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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Church

by Nelson Roth
When you hear the word ‘church’ - what comes to mind?

The Church
This month, I’ll be writing about the church on the Relevant Ministry Blog and I’d like to invite you to join in and give your input.  So, please feel free to participate in the conversation by posting a comment below.

The plan is to let each of the following questions prompt the writing and the discussion:
Week 1 - What is the Church?
Week 2 - How is the Church led?
Week 3 - What is the Church to be known by?

Next week, we’ll start with - What is the church?  So, for you, what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘church’?  How is the church doing?  How is your church doing?  Is it spiritually healthy?  How do you evaluate whether a church is healthy or not?

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Peter and the other disciples, “I will build my church.”  Christ “loves the church!  He died for it.”  And, He desires for it to be healthy - “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle...”  Ephesians 5:25-27. 

However, Christ's desire for spiritually healthy churches isn't always what is experienced.  It’s been projected that six out of ten churches could close over the next ten years! [1]  Statistics for clergy reveal that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.  50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.  80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors. [2]  These trends are staggering.  What do they say to you?  Can we do anything about these trends?

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘church’?

Click to post your comment.

RM’s vision - to equip leaders to minister relevantly in churches that will be healthy and thriving.

Relevant Ministry Inc.
Training future leaders - Building healthy ministries - Serving on the Gulf Coast

[1] The E3-Church, J. Val Hastings
[2] Statistics gleaned from various sources from across denominational lines


  1. What a loaded question! Trying to answer that question and navigate through all the preconceived answers of the members, yet hold to the scripture is probably a large contributor to those staggering statistics you quoted.
    Instantly, the believers seem to try to give big "C" answers that refer to Christ as the head of the body of believers.
    Sadly though, our words and actions rarely align with truth. In reality, church members usually focus their attention on the local church and that usually turns to complaints about; pastors, leadership, buildings, etc....

    This could, and probably should, turn into a lively discussion as we ask ourselves;
    What is a church? What is the Church? How do our churches collectively align with the church Christ designed and loves?

    The statistic that troubles me most is the "50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living" WOW! It seems to me that this is a sad indictment as to what we have allowed to happen to Christ's church and to those pastors.
    What do we do?
    What can we do?

    1. Thanks for your great input on what you called, "the loaded question". Anonymous, I wish I knew who you were - and, I hope you stay connected with future discussion! You've given us a great start and I believe you have a lot to offer to the discussion. You used the word - 'preconceived'. I wonder, how much what you called 'preconceived answers' contribute to the Church getting off course? How could we erase the white board and begin with a clean slate? -Nelson

  2. This is a very difficult time to be a pastor. We live in a time of extraordinary change. This is a time when prayer can help to ground us and help us to cling to Christ. Cultural change, economic decline, and political polarization all create enormous forces pulling us away from church, each other and normalcy. It requires a great act of the will to consciously kneel down and pray. This simple act helps us to remain in contact with God and his church. And even the disciples asked Jesus, "teach us to pray."
    Now is the time to learn. Now is the time to pray. Chris+

    1. Thanks Chris for helping us remember an essential for staying focused in all of our challenges - prayer. Christ's house is to be a 'house of prayer'. How can we keep prayer properly dialed in and focused? -Nelson

  3. I'd like to think that I'm part of the other 50% of pastors, the ones who aren't looking for a way out. Sure, there are times that I get discouraged as a pastor (especially as a youth pastor), but even in the midst of that discouragement, I remain confident of a few things. 1. I shouldn't be surprised by circumstances that bring discouragement. Jesus said I would have trouble in this world. (John 16:33). So when trouble comes, I don't have to be caught off guard, but instead I can lean into it with peace because Jesus has overcome it. 2. My hope is anchored in Christ (Hebrews 6:19-20). No matter how often my circumstances change, He remains the same. 3. My calling to be a pastor is not about making a living. It's a calling, not a job. Over and over again I've seen God's faithfulness in providing for our family long before I ever came on staff full time with my church. Why would He stop now? 4. Whether I'm a pastor or not, my calling is still the same, to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). My role as a pastor gives me the gift of extra time that a different job may not allow me to have to equip others to make disciplemakers. Why would I want to leave that? 5. I can't "do the work of the ministry" properly if I'm not constantly growing in my own personal relationship with Jesus. I can't just read the Bible to study for the next preaching topic. I need to be in it on a daily basis simply to hear what God wants to say to ME, not just what He wants me to say to others. As a pastor, I'm not excluded from the mandate in Mark 12:30-31 to love God with all MY heart, all MY soul, all MY mind, and all MY strength, and THEN to love my neighbor as myself.

