A large, popular church asked Jesus, “As the head of the church, tell us what we must do to make sure our institution lasts forever?” Jesus said to them, “Why do you call me the head of your church? Isn’t that God’s place? You know what you should be doing…teach your people to tithe, train up your leaders, have a good strategic plan, be culturally relevant.” And the church said, “We have done all these things for years now.”
When Jesus heard this, He said to them, “One thing you still lack. Sell your property and your buildings and everything in them and give all the money to the poor, and you will have treasures in Heaven. Then come and follow me.” But when they heard these things, the big church became very sad, for they were extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that they had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for a big, wealthy institution to change its direction and follow me! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a big church to give up its comfort and really begin to pour into people who have little or nothing to give in return.”
Other churches who heard this said, “If that church can’t effectively minister to the poor, then what chance do we have?” But Jesus said, “If preserving your institution is your highest value, then you will never really make a difference…but if following me is your highest value, you won’t believe what becomes possible!”
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a
All the believers were together and had everything in common.They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Acts 2:44-45
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them allthat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the salesand put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:32-35
Here’s a test question for you as a church leader: which is more “successful”…ministering to the needs of 50,000 people by mobilizing 5 people…or ministering to the needs of only 500 people by mobilizing 500 people?
Some 15 to 20 years ago (suddenly feeling great surprise that it’s been that long now) my wife, our two little girls and I joined a small team of about 5 other families, all spending our Spring Break on mission in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, doing Vacation Bible School at a small church there. Over the ensuing 8 years, that same trip grew to become a church-wide Spring Break family mission trip of some 100-150 “missionaries” ranging in age from 6-months to 80-years. We had medical mission teams, construction teams, music teams, drama groups, VBS on multiple sites, sports evangelism teams and even pastoral care teams. We gathered everyone together at our campsite every night for worship and reporting. As you might imagine, it was chaotic and fantastic all at the same time. There was no childcare ministry…we all took care …
In The Gathering, we are going through the gospel of John. It has been a wonderful study for us! I still feel convicted when I really study Christ’s “missional” ways and his passion for people…ALL people. It is just not possible to really come to an understanding of the Biblical Jesus without feeling moved toward people in need.
But even as we read convicting passages from God’s Word, many in my church will be thinking to themselves, “Our church needs to be about feeding hungry people and helping the homeless in our community…our church needs to continue clothing them and providing other help for them…this is something our church needs to do.” And those are good thoughts, but they are indicative of the institutional mindset which is keeping many of us from ever reaching our true Christian potential as individuals.
You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution. The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional. The attitude at my own church provides a great example. Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries. We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen. We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets. We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes. We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year. In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.
So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church …