If you built it, will they come?
Published 7:32 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010
The mission of the church is to reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. The idea is that people would hear about Jesus, be converted to faith, and join the movement to gather others into God’s kingdom.
When the church began in the first century A.D., the program instituted by Jesus himself was, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). There have been various stages of “going” ever since, but the growth of the church overall has not kept up with general population growth. If the status quo persists, the church will be relegated to some insignificant corner of society.
Decline was not the norm in the early church. As people came to faith in Jesus Christ, the movement was very “attractional.” The number of Christ-followers grew from a mere 120 or so to several thousand in just a few days (Acts 2:41, 47).
Several things made the new church attractional. One was the attitude that what I have is yours if you have need of it (Acts 2:44-45). Another attractional feature were the miracles done by the apostles (Acts 2:43). Something else that initiated growth was momentum. The followers of Christ met together every day and shared their lives with each other (Acts 2:46-47).
The church began with a mission given by Jesus Christ himself, became attractional and progressed through the centuries, going back and forth between attractional and missional.
Somehow the idea evolved that if you built a church building, scheduled services and looked like a church, you would attract people. That model worked and is working now, but with lesser impact all the time. It is not working as well today as it once did because church, as practiced today, has become less than attractive. People still hold a high opinion of God and Jesus Christ, but give the church poor marks.
The work of God and the people of God enjoying God have always been attractive. When the Israelites left Egyptian slavery amidst the mighty works of God, many people who were not Jews attached themselves to the people of God and went with them (Exodus 12:38). They wanted to be part of the glorious work they were seeing.
The church is a group of people who are supposed to be exhibiting the glory of God, but alas, such is typically far from what is going on. If there is not glory in the church, it does not matter what we build or organize; the people will not be attracted.
But, let God’s people get serious about God, clean up their lives and act like Christians, and once again, the church becomes attractive. Revival is the process whereby God moves among his people to restore them to authentic Christianity.
The church, as we see it today, needs to be missional about seeking the living God of Heaven for revival. When God comes as he did in the three Great Awakenings in these United States in the 1700s and 1800s, the church burst forth with new life, and millions were ushered into the kingdom of God. The church stood triumphant in those days.
If you build it, will they come? Probably not . . . until we get missional about becoming attractive to people who are truly seeking God.
Society and culture are not too far gone for God to reform them. Society and culture are too far gone for our current church programs to correct them.
The church needs revival. When God’s people get the fire of God in their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, it will be so attractive that there will not be room in whatever we have built to hold the crowds.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
The Rev. Dan Puckett is a minister with Life Action Ministries.