    Following Jesus is a great adventure. It's tough and discouraging at times, but if I remain faithful in my pursuit of Him, it will be the greatest adventure I'll ever have. Some might say that I'm still enthusiastic because I've only been in "full time ministry" for 2 1/2 years. But I've been following Jesus for almost 20. That's long enough to understand what Jesus means in Luke 14 when He talks about counting the cost of being His disciple. I don't plan on losing my saltiness. If God can help a man like Paul get across the finish line, then I'm gonna put my trust in Him to help me run the race as if to win. And as long as I'm running, I'm gonna invite and equip others to join me in the race.

    1. Erik, the five points you've shared that bring you confidence are great reminders to all who are in church leadership. Also, what you call "your 2 1/2 years enthusiasm" - is a good place to be no matter how long we've been serving. Thanks for the challenge. It makes me think of the 'first love lost' by the Ephesian Church. How can we keep on with that 'first love' as leaders and pastors? -Nelson

  4. The church.... Growing up we always said " I'm going to church.." and that was a building. Never really liked that thought but that was growing up. In bible college we were brain washed to think the church is only the local church. Then in studying scriptures you find that the church is all the believers in the world. Sure we need the local church as it started in the first century for fellowship, relationship, and care for one another. So we need the local church but the true church is the w old wide body of believers.
    Yes the. Stats you gave about churches closing and pastors problems. In truth there are probably some local churches that do need to close down. They have lost there first love. The first century church had an outward focus. They wanted everyone to hear about and know Jesus! They were flogged with a cat of nine tails and yet still prayed for boldness in Acts 4. But the problem with the local church is someone found out you can control people with religion. The church got buildings and budgets. Then the church started becoming inward thinking Nostradamus of outward thinking. Start praying prayers about me me me. My wants my needs my..... The church's focus went from out ward focus to inward focus. To the point the meism praying and living became so much that people became critical and creepy to the point why would people even want to go there?? To the point of inward fighting is so much it is not a church but a club.
    If the church would be like jesus wow!!!! What a world changing lifestyle this would be. Jesus 1started a church 2 feed the hungry 3 healed the sick 4 equipped leaders 5 educated the illiterate. Let us BE the church. And not worry about bricks and mortar. Let's look outwardly and not inwardly. Let us be passionate about letting everyone know Jesus!!

    1. Rick your comment about your shift from local church to all believers is one that I made too in the early 80's. How has that made a difference for you and your ministry? I also like your emphasis on functions of a church being both fellowship and outward focus. What are the hurdles that you have faced to overcome for a good balance in being inward and outward? What is the leaders part? What are the 'members' to do? I also like your last challenge - how can the church be like Jesus? How would things look when that happened? -Nelson

  5. When I think of the word church, I think of the institution. For me thinking of the institution is bitter sweet. The church is a place where folk have come and do come to know and experience God's love and grace in the context of community. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have done some great work.
    Yet, we are failing. I have encountered so many people who have come to the church seeking but left empty. They know there is something beyond themselves. They know there is God. Some of them even know they have been called by God. Yet they have nearly given up on the institution. For some, it is because the current prevailing orthodoxy does not leave them room to come to their own understanding. For some the institution of the church has become to wedded to nationalism, militarism and so forth. The church too often asks seekers to make a false choice between intellectual honesty and spiritual fidelity. For some the church has been to wedded to tradition. The church has failed to speak openly and honestly about how to read a premodern book in a modern world. The church is too slow to adjust its application of Gospel values to the contemporary setting. In the past we supported slavery and sexism. Today, well... Unless the institution comes to grips with these failings, there will be no formal institution of the church for my anticipated future grand children to attend.

    1. Thanks Horace, your thoughts reveal the challenge we have in balancing the church as an organization and an organism. You're right, there is the institutional part and it is bitter sweet. How can we balance these two realities of the church, the institution side or the organization and also the reality that the church is an organism, it's people and it's alive? What are the challenges before us in order to experience this balance? How important would it be to find balance? -Nelson


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