Have you ever thought about why we actually do the things we do, inside the church?
No, seriously, why do we do what we do? Why do we have things like men’s ministries, women’s ministries, children’s ministries, music ministries, conferences, evangelism training courses, prayer meetings, etc., etc., etc., etc.?
Could it be that we are becoming so segregated in our ministry-focus that we are not doing as much good as we should be doing? Are we so focused on ministry inside the church walls that we are making little to no progress in our local communities?
Could it be that things like Awana, Vacation Bible School, segregated ministries and the like are prohibiting us from effectively evangelizing the world and are, instead, causing us to become too comfortable in our cozy Christian communities?
Look, I’m not saying that this is definitely the case (because I don’t believe that it is, for the most part), but could it be that American Christianity is becoming too close-minded to the hurting, unsaved culture all around us?
Have we lost our love for the unlovable? What do you personally think?
Here are 5 Reasons Why Ministry May Be Killing The People At Your Church.
- Focused and/or segregated ministries are not something we see a lot of (if ever) in Scripture. Therefore, church as we see it today is not following a biblical pattern of ministry. Is that true?
- Focused and/or segregated ministries are exclusionary by nature. If you have a women’s ministry, then men usually don’t attend. They are excluded from participation. So then are children, homeless people, unsaved people, etc. But is that necessarily a bad thing?
- Focused and/or segregated ministries tend to be too people-centered and not enough God-centered. Because the focus of the ministry is on a particular people group, segregated ministries run the risk of becoming too person-focused rather than God-focused. The danger is that the given ministry is attempting to fix or cure people’s “felt needs” rather than doing whatever can be done to conform them into the image of Christ. What do you think about that?
- Focused and/or segregated ministries tend to rob monetary funds from the budget that could otherwise be used to support missionaries in foreign countries, meet the needs of those in our local communities, etc. If you were to take a look at the annual budget of your church, what do you think you’d discover as you began seeing where the funds were being allocated? If the majority of the church’s funds are being allocated and distributed to meet the “felt needs” of those inside the church, rather than fulfilling the Great Commission mandate to make disciples of all the nations, what might this be saying about our purpose for existence and the direction of our ministries?
- Focused and/or segregated ministries tend to spend too munch time on trellis-work and not enough time on vine work. What I mean by this is that the trellis is designed to support the vine; the vine does not support the trellis. So much of the internal workings (time, money, and effort) of the church are spent on “preparing” for ministry and not actually “doing” ministry. We’re too busy fixing the church stage, painting the walls, doing this and that and the other 50 things…but there is no fruit being produced on the vine. Is ministry all about preparing for ministry or actually about ministry itself?
I don’t claim to have all (or any, for that matter) the answers to these questions or issues, but I do think that it is important for each and every church (and individual Christian) to do a bit of house cleaning now and then. We need to check ourselves—our priorities—and make sure that we’re not becoming like the church of Ephesus in Revelation chapter two.
That New Testament church looked awesome on the exterior. They had, essentially, what every church in the world seems to be striving for: sound theology and active participation in ministry.
Even Jesus acknowledged that fact. Our Lord knew all about everything that took place in that congregation. They were focused on their doctrine (which is a very good thing, by the way) and their deeds around their community (which is also a good thing). But where their gross error came into play was they left their first love.
As a reminder, here is the brief letter Jesus wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus from Revelation 2:1- 7.
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
Did you catch that?
They were so caught up with their Christianity that they forgot to love Christ. Their godliness fell short of loving God. They were so focused on the trellis that they completely forgot about the vine altogether. Their Christianity was so polished that they forgot how to really love their Lord.
How does that happen?
Jesus didn’t have any problems with their theology or their ministries; in fact He was impressed by it. But their hypocrisy became manifest to all when Jesus said, essentially, “But you don’t have any love for Me!”
Question: Are the focused and/or segregated ministries in our churches today allowing us to keep our eyes on the Lord or are our affections being directed elsewhere?
Would Jesus feel comfortable if He attended some of your church’s ministries? Would Jesus come back the next week or would one visit tell Him everything He’d need to know about your church?
The warning for losing sight of why our church and/or ministry exists comes straight from the mouth of Jesus Himself. Our Lord told those doctrinally sound, ministry-minded Ephesian believers to repent, do the deeds they did at first, or He is going to come and close down their church—forever!
Wow! It always amazes me how disinterested Jesus is in how big or popular a church is in their local community. Popularity is never the issue as far as God is concerned. The test of a God-honoring church is how much the people in that church love Jesus.
If Jesus were to write a letter to your church today, do you think He would have anything to say to you, your pastor(s), or the other people in your congregation about how they need to refocus the reason for their existence?
It’s time for some spring cleaning in some of our church ministries. We need to cut and prune for the glory of God alone. Lord willing, your church is on the right track and appropriately living out their faith for the glory of God alone. But how will we really know if we are on the right track unless we do some serious soul-searching regarding our motives for ministry?
Let’s do that soon.
QUESTION FOR COMMENTING BELOW: What things do you need to cut out or prune in your own life and/or ministry?
[* Photo credit: nathanryan (Flickr)]