I was reading along and had the sudden urge to share this part from chapter 8 in ‘Was Church God’s Idea’. The piece really spoke to me and I thought it might to you as well.
There could be little disagreement that church programs did not exist
in the first century. For the biblical purist, that statement alone is
probably enough reason to question why we have them. For others who
believe in a more flexible and progressive modality, let us look at the fruit
of church programs.
To get a better picture of the modern western world’s way of making
disciples consider these scriptures and see if they relate to today’s
program method of turning out disciples.
Genesis 11:3-4: They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks
and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone,
and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves
a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may
make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over
the face of the whole earth.”
There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. First, altars were constructed and used since the beginning, immediately after the fall. The Lord’s prescribed way to build altars to Himself was with natural stones. They were not man-made bricks or man-formed chiseled stones.
Exodus 20:25: “If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build
it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.”
(Also see Deuteronomy 27:5-6).
Second, the people had an interest in God, but they displayed that interest in prideful egocentric ways. Third, their efforts were in direct contradiction to the Lord’s command in
Genesis 1:28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill
the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
The Lord wanted his people to go forth and spread out over the earth, fulfilling His purposes and not huddle together and in so doing, build their own plan.
For the specific purpose of this discussion, the point is the difference in man-made bricks or chiseled stones, and natural stones. In today’s large churches, the church leader (by necessity) is not doing the work of tending sheep (discipiling); he is more the business CEO of the ranch. Instead
of building the Lord’s altars (think ekklesia, community) made with individual unique living stones with their own hands, they get subordinates to fire bake man-made bricks or chisel stones in cookie cutter assemble lines. Bricks or chiseled stone are much easier and faster to build with than natural
stones. Making everyone alike in a pattern makes stacking very efficient. When the focus is all about the building of a successful ministry, growing the size of the membership, and seeing “the big picture”, the individual stones really don’t matter very much. The uniqueness of natural unchiseled
stones takes more time to work with, and it could take years (maybe three) to build into a functional part of the Lord’s ekklesia (community). So they just get others further down the food chain to use a chisel and a hammer (cookie cutter programs), to knock off the inconvenient (unique) edges (for adult discipleship programs), press the raw clay (children) into molds (Sunday school) in an assembly line fashion, and apply fire to bake them into bricks. Those who understand firing pottery know that sometimes the
clay (children) can explode in the fire. If the rocks crack while you hammer on them (adults), or are just too hard to hew into the size and shape that suits the builder, he just discards them. If the clay (children) explode in the fire, who is to know anyway? Living stone, have you ever felt discarded by
a church because you could not just “fit in with the program”?24 Parent or grandparent, have you ever seen a child get wrong teaching or treatment in children’s programs, resulting in them becoming little Pharisees, or leave church altogether because of the hypocrisy they witness?
Matthew 18:6: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those
who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to
have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned
in the depths of the sea.”
In all of the rush to build a big religious structure/ temple to ‘glorify God’ with, you will have a lot of waste material, and there will be a lot of casualties. What is the acceptable number of spiritual causalities to build
and perpetuate church?
Discipleship is one-on-one loving mentoring; it is not church growth seminars or discipleship programs.