Awhile back, some children decided that they wanted to take all of their money and buy a pet fish. As one fish will never be good enough for two children, they each decided to buy their own fish. They looked and looked at all of the fish in the store and decided on the cool ninja like fighting fish. Sadly, since they tend to fight to the death when placed in the same tank, the family went from owning no fish to buying two separate fishbowls filled with multicolored rocks, plastic plants and underwater figurines. And as the family was walking out of the store, a helpful clerk reminded them that fish do not do well with change. He pointed out that a drastic change in water quality or temperature could shock or even kill the fish.
The local church is like a small fish in a fishbowl. It loves the peace and tranquility of the status que. It likes the water to remain settled and unchanged. However, if left for too long, the environment that has been such a source of life can slowly turn septic. Logically, we all know that as our fish grow, we will eventually need to change the water or even the size of the tank. No congregation likes change. And if change must come, they pray it is only the water and not the tank itself.
If you are reading this book today, you may be one of many pastors or leaders who have boldly jumped out of the comfort of your traditional fishbowl and are desperately flailing around seeking to somehow flip into a new one. But the real question is why. Why did we leave the safety of our tank? The reason is simple. From the bottom of our hearts, we believed that we could no longer survive in a septic environment. Deep down in our hearts, we did not leave our traditions to abandon those we love or rebel against authority, rather we left to somehow find the source of Life that we feel no longer remains. For religion without Life is worthless.
Take this to heart. WE ARE NOT ALONE! Many fish from many old stagnant tanks are all doing the same thing. We are seeking the Spirit of God in faith. Truthfully speaking, those of us who have left everything and have surrendered our lives to seek the Spirit of God will find Him. As the traditional church has had a vital role in being a source of Light in the past, the time is coming where that model of ministry may no longer be as effective in bringing life and light to God’s chosen people.
We find ourselves asking; “How can this be?” We may not fully understand God’s grand plan, but we have to believe that His plan is good. We believe that Christ has already claimed victory and is working to prepare a place for His Bride. We believe that the gates of hell will not stand against the Church of Christ. Yet if we are honest, we have come to an important conclusion. The religion or “establishment of Christianity” is not the Bride itself, rather it is a tool that the Bride has employed for many years.
Change is always hard, yet many times it is necessary. Think about this… Over the past 100 years, our way of life has drastically changed. These changes are truly mindboggling. Can you picture living in a time where your life fully revolved around 20 miles from your home; a time where fancy toys chocolate was a rarity? It was not so long ago where there was no food to microwave and many homes lacked indoor plumbing. Can we really remember what it was like before smart phones, internet, and even television? Yet through all of these major lifestyle changes in the past 100 years, our traditional churches and denominations continue to function in the much of the same way (in regards to ecclesiology.)
Therefore, our primary tool for ministry (the church) has to be willing to take a step back and see what parts of our ministry tools need to be tweaked or even removed so that new tools can better accomplish the work of making disciples. It is hard to comprehend that our denominations are just tools we use to be the Church, but that is what they are. In the spiritual sense, we are all one in Christ, for He is the true head of the one Bride of Christ.
The church (as a corporation) is a tool to accomplish ministry. This unique tool (or structure of ministry) began to take form as Constantine nationalized the church in the 3rd century. From there it has gone through change and various reforms as it has continued to contextualize to the everchanging culture. Yet over centuries of contextualization, today the church looks more like a country club than a tool for making Christ-like disciples.
We could take a few chapters to discuss how many of our established churches have become stagnant, but with so many issues and reasons to cover, it may be best to just point out that many people are losing faith in the effectiveness of traditional based ministries. The proof of this can be seen in the attendance rolls of the church, for it reveals that this current generation has all but fled the traditional church movement as a whole.
Therefore, it is not about who is at fault or trying to fix the problem. Not all change is a bad thing. Could it be that the Spirit of God is leading us out for a reason? And if He is trying to lead us out, why would we fight so hard to remain? In Truth, there are still many great churches out there, and God has only called some of us out. Therefore, let us make sure that we don’t think more highly of ourselves in our freedom as we seek a living God afresh.
God is still accomplishing some amazing things through the traditional church. In the same way, (for those God has called out) let us stand up and brush off the ashes we have lingered in as we have mourned for what we see taking place in the Church at large. For sometimes we can attempt to take on the yoke of trying to fix the great problems in the church. Yet we have to leave such a burden to Christ alone. Each of us should only carry the yoke that God places on our necks. For many, starting a nontraditional ministry and serving in our call is exactly what God wants for us. And that is the goal of this book.