I think some people assume that I’m anti-large church gatherings, or anti-a lot of things apparently, because of the stuff I often write about micro-church expressions. So, my hope is to offer some clarification in 4 areas:
- Church gatherings
- Paid ministers
- and Education
So….here we go!
1. I’m not anti-large church gathering.
I’m not against big things. I’m not against churches gathering together in large groups. However, I think it is in the smaller groups that we see the most effective environment for discipleship and equipment to go and do the mission of the church.
I think this is modeled by Jesus himself. Indeed, he preached to thousands at times. But, he was closer, more intimate, and spent the bulk of his time with 12 guys. He spent lots of time with others who comprised the core of the early church, but the bulk of his focus was these 12 guys.
In the micro-church expression there would be LOTS of small church gatherings taking place all over a region (in groups of like 20 or less). Each one dedicated to their own mission and community to reach in their own unique ways. Those smaller gatherings would meet weekly, if not multiple times a week (who is to say?).
Those gatherings would then gather less frequently (but still intentionally gathering) with the other groups in a larger expression where they can come together, be encouraged by whats happening with the various groups, worship together through music, pray together, and sit under some preaching or teaching geared towards encouragement and exhortation to go back to their corners of the community and be on mission.
The leaders of these micro-churches would come together frequently to pray with one another, encourage one another, and equip one another.
In other words, even the larger gathering wouldn’t look exactly like what we’re used to. It’s not the size of the gathering in this case, but the purpose for the gathering that is important.
2. I’m not anti-facilities
Buildings are great and serve lots of purposes. I live in a building myself…it’s called a home. I depend on it to protect myself and my family from the elements and provide a safe space for us to sleep and eat and whatever else one does in a home. However, there is a lot of overhead with the ownership of a home. Likewise, there is a lot of overhead for a church that owns a facility.
Church facilities are great and well intentioned, but can wreak major havoc on church budgets. Outside of salaries, facilities are the next greatest expenditure for most churches. And if we’re honest with ourselves, they don’t provide a whole lot of return on our investment. In other words, these massive facilities sit vacant most days of the week, and do very little to actually help us fulfill our mission in reaching our community. In my estimation, this is a great waste of money, when money could be better put to use on the actual mission.
Don’t get me wrong….the early church had access to facilities as well…but I’m not entirely sure they spent untold amounts of money building grand buildings they could visit once a week in order to shake some hands, sip some coffee, hear some great music, and listen to some guy give a pep talk about having your best life now.
As mentioned above, there may be times when all of the micro-church expressions with in a network of micro-churches will want to gather together for a larger gathering. They will need a space for that. They may choose to partner together to build something that will serve multiple purposes and be used every day of the week for their mission, or they may choose to simply rent a space when the time comes to need one. Either way, it’s not that they won’t need facilities, it’s just that a facility won’t be the main base of operations for them…individuals homes and communities would be.
3. I’m not anti-paid ministers
In the micro-church expression, there isn’t anything barring someone from being a minister who receives compensation. To be sure, Paul and other leaders from the New Testament had things to say about paying ministers. Paul encouraged paying ministers, however, he himself didn’t take payment frequently (he did at times though).
The point isn’t so much “Should a church pay a minister?”, but rather “Should paying a minister be one of the primary ways a church uses its finances?”
That said, I believe in the smaller expressions, money would be more wisely used and better spent on the mission of reaching their community rather than providing the salary for a single individual (and potentially their family), or potentially a whole slew of individuals and their families with in their church body.
The money would also be used in times of crisis when a member of that local body experiences financial hardships (job loss, medical bills mounting, adoption, etc.). Because a micro-church won’t already be trying to support paid staff and keep up a building, they will have more freedom with their finances to support those in their midst who are in need.
The money could also be used to support missionaries who are sent from this local expression of the Church into other nations where financial assistance is absolutely needed, at least at the start.
If compensation were to take place, I believe in the micro-church expression that compensation would be very minimal and the person being compensated would still likely hold a full-time marketplace job outside of the church that provides the bulk of their financial support.
The benefit of this is several-fold:
- More money can be spent on the actual mission.
- More money can be spent on supporting people who are in need (the poor, homeless, widows, orphans, members of the body who are struggling, etc.)
- Money won’t become a trap for those leading to compromise in ways they shouldn’t because it might cause someone to leave the body who gives a lot of money.
- It removes the temptation to make money a cudgel against people.
- Money becomes a tool to reach people instead of a trap for those who are leading.
4. I’m not anti-education
It is true…I’m not a fan of seminaries. Mostly because I feel seminaries have become largely giant centers for continuing denominational view points (right or wrong), and something for professional ministers to add to their resumes so they can get hired on at a good paying church job.
But this isn’t the same as not being a fan of education.
Quite the opposite…I’m a HUGE proponent of education. Education is absolutely important. We ought to always be students and finding ways to educate ourselves on all sorts of things. I believe furthering our education should also include learning how to read and understand the Bible. It should include learning about our spiritual gifts and how to put them to use. It should include so much more that I could list.
The bible encourages us to love knowledge. Knowledge is great! Knowledge can lead to wisdom. But if education becomes an idol, and we rely more on what our seminaries can teach us than what the Holy Spirit will do in and through us…we are in serious danger.
The issue is, much like facilities, money, and the size of our church – the piece of paper a pastor hangs on his wall has become a major idol for a lot of churches, and has even become a detriment to churches because they seriously do think that the only qualified people to lead or serve in a church are those with specific degrees from specific seminaries or universities.
Again, education is important, but if we make it into an idol, then it becomes a stumbling block just like anything else.
A lot more could be said, but I hope this helps provide at least some clarification and maybe a better understanding of my thoughts on what the church COULD and perhaps SHOULD look like.