Christians all over the world have a very distinct way of worshiping God within their own culture. That is not to say these ways are wrong, just a different approach. If a Christian, for instance, has never been to a worship service in another country, whose culture and approach to God is somewhat different than what we might see in the USA, it would be a little strange until they became accustom to it. The 21st Century Church, world wide, has many different approaches to God. But, I would like to focus on the Church in America; here in the USA the Church has many different approaches to Jesus and some are right and some are not so right. I would think if a man is called by God to do a church plant and to preach the gospel and the entire council of God’s word, he would follow what God’s word has to say about doing church and ministry right. The 21st century church has some of the most varied Church leaders I have ever seen in my life time. The 21st Century Church has some tremendous Bible teachers, evangelists and pastors; the Church in America has been blessed with the freedom to preach and teach the word of God openly since the founding of this country. With that in mind, I ask these questions, “Has this freedom led some Church leaders to distort the truth of the word of God?” or, “Has the freedom, provided to us in this country, allowed the Church to act without persecution and therefore not be pressed on closer to Jesus?” Those questions might seem out of line to some or they may sound just wrong! But, think for a minute about the Church in China or India; the Christians in these countries are being killed every day for following Jesus. Think about the cruelty in places like Sudan and other Muslim nations where being a Christian is a death sentence. How many mega churches would you expect to see in Sudan? I’m not a missionary, a missionary to foreign nations, and that is not where I am going with this but I just want to draw a comparison between our freedom to open worship in the USA and some of those suffering extreme persecution in these countries I have mentioned.
The 21st century Church in America, in comparison to the birth of the Church in Jerusalem approximately 2000 years ago, has changed drastically. These early Christians (who were not called Christians at that time) met in homes and ate their meals together, sold properties to provide for one another and had constant close fellowship. The apostles did the teaching and led the prayer times and were established by Jesus as the spiritual leaders, after all, they were called personally by Jesus. The last piece of the of the formula was put in place by Jesus when he called the apostle Paul to go to the gentiles with the gospel. The book of Acts tells all about the birth of the Church and Paul’s missionary trips and church planting. Paul went where the Holy Spirit instructed him to go and Paul was obedient to not go where the Spirit restricted him from going. Church planters in the 21st Century Church have several designs for planting churches; some have used some very clever marketing schemes, some use demographics, some go to the more affluent populated areas and some go where the Holy Spirit tells them to go. Some do restarts of churches which are dying off and there has been some success breathing new life into these churches. But I have to ask the question, “How many follow God’s plan?” Here is what Jesus told the apostles before His ascension back to heaven,
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8 NKJV www.biblegateway.com
He told them the ministry starts at home in Jerusalem then Judea and Samaria and then to the world. This was God’s plan to share the gospel to the world, one step at a time. As we read the book of Acts we see that the early Church leaders followed that plan. The Holy Spirit called those out to go where He wanted them to go and they followed the plan. Within the Church, elders or spiritual leaders were called and later deacons were called (Acts 6). In Acts 8, we read the account of Phillip’s obedience to the Spirit; he went where he was instructed to go. Phillip went to the Ethiopian eunuch when he was instructed to do so. When the eunuch was saved and traveled on his way, he carried the gospel message back to Ethiopia with him. The gospel went to Ethiopia because Phillip was obedient to the call of the Spirit. He went where he was instructed to go and message continued to spread. Peter went to Cornelius and the entire household was saved and filled with the Spirit; and finally, Paul and Barnabas were sent from Antioch after much praying and fasting. It was a crystal clear calling by the Holy Spirit. God’s plan for the gospel message to be spread throughout the world.
When I left southern California, I knew where God wanted me to go. Believe me, I took my time and sometimes I think the Lord must grow impatient with me, if that is possible, because I have a tendency to fall just short of asking for a fleece. But, I knew when we left it was God’s plan for us to return to our home state of Pennsylvania. There were about nine months of prayer and seeking His guidance before we made a move; the worst thing I could think of was being somewhere the Lord didn’t want me to be. So, how is Church done in the 21st century? Is God’s plan followed? Are these mega churches a result of the Lord’s instruction or is it just people wanting to flock to the biggest, newest church around? I don’t have the answers to all those specifics but after researching some of these churches, it appears some are built on fleshly ambitions and some are the results of the Lord’s leading and some a little of both.
