Changing The Way We “Church”

by Pastor Albert Keech, co-written by Judy Keech
 
THE PROBLEM: On the battlefield of Evangelism in America Christianity is not winning. The way we do church may be the problem.
 

 
It’s no secret that in America church attendance is dropping rapidly, steadily declining, and many churches are closing their doors. The population is growing, but THE CHURCH is not.

Where once church attendance and religious affiliation was the rule rather than the exception, now in 2017 less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church. Data supports that only 17.5% of the population attend church in any particular week. If we don’t change the way we “church” we are running the risk of quickly becoming irrelevant to God’s intention and purpose for THE CHURCH in this world: Worshiping God and equipping the believers in Christ to overcome in life and to go into all the world and make disciples… reaching those whom the Father is seeking.
 
We, believers in Christ, are THE CHURCH. When we, The Church, have our gatherings, be they weekly or not, it should be a gathering of the believers, not our format for evangelism.
 
But too often we are so busy doing church in a way that we believe will be attractive to the unbelievers (as if they are the seekers) we neglect to be The Church tending to our mission (seeking them). We are first to be worshipers of our God in spirit and truth, and our mission is to be seekers of those who are lost, bringing them into a relationship with Jesus. It is God who adds them to The Church once they believe.

 

Let me be clear. I love church! I love the way we do church. But what has become painfully clear is what we, The Church in America, have been doing is not working to grow the Kingdom of God.

 
Our church culture (‘the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group’-Webster’s Dictionary) has become more about attracting the world into our numbers, our buildings, our services and less about releasing our worship to God together in His presence, growing into viable representatives of Jesus to those the Father is seeking.
 
“A priest has two things to do, go in, and go out.”—Olen Griffing
…We should first gather to worship God and grow. Secondly, go out to evangelize and save souls.

 

This is what we as the priests/saints/body of Christ are to do…go in to the presence of God and go out with the presence of God into the world. Out into the world where the lost are hanging out. Why would someone who does not know God like we do want to know God like we do and go to a gathering like we do? We might as well say, “Come to this building where these people that you won’t understand, will be doing things you won’t understand, singing songs you won’t understand, and praying to a God you’ve never met.”

 

That would be absurd, of course.

 

So instead, we alter our weekly gatherings, camouflage our radical culture as The Church, in order to appear more appealing, unoffensive, and enticing to those not of our culture who might happen to come if we throw out the right bait. If we have the right revenue and resources we create a series of grand events filled with entertainment, high quality live music, media, light shows, the best coffee, and of course, free education and child care!

 

It’s no wonder over the last 20 years there has been a migration of believers from the smaller church (200 or less) to the Mega Church. And thank God for the Mega Church! We need them doing what they do for the Kingdom! The small church by nature of it’s being can’t compete with all the spectacular happenings of a Mega Church. Smaller staff, fewer volunteers, little if any revenue, limited resources all result in fewer believers. Fewer believers being equipped results in less evangelism.

 

A small church struggles to provide even a few options to it’s attendees. So in order to hopefully attract new attendees the trend for small churches is to try to become relevant to their communities in some way. Kudos! This is a great move forward! However, what usually goes hand in hand with this approach is the mistake of trying to appeal to every need out there, something for everyone…adding too many ministries and programs trying to become the church everyone in the community will want to attend. “And if we don’t do anything weird, they might come back! If we don’t creep them out they might find a reason to believe in Jesus!” This approach to evangelism is weak at best.

 

Smaller churches are disappearing all across our nation.

 

If there is anywhere The Church should be free to look like the radical, passionate, transformed lovers of God we are supposed to be, embracing Spirit Life in Christ, it should be at church gatherings! This is a huge part of “going in”.

 

As for “going out”…Are we doing the best we can do to grow the Kingdom of God? Growing the Kingdom, meaning to grow more and more followers and mature believers in Jesus. Are we steadily adding more worshipers? Are we truly being The Church in the world?

 

We’ve tried to change the image of The Church to attract what we’ve called The Seeker rather than being The Seeker that is THE CHURCH.

 

THE SOLUTION: CHANGE THE WAY WE DO CHURCH
 
We can stop doing church as we know it, and start being THE CHURCH!

