t help. The more we persecute them, the more they increase,” responded another. Other suggestions followed – discouragement, false doctrine, internal strife. Each suggestion was discarded as being ineffective. Finally an enterprising devil spoke, “Let’s make the church of Jesus Christ popular and wealthy,” he said. “Entice these Christians to abandon the catacombs, houses and marketplaces. Encourage them to build fine church buildings. When they have all gone inside, lock the doors and their progress will fade into oblivion.”

Jesus charged his followers to “go make disciples,” adding the promise, “I am with you always.” But somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten his words, or to have become confused. “Come to us,” we now way, from the safe security of our church building. What has happened to turn things backward? Has the institutional church obscured the spiritual kingdom? Has maintenance replaced mission? Has head knowledge become disconnected from heart passion? Has Christ’s commission given way to church culture and comfort? Do our congregational budgets and church calendars provide any clues? Why is most of our money and time as church now spent in seeking and serving… the saved?

Most of us are like people who signed on to operate the spiritual lighthouse, but who then decided to decorate and enjoy the lighthouse instead. We resemble workers sent to harvest the orange groves, who instead formed societies to study and admire the orange-harvesters manual. The early church began when God energized a group of scared and demoralized disciples with wind and fire from heaven. The church’s stagnation began when a later generation of disciples began erecting fine church buildings to protect them from unpredictable wind and fire. The apostolic church, which operated on divine power, had much prayer and few plans. Too often today’s church, dependent on human power, has little prayer and many plans. When that happens, church busyness crowds out God’s business. Instead of seeing the “great commission,” we see only a great commotion.

Is anything happening in your church that could not happen without supernatural power? As congregations and as leaders, why do we even exist? What is our ultimate purpose? What are our goals? What is the essence of our mission? What is our passion? Can we hear across the centuries the commission of our Lord? Or has the crafty devil enticed us into that church building and locked the doors?
-- Edward Fudge, gracEmail (Satan’s Success), April 3, 2005

I am thrilled to be part of a congregation that is committing itself with renewed vigor to “leaving” the proverbial church building in order to engage the world with the gospel through service, compassion, and evangelism. Ironically, this takes place as we prepare to move into a fine new building. But that makes it all the more exciting. It’s a long journey, and we’re not where we want to be, but the journey has indeed begun, and that is liberating.
-- Matt Soper (April 10, 2005).

* My next Take Hold of Your Life seminar is Friday, May 6. To find out more or to register go to


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