How do churches start? Why is having love-fueled beginnings so important? Love-fueled beginnings speaks to how the Lord builds His Church. Scripture tells us that the foundation of all things in the New Covenant is the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Matt 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
1 Cor 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
When a builder builds a structure, the first stone that is laid is the cornerstone. The cornerstone forms the foundation upon which the builders will build. Builders use a cornerstone to compare everything else that is added in the building of that structure. Everything is adjusted to the chief cornerstone.
Every congregation claims to be founded on Christ, but the Lord is more than a doctrine. He is a Person. So, talking or singing about Him or reciting bible verses does not make a foundation. He is a living stone, and we are living stones being built upon Him. A group of living stones that are constantly adjusted by the Holy Spirit (act like, look like, and operate like) the Lord Jesus Christ. They will form a congregation which in turn becomes part of the One Church the Lord Jesus Christ is building.
If the foundation of a congregation is rotten at the core, it will not stand the test of time. What the Lord builds the Lord is obligated to sustain. That which man creates is at best at His mercy. Just because a church stands today (profitable & growing) does not mean God approves of it. As my friend Steve Crosby always says, the Lord’s grace in dysfunction is not a sign of His approval.
It is incredible how many Sunday morning church goers have absolutely no clue how churches start. Most just choose their churches like they choose their ice cream; it’s the flavor they like at the price they are willing to pay.
In the church world, a congregation either has a love-fueled beginning, or it has a profit/expansion/division-fueled beginning. It’s sad to say that after 30 years of observation, 90% of church starts I have seen were caused by either profit/expansion or division. Few congregations can point to having love-fueled beginnings in their foundation.
Please don’t be alarmed by the honesty and directness of the descriptions below. What is done in secret must be brought out in the light if we are going to change.
When man is the creator (In the name of Christ or in the name of reaching the lost, of course), money comes before love and ego before the Lord’s passion or burden.
Here is How the Modern 21st Century church starts:
- A religious group “denomination” decides to expand. It needs a representative church in a new area of town not being “properly -serviced” (use your imagination for the definition of that phrase).
- An older church leader refuses to release control because “people = financial support” to the new leaders so they leave, “mutiny,” and start a new work.
- Division -Doctrinal debate begins among two influential leaders who attract people to their cause, then separate from each other claiming a right to divide the Body of Christ in the name of truth.
- A mega church decides it needs to expand “their brand,” the influence of their charismatic leader, into a new area so the set up a satellite church with videos of the main church sermons.
- A mission of a mother church is set up to reach a language, race, or culture that they do not want to become a part of the mother church. Usually the mission group is poorer and of the wrong color.
To pinpoint the exact location of the building, most of the above “expansion” starts will go to the city records and get a demographic study, a “where is the money” study. Of course, the decision to locate will be couched in religious sounding jargon like “rich people need love too” when discussed in public.
I agree with my brother Michael Rose, who said when we were discussing this; I’m not sure all institutional church planters have bad motives – rather they are operating from the paradigm they know. I suspect (based on my experience and nothing more substantial) that they would tell you with conviction and purity of heart that all they really want to do is serve the Lord in faith.
I know, I was one of those Michael is describing, with a sincere heart (love-fueled beginnings) who simply got hooked by the religious system. Our reason for highlighting this is not to put down confused, well-meaning leaders but to uncover the demonic ways of a religious system that operates as “the way” in the name of Christ. I know they have never seen anything else, but if mature leaders don’t speak up, we are complicit, and the vicious cycle will continue.
So, let’s move on–
Next, a pastor or priest will have to be located. Leaders will shop (sell their gifts-their resumes) for prospective groups upon graduation from seminary. Just like sports, the highest bidder gets the player. The player doesn’t care what jersey he wears or where he must live to get his check. He has no ties to the people in the city he represents. He has a contract and he plays (performs) for pay. In the church world, spiritual words are used like “I have been called to this congregation,” but the truth is that was the best offer they had when they put their resume out. There is no God reason or rhyme for any of it.
