Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Sharp Rebuke to "Gaping"!

This quote comes from the section of the sermon "Sovereign Surprises" that I will put on the website tomorrow, but I couldn't resist highlighting it now. It is something we need to hear! Ern Baxter said this:

"Taking His (the Lord Jesus's) disciples over the brook Kidron, He blessed them and was received up to Heaven ... so they watched Him going up. That must have been quite a sight! Two men dressed in white appeared and said, "Why stand you gaping?".

We need those two men again to say to a large portion of the church, "Why stand you gaping?". I believe in the Second Coming of Christ! But I can't stand gaping. Do you remember what He said? "Now get on with your business! ... Go and make disciples of nations!".


Sheila said...

I tried posting this comment to an earlier post of your's, Dan, but I'm not seeing it. I'll try to comment here - please be patient with me as I learn how to interact in this venue! It won't tie very well into this you've shared about "gaping" - but suffice it to say I'm loving this application of that Scripture. I'd love to share it with some of my rather apocolyptic, eschatological friends! HA!

Dan, once again/again you hit on a topic near and dear to my heart - the ol' "numbers issue". My husband and I call our church plant a "mini-mega church" - and the quizzical looks we receive about this are hilarious. We simply explain to the confused person that a "mini mega church" is a small church that loves big, and has big vision.

Our vision is to plant a church as soon as our attendance reaches a steady 300 mark...or even less! We know of few pastors whose vision is quite like ours...the bigger we become, the less successful we will feel. Our hair will be on fire to "get small again". We, personally, will only feel we've fulfilled our true calling when we have planted many mini mega churches. (say that 10 times fast!) These churches need only be large enough to support a gifted, passionate mini mega pastor, missions, and benevolence. We have been, and are willing to again be, creative as to the building aspect of church planting.

We've rented store front facilities, we've shared facilities w/ a Presbyterian church, we met in a Karate school at one time! (We now own a VERY church-y church building - complete with quaint steeple.) We've met in homes - we've tried it all in our history.

Both my husband and I cringe at the very idea of a mega church - simply because we are highly relational. We build via relationship. We cannot imagine anyone having to wait 3 months for an appointment with my husband. Were that the case, we'd feel as though we'd failed.

However. However. The church is the bride, and the bride is the apple of the Lord's eye. I refuse to dismiss the mega church because it is too big and impersonal. I cannot dismiss the tiny churches because they are too small or too inward to have any impact. I won't dismiss traditional/liturgical churches because they seem dry or even dead. I can't find it in my heart to belittle the cell churches because "they don't work well in the United States". To dismiss any of it is to dismiss a part of the bride - and that I am unwilling to do. I agree....God uses it all.

My personal preference (praise God, I'm entitled to it!) is the small church. My husband and I were an integral, leadership part of a very large charismatic church - the one that commissioned us and sent us out. Now he is the pastor (and I his wife - NOT his associate pastor...ugh. I don't want a title. ) of a church under 100 members. Having served both, seen both, we can say without reserve that the small church is far and away the more efficient means of discipleship.

Our vision is to plant many such churches - so that no church we've planted is allowed to become a bloated repository for gifted men and women to sit on the bench. We dream of planting churches large enough to reach the nations (or at least *a* nation) yet small enough that the unspoken motto must be, "All hands on deck."

Dan, thanks so much for your work on this blog. As a career home maker (and proud of it) and pastor's wife, my opportunities to discuss relevant spiritual issues with likeminded saints are not as plentiful as I'd like. My husband and I have the *best* discussions, but alas, he is gone a good part of the day. (Imagine a pastor who actually meets with other men, disciples them, who prays, seeks God, studies the Word - - who actually is about the business of the Kingdom, every day! That's my man...)

And no...we do NOT have a "pastor's budget", since we serve a mini mega church. I'm not even sure what that is. So conferences are also few and far between for us both. *smile*

So I love having this little spot in the "blog-o-sphere", where I know I can come with my coffee and truly enjoy some *real* discussion about *real* issues that I am passionate about. Please, keep up the good work, because your blog is special to me.

We planted from scratch, my husband and I. Our initial "salary" was $42.50 a week, and thus my husband served a long time in what I called "bi vocational purgatory". ;-) When he later left his job to serve our church full time - well...suffice it to way, it was a step of faith most folks only read about in a book. Our average monthly surplus as a church was $129/mo. at the time - not nearly enough to support a pastor with a wife and four children.

But God has met us every week, month, and year since that terrifying day that Tim drove home from his "day job" for the last time. Miracle after miracle - not the least of which has been that a small group of people who desperately needed to GROW UP spiritually....have grown up. Our church has grown. And brother, these people **love** one another.

That is the miracle - and I consider Harvest Church a resounding success, and hold my head high when asked the inevitable question, "How many members are in your church?"

Because I know the real measure of a church is in that church's love for God, and love for each other. Harvest Church's spiritual size is one of heft, balance, and vitality. I'm honored to serve her, and I'd stack her up against a church of 1,000 any day of the year.

The best people in all Christendom, these Harvesters. How I love them! (And sure, I'd love to spark a holy, blessed "debate" - hearing how that anyone else's church has the best saints in all Christendom!)

Baxter's Boy said...

Wow Sheila ... you are a special person and I feel so honoured to be sitting with you in the cyber-cosmos enjoying a cup of coffee! It was GREAT to read of you and your husbands work and mission and I absolutely LOVE the "mini mega church"!! What a GREAT concept!!

Quality exceeds Quantity!!

I really believe that you indeed are out there really and truly fulfilling the Great Comission and making DISCIPLES!! Not Numbers! Yes we discussed earlier that a balanced view is right. Numbers are inevitable when God is moving and blessing, but in the 3rd part of this sermon that I'm going to publish tomorrow - Ern talks about "not forcing God's hand".

So until He chooses in His divine timing to bless us with numbers, our job is to make disciples of what we have. Because let's face it - if we aren't making disciples of the people - the numbers that God has given us, then why on EARTH should He bless us and give us anymore?

Anonymous said...

This is a clear and resounding clarion call to not only those end-time maniacs who love "Left Behind" etc etc, but also to reformed evangelicals who move swiftly from the Cross to the Second Coming - "we are pilgrims wandering swiftly through".

Yes we have a Mandate to fulfill!


Sheila said...

"End time maniacs"..."gapers"..."apocalyptics"..."eschatological buddies of mine"...I'm rolling in a giggle fit regarding all the terms we've coined. "We are pilgrims, wandering swiftly through" - nevermind the mandate "occupy till I come."

When asked what our eschatological views are (and yes, having some grasp of end time events is vitally important - but not the melodrama that so much of the church has made of it!) we say we are "pan-milleniumists". Again...the quizzical stares come our way. I'm SURE this is a very old, old joke, but we then explain, "We aren't pre-trib or mid-trib or post-trib, we aren't any prefix you could attach to "millenium" - but if you INSIST, we'd have to call ourselves pan-milleniumists. We believe if we love the Lord, love our brother, and fulfill the Great Commission, it'll all PAN OUT IN THE END."

Baxter's Boy said...

I love it - pan-millenialist! :) I am quite fond of saying to my non-Christian friends when they look quizzically at my Bibles; "I can tell you the ending right now ... He wins".