About five or six years ago I began questioning the validity of “church” as we know it, in particular our reliance on church buildings, church meetings and church services. Once, a young man asked me, “Steve, if you were running this church, what would you do?”
“Close the church building for three months and have everybody meet in their homes (our congregation had established home/cell groups that met mid-week) and at the end of that time call everyone together to ask if they wanted to start using the building again”. My reply astounded him.
“But … But ….. That’s ridiculous! How will that work? Suppose God convicts someone that they need to get saved and they come to church on the Sunday morning to get saved and the place is shut! How would they get saved! That would be a disaster!!”
Now, the validity of this young man’s argument might be accepted by many church-goers. However, I strongly disagree and this is why.
At the age of 30 years I was in deep trouble and this despair led me to begin seeking for ways to improve my life. One day, in the early summer of 1987, I began reading a book by a “Christian” author, together with a couple of books about the Gospel of John. About 4 a.m. the next morning, while I was reading about Jesus death on the cross, what I now recognize as the Holy Spirit began talking to me about my life and in particular my son (who was then aged 6 years).
The “voice” in my head asked me, “You have a son, would you sacrifice him for anything or anyone?” I replied out loud, “No”. The voice in my head responded, “Well God sacrificed His son for you, and you don’t even care”.
That broke me. I burst into tears and sobbed. After a few minutes I read, “If you believe what you have read about Jesus, say this prayer and ask God to forgive you.” I said out loud, “I believe it! I believe it! I’ll say the prayer, I’ll say the prayer!”
So I read out loud the prayer, had a cup of tea and a piece of toast and went to bed for the best sleep in a long time. Waking a few hours later, I felt different somehow. I phoned a friend of mine (a Christian) with my news. Over the next few days I was introduced to small group of Christians in the area and I began attending home group Bible studies. My encounter with God was without buildings, meetings, services, or any kind of “church” minister or ministry.
Now in my case it could be argued that God needed certain people and their work for me to be saved.
However, the “Christian” author is now regarded by many as a false teacher, it was the Roman Catholic Church (a false church) that provided the books about John’s gospel and the “sinners’ prayer” I quoted is now being condemned as one of the great failings of modern evangelistic methods.
My point is this, God’s work is sovereign and He doesn’t need anyone or anything other than Jesus to make His will for us come to pass. Jesus is the beginning and the end of God’s work with us. With His sacrifice, Jesus paid the price for all of God’s work to be completed. “It is finished!”
God does not need buildings, meetings or services. He doesn’t need Preachers, Teachers, Apostles Prophets or Evangelists. God does not need Priests, Ministers, Pastors, home, cell group or worship leaders. It is people who need these, and they need them because they have an ineffective Christ. Consequently, the church system provides for a “niche market”.
If you are struggling with what I am saying here, please read 2 Kings 7 every day for a week. Meditate on it, then come back to finish this article.
In 2 Kings 7 we see that God works through ways, means and vessels of His choosing, including spiritually “unclean” lepers. If we say that God needs certain men (and/or women) to enable His will to come to pass we limit His sovereign power and reduce Him to our level; we worship a god made in our own image and we set aside everything that God purposed for us in Christ.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul was extremely angry that requirements from “the law” (e.g. circumcision, keeping the Sabbath, abstaining from certain foods, ceremonial washing and so on) had been added to faith in the finished work of Christ for God’s salvation to be effective. Paul rebuked the Galatians for adopting an “ineffective Christ.”
Today, we have not so much added requirements from “the law” to faith in Christ; we have added the church system. We have adopted an “ineffective Christ”.