Then a name “brand” for the organization will have be chosen. Numbers are used to denote who came first. Neighborhoods are used to let all know it’s their territory. In the Catholic world names of “saints” are used to explain who protects them. The pastor’s name is used to give credit to the man who started the work.
Names do nothing but divide the One Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no such examples in the New Testament. Congregations were either associated with the city they were in or the house in which they met. If you asked a New Testament believer, they were not members of a local congregation but members of the One Body of the Lord Jesus Christ gathering here or there.
Once a name is chosen the pastor and other positional leaders will decide how best to “advertise the ministry.” Since the Modern Church (Religious System) has taken its growth strategies from the Business sector, the bottom line is the profit of the ministry. The benefits of being a part of this new congregation will be advertised to the people in the surrounding area. It’s all about what this new church offers that others don’t have and what they do better. Some famous lines for advertising are: come listen to our preacher, come see our building, or come experience our worship team. Jesus told us to GO, but we have turned it to a COME.
It is all about giving the attendee the convenience and comfort they are looking for. Come, let us count you, have your emotional experience, leave your tithe, and we will see you next week. The godly idea of becoming a disciple of Christ or turning away from this perverse generation in which we live is not at all in the cards. In the modern church, the focus of the leadership is about making sure you enjoy what happens in the four walls once a week.
You say this sounds terrible, but are you willing to do something about it? What is your motivation? Is it love, or is it the money? Your passion is either driven by self or your love for others.
Why such a scathing report?
Because love demands somebody speak out. Because as of today it is reported that 2000 pastors and priests “step down from the pulpit” monthly. It hurts me every time I hear of a leader leaving the work of the Lord. I know firsthand that the religious system breeds pain.
While the world laughs and scoffs at the millionaire, celebrity pastors, I can tell you that the work of the Lord is the worst paid profession on the planet. I have and do walk with many men and women who left all to serve Christ, only to experience need because they chose not to play along with the religious system and to remain true to their convictions. Many in confidence told me they couldn’t tell the congregation they were going hungry because then it would look like they had lack of faith. I even know men who died of illnesses because they couldn’t share their sickness with the people. Who speaks up for them?
It hurts me every time I hear of a fallen leader caught in sin or some type of indiscretion whose weakness was exacerbated by the pressure put on a leader in this system. It hurts me every time I speak to a fallen leader who was caught in the web of loneliness and the need to put on appearances created by the religious system. Who can they trust and who can they share their heart with? It hurts me every time the media blows up our dirty laundry before a fallen world. Then, like sharks to blood, the Body of Christ begs to get every last dirty little detail (usually lies and rumors) with no regard to the fallen and their family. Who restores the broken and the wounded among us? Where is the ministry of reconciliation?
It hurts me every time I hear of another church split. Knowing that the strength and resources of the Body of Christ will be divided again. What was one now becomes two buildings, two sound systems, two salaries on only half the financial resources. Is it not a wonder why we remain weak and ineffective?
It hurts me every time I see a mature man of God put out to pasture in trade for some fresh blood. After a lifetime of service to the Lord, with no other work experience, they are dismissed with no pension or retirement. Retired thoroughbred horses are treated better than the church treats its aging leaders. Who speaks up for them and their families?
Many of these men and women leave wounded and totally disillusioned with the religious mess the system has created. Some leave mad at God; their families and friends are hurt, and few ever question why. All this pain can be avoided if God’s people would return to the Way, the Cornerstone, and Foundation which is the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
What the Statistics are saying
In a study done by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICLD), the stats speak for themselves. “Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!
Southern Baptist researcher, Thom Rainer, in a recent article entitled, “13 Issues for Churches in 2013,” puts the estimate higher. He says between 8,000 and 10,000 churches will likely close this year.
This was four years ago. Can you imagine what the numbers are in 2017? These men are using documented numbers. I would venture to say conservatively that more than a third of the churches have closed in Jacksonville in the last 30 years. Loyalty is not a word commonly used in the church today. Most “local church members” at best stay 2 to 3 years before they change congregations. Less than 20% of a local church congregation keep the doors open and do much of the work. Is anyone asking why?