An Apostle in the 21st Century Church
Imagine with me and consider what an experience it would be if, for example, the Apostle Paul could attend a Church service anywhere in this country on a Sunday morning. Remember, we know how Paul suffered and how he was never discouraged and continued God’s work until the day he died. Now, imagine meeting Paul on the street somewhere in Hometown, USA on a Sunday morning as you are walking to Church. As this Jewish gentleman approaches you, he asks, “Can you direct me to the nearest synagogue?” You reply, “I don’t know where the synagogue is located in this town but you are more than welcome to come to church with me.” Paul replies, “Church? As in followers of Jesus?” “Yes,” you tell him and continue by showing him the way. When you arrive, you are a little bit late and service has started as you work your way through the church lobby, passing by all the food and beverage vendors. Paul, with a very confused look on his face asks you, “What is Starbucks and Pizza and are you sure we are in the right building?” You tell him to hurry so you can get to a seat before they are all taken and you end up in the overflow room. At this point, as you look at him, you can see that he is extremely confused and somewhat agitated. The two of you are fortunate to find two seats together near the back of the sanctuary and as you sit down Paul begins to fire questions at you like they are coming out of a machine gun. He asks, “What is that noise coming from the front of the building and why is there smoke everywhere? What is an overflow room? I really want to know what Starbucks, Pizza and Deli mean to the Church in the 21st Century!?” You begin by explaining the convenience of having coffee and food in the lobby and the various reasons for it but you can see that he is not buying your story. You then begin to explain the noise he referred to is actually the music worship part of the service and the fog was manufactured by a machine on the platform and as you look at him now, you don’t even attempt to explain the reason for the fog or the various colored lights. You explain that the overflow room is for those who are late and cannot get a seat in the main sanctuary so they must sit in another room and watch the service on a big TV screen. Then you can tell that he doesn’t know what a TV screen is and you are beginning to feel very inadequate as a 21st century host to this man who you really don’t know and can’t understand why all this is so foreign to him.After the music service is finished, a guy comes out on the platform and tries to say a few really cool things, welcomes everyone and tells them, “Welcome, today you won’t even realize you have been in Church!” Paul is thinking, “What!! If not in Church, then where?!!” After the cool guy gives some miscellaneous announcements, another, not so cool, guy comes out and talks for 10 minutes about an addition the Church is planning for the campus and tells everyone how they can financially support this new project which will provide space for a larger over flow with a bigger screen. You glance over at Paul and you can see the discouragement and the frustration building up within him. He looks at you and asks, “Is someone going to teach the word this morning at any time?” You assure him that the pastor will begin the teaching very soon. When the not so cool guy is done, the music leader gets up and does a solo from his newest recording project and when he is finished, a curtain at the rear of the platform comes up and a really, really big screen is exposed which projects the image of a pastor at a location 100 miles away. As he starts into a message about how to feel really good about yourself, Paul asks, “What kind of Church is this and what world am I in?” You reply, “It’s a satellite church and this is the good old USA.”
The reality of the 21st Century Church
OK, that was a bit exaggerated; actually, you can probably go into any number of churches, mega or not, on a Sunday morning and experience at least one of these functions listed above. But if you are attending a church that encompasses all, in the way described in the scenario with Paul, you may want to reconsider what you are getting out of Sunday morning worship. The mega church is the result of over populated areas or highly populated suburban areas. Given the benefit of the doubt, it is one of the reasons we would find a mega church in one of these types of areas verses an extreme rural area. A church plant is prayed over for a period of time and when the Lord moves on a man, a ministry team or whatever the situation, they proceed as the Lord leads them. A highly populated area may be in need of more churches or places of worship so the church planting team moves in and begins to establish a church plant. If the Lord has led this work, it will prosper and much fruit will be the result. If this church plant is of the flesh and only man is behind it, there will be no fruit, no move of God and this could be a disaster. Doing something without the Lord’s guidance and direction, being where the Lord has not led, will bring much misery and He will not bless it. Does this happen in the 21st Century Church? There have been man made ministries flop, huge sums of money lost and spirits broken. Is the 21st Century Church doing God’s business wrong? NO and YES. It is no different in the 21st century than it was in the latter 20th century or the earlier 20th century. Over the last two centuries, man has had his hand in messing up the Church that belongs to Jesus numerous times.
Mega churches do take a lot of heat today but with the locations and populations, it happens. So, each mega church has a senior pastor and there is a tremendous amount of responsibility on this man. If he is of the flesh and all about the money and the numbers of people, he is wrong. If he is following the lead of the Spirit, God will bless the work. I read two articles this week which were written by pastors of two mega churches and I was blessed by what each had to say.
Matt Chandler addressed pastors during the Creature of the Word Simulcast on Tuesday and warned them that harboring a sense of entitlement can kill a church.
Pastors can sometimes get caught up in their position, he said, and fail to obey Jesus Christ’s teaching in Matthew 20:26, which says, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” But they are supposed to model servitude for their congregations, and failing to do so could be to their church’s detriment.
His message to these pastors was simple, a sense of entitlement on the part of the pastor will trickle all the way down to each individual in the church. It is well worth reading. The other article concerns the hype of the pastor instead of providing an opportunity to have an encounter with the Lord.
A Colorado Springs megachurch pastor became disillusioned when he began to follow on Twitter around a dozen high-profile pastors whose ministries he respected.These pastors would regularly tweet something that was, in Pastor Brady Boyd’s opinion, overflowing with hype. “Super Bowl of all Sundays,” “the megamonster of all sermons,” “I can’t think of another time I have been more excited about preaching a message,” they tweeted as they touted upcoming weekend services. Sadly, the result of hype is a church full of consumers.http://www.christianpost.com/news/colo-megachurch-pastor-hype-vs-holy-spirit-83629/
I am not anti-mega church; I have nothing against these huge churches since there are so many which are the work of the Lord. I am anti-celebrity pastor. As is pointed out in each of these articles, the pastor should never feel he is entitled to any special treatment or compensation. He works directly for the Lord and is a servant. When the pastor gets the idea that he built this huge church and he is someone special, he is ready for a tumble. The other point made by Pastor Brady Boyd, stop the hype, stop all the antics of trying to hype the people into the service on Sunday morning. Know what your calling is and realize that the celebrities are in Hollywood.
So, if you are not in a local church at this time, find a well grounded Bible teaching church and it will definitely be a 21st Century Church because that is the era of time in which we live. It doesn’t have to be a mega church or a satellite church or have a deli in the lobby, just a church where you can worship Jesus and experience good, healthy, Christian fellowship. Yes, the Church has greatly changed in the last 2000 years but the word of God hasn’t, Jesus hasn’t and the moving of the Holy Spirit hasn’t. There are still many, many men of God doing it the way the Lord has told us to do it.