There seem to be at least two visions that compete for believer's loyalty: 1) the established churches with their structures, programs, and leadership; and 2) the Biblical imperative of Christ to make disciples of the nations. Two worlds colliding.
Maybe to some they are one and the same, but my experience is they are two different Kingdom cultures. Sure there is overlap between them, but still distinct world views. We SAY that our churches are about reaching the lost, but when it comes right down to it, the "churchianity" vision seems to be to get people to GO TO CHURCH. Christ's mandate and vision is that His Church GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES of the nations.
We live within both worlds, but are clearly focused on the latter. One of my frustrations as a missionary is that most believers seem content to dwell within the church environment that has been created for them. It is for the most part a neat, secure world where one knows what is clearly expected: go to church, give your tithe, and participate as actively as time permits in the various programs, events and ministries offered by the church. Some might call it a "consumer" mentality. We consume what has been prepared for us in the hopes that somehow all this will result in advancing God's Kingdom here on earth.
When someone with an apostolic calling and vision comes around lifting a prophetic voice to literally get out there and make disciples of the nations, there is resistance. Excuses are made...we are too busy...I am not gifted in that kind of thing...God didn't "call me"...I am serving God in my own way...I have plans to get more involved at a later stage in life...etc.
In our church planting training we seldom have any conflicts over the kinds of things we teach: prayer, serving others, evangelism, follow-up, baptism, discipleship, church planting, etc. Where the two worlds collide is when people are expected to IMPLEMENT what has been taught! Carrying out the vision of what Christ actually says in the Great Commission is something few seem to take seriously.
Most of the traditional churches we relate to simply cannot get past the issue of having to live their Christianity outside of the four walls of the church building. I know this might sound a bit unfair. But to prove my point, how would each of us personally answer these questions:
1) How am I personally involved in taking the Gospel out of the four walls of our church building?
2) Am I really making true reproducing disciples?
3) How many new believers have I lately been responsible for baptizing?
4) Can I name any new disciples whom I am personally teaching to be obedient followers to all Christ commands?
The answer for most of us is NO or NONE! It is much easier and more convenient to just "go to church."
So, how do we get the two visions aligned? What will it take for us to swap a "going to church" vision, for a Great Commission vision?
I struggle a lot with this, but here are some of my evolving thoughts in progress...
1) The key is NOT trying to reform believers who have spent years in traditional church settings. We already KNOW these things, but have long chosen a different path in our walk with the Lord. Any attempts to change the status quo usually leads to frustration. The real key is focusing on NEW BELIEVERS. They are the future, not those of us content to sit in church pews.
2) Spend 80% of time, energy and attention on the 20% who "get it" and are doing their best to be obedient to what Christ commanded. Spend 20% of our time, energy and attention on the 80% who are content to just come to church.
3) Along the same lines of the four questions above, create environments where believers are encouraged to share with one another about the people they are currently praying for, witnessing to, or actually discipling. This should be the norm, not the exception. If we are not doing so, why not? What are the obstacles? What can be done to get back on track?
4) Less on church activities, and more on actual ministry engagements. As Neil Cole says, "We want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple."
We can "talk the talk" all we want, but few of us actually "walk the walk" and DO what Christ said. There is a conflict of visions in the Church today.
What are some of your thoughts on the conflicting visions that exist within Christianity today?