- The United States now ranks third (3rd) following China and India in the number of people who are not professing Christians; in other words, the U.S. is becoming an ever-inncreasing, un-reached people group.
- Half of all churches in the US did not add any new members to their ranks in the last two years.
- So why do they leave for other reasons than death? Why are they not coming?”
The Religious System’s Excuses
“What we hear as responses from most of our church leaders are the excuses of “cultural decay” and “changing values,” and that “the average American views the church with little regard.” These are authentic factors, but they are just symptoms. The bigger question seems to be what led up to these “symptoms?” What led to the problems of cultural decay and the downgrading of moral absolutes? There is more to it than changing values; after all, a change in values has a root cause. A symptom is usually caused by a systemic disease or an explicit psychological problem.”
To cure the disease the religious system must come crumbling down. Love-fueled beginnings must again be the passion that drive us to start love-fueled churches that in turn produce love-fueled disciples. The Church must again influence the world, not vice -versa. We must return to the Foundation!
Thank God! The Lord has a better foundation for the ONE Church the Lord Jesus Christ is building. Love-fueled beginnings begin with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. To move forward the Lord will have to bring an adjustment in the heart of a man or a woman the Lord has chosen. The Lord must either awaken a born-from-above believer who has been stuck in the religious system, or He will touch the heart of one that is totally outside the modern church. Either way, the Lord will adjust until He has someone who will be in complete surrender to His will.
In the current church climate because of the absence of spiritual fathers to affirm and confirm, the Lord himself will intervene in those He has chosen. The Father himself will have to call and then disciple them in His way.
The Lord will usually send them out with a powerful encounter or calling. The leader will always remember that this definitive encounter, “calling,” or day is to be surrendered to the will of God. The magnitude of this adjustment/encounter is provided by the Father to sustain them when times get rough in the future. Their passion and love for people will be so unlike those other leaders around them. People will know without a doubt that something new has happened in their life.
These leaders, under a new fresh anointing of the Spirit, will begin to reach out to others with the love of God. They will have a fresh sensitivity for people’s needs around them, whether they are at work, school, or just doing their shopping. Money is not at the root of their passion, but the love of God for others is. There will also be a fresh desire to “Go” anywhere the Lord will send them. Their homes will become an oasis for needy people coming and going. There will be a total change of all things concerning these leaders’ lives.
Others will be drawn to the “Christ Life” and example being manifested in these leaders. A group of people will organically begin to be pulled together by their increasing love for each other. Next, bonds of love will begin to be formed as the people fellowship and minister to each other daily. All these loving relationships will create the bonds that will form a congregation. This has nothing to do with a building or location and everything to do with God’s people living a mutually-edifying, daily Christ-Life together. This is called community, and it can happen anywhere.
I like to say community is where you find it and physical proximity (geography) is not essential. I am closer to my spiritual sons and daughters overseas who I share with daily than my next-door, blood relatives. The Lord, the head of the Church, knows who needs what gift and how to connect them by the Holy Spirit. The Lord, the builder of His Church, knows how to connect the living stones together for His good pleasure. Notice I haven’t mentioned the need for the right location, advertising or any kind of human promotion.
1 Cor 12:18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
1 Cor 12:24-25 But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism (divisions) in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
If you didn’t have a love-fueled beginning, get ready. Because of His great love for you, adjustment is coming. If you are a hireling or a volunteer, I recommend you look for other employment because the future doesn’t look bright for the religious system.
The Lord starts everything He builds. I started well, but the religious system all around me, the lack of proper fathering, and my need for income brought me to my crash and burn. I thank God every day for my fresh new beginning! What a joy it is to cooperate with the Lord daily to build His Church on a foundation that cannot be moved. I pray if you are like me, you will wake up and return to your love-fueled beginnings.
Jose L. Bosque
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