Assemblies of God Empowered Magazine God's Eternal Word - Page 25

recognise new people and ask where they are from. And it is somewhat awkward, I think, for an offended person to have to explain why they were jumping ship, particularly if they know that the pastors and ministers regularly meet together. It’s much easier to drive 30 minutes each Sunday morning into a big city church where they can hide away in the crowd and not be noticed. One pastor I broached this with said, “What you are saying is true. Some people will be offended by this, but hopefully the offence will lead them to consider ‘Where does God want me to be planted and how can I best serve Him and using the gifts he has given me?’” Another pastor says that, in the end, churches are coalitions of the willing, and it is the willing who will build the church. Big churches have to be program driven to work, he suggests. Small ones don't, so no apology for not running programs. As the pastor of a reasonable sized church he says everything is easier in a city church and in a large church. “Big church pastors have no idea the challenges small communities throw up. A denominational seminar I ran on the subject fifteen years ago went down very well with pastors from small towns, but it didn't go down well with the other half of the movement!” Stephen Allen, dean of Alphacrucis Bible College in Auckland New Zealand, suggests there might be legitimate reasons for attending a large city church; • • • • People, especially Professionals, work long hours and have very little energy left to devote to serving in church. They feel that giving money is their contribution. Parents, recognising the influence of peers, want to have their children be part of a large youth group … or attend a Sunday school programme that is dynamic and exciting. People like the ‘big worship experience” that a large church provides. Young adults are looking for marriage partners. (In a small church the options areoften limited.) “People are attracted to vision” he says, “and large churches are often good at selling the message “we are changing the world”. He also suspects that there is so much competition for people to attend various city churches that their motives for changing churches are not often questioned. Here’s what I’d like to do in one of those big city churches if I had the opportunity. Who Should Really Be There? Here’s an exercise you might like try on any given Sunday morning. Ask everybody to stand up then ask those who are actively involved in ministries for the church to sit down. Then ask those who live inside or within, say, 10 kilometres of the recognised boundaries of the city to sit down. Those still standing would, by default, be out of town people who are contributing pretty much nothing to the mission of the church apart from their attendance and tithe (assuming that they still do). A little simplified maybe, but I think valid. One Bible College Dean I spoke to says he believes this last point is the key issue. Who would turn away a potential giver? If a large church followed that idea they could potentially lose a large part of their income. He doesn’t expect it will ever happen, though, and went on to say that he remembered one pastor of a large church saying that God had called him to a ‘significant’ ministry. That of course implies that small churches are ‘insignificant’ in the Kingdom, a thesis we both thoroughly reject. Howard Webb, director of the Love Your Neighbour Trust, wonders if it’s fair to blame the problem on the 'consumers' of church, when we, the leaders, have made church what it is. We entice people to church with an offer of something; when they come for that thing we are annoyed that they aren't contributing.” BYM’s Gary Grut agrees. “Sadly we live in a highly driven consumer age” he says. “I think our people need a fresh encounter with God”. The Battle For Souls We are in a battle for the souls of men. Imagine what would have happened in World War II if a soldier under a commander decided to head over to another commander’s division simply because they liked his style of leadership better. What would happen to the fighting strength of the other division? Mark is an Anglican vicar of many years standing and highly regarded across the denominations. 18 months ago he retired from full time ministry. To begin with he says he found himself in a strange place, the best way to describe it, being homeless. On the first Sunday Mark and his wife did not know where to go. The bishop of Wellington had said at a conference he’d once attended that the growth of the church in a global sense happens in the small churches. He made a plea for people who were in large churches that in many ways did not need more workers to attend the small church to give it energy and hope. So they decided to attend a small church of about 30 - 40 people on a Sunday. Very quickly they knew everyone by name; they knew their particular ways etc. Mark says he has discovered a new found joy through this much more intimate life style. “What we need is Divine Worship where we are together, this is what the early church seemed to do. The spreading of the gospel was through personal encounters with others who were seeking.” Mark says what we need is pastoral care, a listening ear, an act of friendship, an intimate fellowship with other believers. He wonders if the big church is needed, but thinks some may take that thought as blasphemy. He says he is loving the faith-lifting life of a small church and the quiet presence of others in the company of our Lord. Auckland Messianic pastor Yaakov Brown says this reflects the nature of Israel's worship rhythm. “We make aliyah three times a year for the festivals” he says. “These special occasions are an opportunity for the coming together of the many smaller communities. But they do not stay in Jerusalem and set up a mega Church. On the contrary, the holiness that is part of the Aliyot festivals is carried back into the community where it effects Godly change in the mundane actions of life”. continued on pg 26... ISSUE #3 DECEMBER 2017 | 25