Church: Love It Or Love It

fd03fd4ab66b9a2649417e3ed4d6b54f_400x400_200x200Did you see what I did there?

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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About Rich Stevenson

Rich is the Executive Director of The Malachi Network (www.malachinetwork.org), a ministry focused on making the name of the LORD great among the nations. This network serves young leaders in missions and church planting. Prior to his present ministry, Rich pastored in Southern New Jersey, planted a church in Wilmore, KY, established a network of churches, served as an adjunct professor at Asbury College and was a senior leader at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO as well as The International House of Prayer in Atlanta, GA. Rich is the author of two books: Secrets of the Spiritual Life—10 Lessons from the One Thing Passages (Baker Books, 2003) A Voice from Home—The Words You Long to Hear from Your Father (WaterBrook Press, 2005) He graduated from Asbury College in 1984 with a BA degree in Philosophy of Religion and Asbury Theological Seminary in 1987 with a Master of Divinity degree. In 2010, Rich received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Union Biblical Seminary in Yangon, Myanmar. Rich has been married to Tania since 1982 and they have been blessed by amazing children: Zachary and his wife Meghan, Jacob and his wife Lena, Jessica and Corrie Emma.
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One Response to Church: Love It Or Love It

  1. Reblogged this on richstevenson.org and commented:

    I just reread this and decided to reblog it. This is the beginning of what will become a journal of what I believe the LORD is doing in the Church today.
    “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” George C. Lichtenberg
    Change is coming to the Church in America. I have great hope. . .
    I’d love to have your thoughts as I share from my heart about the Church in the days ahead.

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