Tale of Three Churches:
Part Two – Fantasy
Before I expound on the Fantasy Church in this installment of the Tale of Three Churches, I want to emphasize that I LOVE the Church of Jesus Christ and I have committed my entire adult life, over 40 years, serving the Body of Christ in one form or another, with 25 years as a senior pastor in the heart of the city of San Francisco. Yet, in my quest to help the Church become the glorious Bride without spot or blemish, I am compelled, from time to time, to hold up a mirror so we can see ourselves clearly to make ourselves ready.
So much of my love for the Church was formed while working for over a dozen years with an amazing man named John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Movement. I was first attracted to Wimber because of his emphasis on the supernatural. In 1984, Diane and I attended the MC510 Conference in Anaheim with around 2500 other people and we received a powerful impartation from God. I immediately signed up for the next conference on Church Planting and was surprised to find that there were only around 25 registrants. I had the unique privilege of spending several days in a small group with John Wimber and Bob Fulton, learning the principles of church leadership that Wimber had discovered while working with C. Peter Wagner in the Fuller Institute of Church Growth.
Wimber began this workshop with a series of questions that shook me to my core.
- “If you were NOT a leader in your church, would you GO to church there?”
- “As a pastor, what business are you in?”
- “How’s business?”
To be honest, I had never considered these kinds of questions. Next, Wimber made a statement that I repeated in the first Blog of this series, “For most pastors, doing church is a lot like playing basketball without a ball and without a hoop.” In other words we are going through a lot of motions but never really scoring. Church had become a sophisticated form of pantomime. In fact, for most churches, up to 80% of their time, energy and money is spent on maintaining the status quo and not really advancing God’s Kingdom. This is confirmed by a study I read a few years ago that stated that not a single county in the United States had experienced “conversion growth” at a level that exceeded population growth.
In addition to this, it is widely known that some of the largest churches in our nation are situated in neighborhoods with some of the worst social statistics: with soaring crime rates, divorce rates and teen suicide rates. All we have to do is look at the national trends of racial tension, gay marriage, homegrown terrorism and a hundred other problems to realize that for all our effort and all the resources we spend, we have a long way to go to become the Salt and Light that Jesus desires.
Fantasy Church Is Vision Without Evaluation
For most churches, the Sunday service is the primary indicator of the health of the church. They measure how many people attend, the size of the offering, the flow of the worship and the impact of the message. These are fine things to measure; the only problem is that Jesus did not say, “Go into all the world and hold great Sunday services.” Jesus had a set of priorities that governed his ministry on the earth. He knew what business He was in.
He came to declare and demonstrate God’s kingdom. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Our Savior came to heal the sick and cast out demons. He came to make disciples who make disciples He empowered us to raise up leaders who would equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Each of these points is easy to preach but challenging to implement. Yet, these are the very things we must evaluate if we are to ever honestly answer the question: “How’s business?” The fallacy of Fantasy Church is to think that the preaching of vision is the same as fulfilling the vision.
Fantasy Church Is Passion Without a Plan
Passion is a powerful asset to any person or organization but passion without a plan is like a fire hose without a fireman. It will flip around spewing water everywhere but never putting out the fire. In order to harness passion and produce real results, we must have a plan and that plan must have measurable goals and objectives. Many Spirit-led believers think that planning is “carnal” but in fact, God has a plan and is “working all things after the counsel of His own will.” Although the resources of heaven are unlimited, our access to more time, talent and treasure is almost always limited. Planning is an expression of wise stewardship that empowers us to maximize our influence and impact in the world around us for His Glory.
They key to wise planning is to begin with outcome in mind. According to Isaiah 61:1-4, the Holy Spirit has anointed Jesus, and by extension, us to bring transformation to souls, saints and spheres of society. This may not be the only agenda on God’s heart but it is a good starting point. If our “business” is to reach and enfold the lost, to equip and empower the saints and to transform the world around us… What kind of plan will accomplish that outcome?
Fantasy Church Is Maintenance Without Movement
Many churches exist in order to continue to exist. Most did not start out this way but over the course of years, they have gradually succumbed to the tyranny of the urgent focused on survival. Rather than spending the majority of their resources moving forward, they have become overwhelmed with managing people, problems, buildings and budgets. Churches are no longer playing to win, but playing not to lose. Although their Vision and Mission statements may declare the grand purposes of God, if you look at their calendar, checkbook and their programs, they are all designed to maintain the status quo.
Fantasy churches come in all shapes and sizes. They come in various degrees of fantasy. Some are 25% fantasy church. Some are 50% or 75% fantasy church. My goal in this series of blogs is to help us to look in the mirror, to expose the spots and blemishes so the Bride can see the possibility of fulfilling the desires of God by becoming everything he has created us to be.
Stay tuned for the next installment on the dangers of the Factory Church.