You thought when you began reading that title that it was going to say, “Church: Love It Or Leave It.” And you could jump on the bandwagon with a massive crowd of 20 and 30 somethings who are leaving the Church in droves. It is popular to say things like, “I don’t have a problem with Jesus, but I don’t like the Church.”
The problem is, there’s no alternative. Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a bride with all of her bridesmaids. Church is Plan A, and there’s no Plan B.
I’ve now got 30 years of ministry within the Church. I started out at 20 as a student pastor in the oldest church west of the Allegany Mountains. It was a one room church house in eastern Kentucky with an outhouse that snakes frequented. After Seminary, I pastored a United Methodist Church in Southern New Jersey and struggled with the growing liberalism within mainline denominations. After 5 years there, I became a General Evangelist in the UMC and got to travel to churches all over the world. It was during this three-year season that I caught a glimpse of the general decline in the Church in America. Church planting won my heart. I believed that it was the best means of evangelism and a pathway to revival in America.
In 1995, I surrendered my Methodist credentials and planted a non-denominational Church in Wilmore, KY called The Great Commission Fellowship. We focused on young adults, believed for the manifest presence of Jesus every week, gave radically to missions and helped to start 12 new churches. It was a blessed 10 years.
In 2006, the Lord called us to invest in the prayer movement and give ourselves to 24/7 prayer. We served in Kansas City and Atlanta. In Kansas City, I was able to focus my ministry pastorally to a group of about 4,000 people. In Atlanta, I helped initiate “a praying Church.”
Today, I am leading a network of 40 young leaders in missions and church planting (www.malachinetwork.org). And I am leading a simple Church in our home in Avalon, NJ. Last Sunday there were 5 of us in my living room. We sang with worship songs on YouTube. We studied the Bible, focusing on the Church in Philippi in Acts 16, and we prayed for each other. We followed the service with homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
A one room church with an outhouse, a denominational church, a traveling ministry as an evangelist, a nondenominational church plant, a house of prayer church ministry, a simple house church. . .
30 years of investment in a wide variety of settings. The best of times and the worst of times. . .the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. . .high praise, joyful tears, belly laughter, miracles of salvation and healing, disappointment, stupid mistakes, unfair treatment, depression, anger and pain. Church.
I have more hope now than I have ever had before. . .
(Stay tuned for Part 2)
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