 

The gatherings of the early church were much different from what we have established today. Going back to our Biblical roots, how did Apostle Paul change the then known methods of “the church” by going after the Gentiles? A gathering of Gentile believers must have been dramatically different from a gathering of Jewish believers.

 

The method of church can change without changing the operations and functions of the church.

 

Case in point, the early church in Rome met in catacombs under the city due to persecution…that was a change in method for that era. Or consider the church in China that went underground to avoid the restrictions of the communists, and astonishing growth occurred.

 

The culture of a generation, a region, a state that vastly differs from that of what we have established as church culture has little desire to shift their habits/opinions/lifestyle to embrace the culture of today’s church.

 

For instance, the state of Colorado encompasses extremely diverse cultures: Mountain life, Fitness and Health, Hippie, Creative & Performing Arts, Extreme Sports, Farming Community…just to name a few. Yet most churches in Colorado know how to address only one culture, and usually it looks much like they are patterned after churches in the Bible Belt. Those folks who are attracted to a Bible Belt style church do not typically reside in the state of Colorado (Sunday attendance on a particular Sunday in Colorado is 7-10%). We are not successfully reaching into Colorado cultures with the Gospel of Christ doing church the way we’ve always done it.

 

That being said, I realize I need to change. My method of ministry needs to change.

 

I need to embrace…
 
A SHIFT IN MY OWN THINKING

 

The purpose for which God has sent me into ministry, that for which I am compelled by the love of Christ, is WORSHIP. I have the honor and the privilege to be part of God’s plan to “rebuild the Tabernacle of David which has fallen down…” (Acts 15:16-17) “…so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord.”

 

I’ve been sent specifically to Colorado to lead a passionate, intentional community of Worshipers. I’ve been commissioned at large to develop worshipers, train worship leaders, impart the revelation of worship and the presence of God.

 

I have functioned and strategized with this vision and mission for many years, pastoring a small group of worshipers, and developing “WORSHIP MISSION” . We’ve taken this training curriculum abroad to the mission field multiple times in Kenya, Malawi, the Philippines, and Guatemala, successfully equipping worship teams, pastors, and leaders of native churches through seminars, courses, hands-on workshops. Worship Mission curriculum is effective cross-culturally. I have also spent much of my pre-pastoral years in ministry training and equipping on worship and worship ministry in many churches across the United States. This is my passion.

 

“Go through, go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!”—Isaiah 62:10

 

This scripture has been a mandate for Judy and I throughout the course of our ministry. We know we are meant to carve out new roads, new pathways for worshipers, and those the Father is seeking to come into the presence of God…from whatever their level or lack of experience…to bring people to a real encounter with Jesus. To remove the hindrances that have kept them from becoming lovers and worshipers of God.

 

We planted this vision and purpose into the church we have pastored for the past 18 years. RockSong Church: “A Passionate, Intentional Community of Worshipers, Touching Earth With Heaven’s Sound!” We know RockSong’s purpose as “a church”, as part of the whole Body of Christ, THE CHURCH, is all about worship…going after and raising up worshipers, lovers of God.

 

We thought we knew what this would look like in operation. But we have not been successful in fulfilling our purpose on the local level. Our current method of doing church is not working to reach the multi-faceted culture groups in our local communities. Why keep doing something that is not working? Our method has become irrelevant to our purpose.

 

So my perspective has shifted. I am reminded, almost daily, of the prophetic words of the Lord we have received multiple times in the past 5 years from different sources:

 

“It is bigger than you think…and it will NOT LOOK LIKE WHAT YOU THOUGHT!…Expand your tent pegs, God is enlarging your capacity.”

“There is a shifting. God is bringing a SHIFT.”

 

There is something powerful burning in my heart and stirring in my spirit…Judy and I have given ourselves over the past few years to developing real relationships with people whom God brings across our paths. People who are not part of our church culture. Neighbors, friends, even strangers who find it strange that these “pastors” want to be their friends. That we are willing to go where they are, hang out where they hang out. That we have invested in their lives and love them where they are, and invite them to our home. Our hearts are bursting with the love of Jesus for them! We’ve observed how they think and how they feel, and one thing has become clear: They will not come to our church.

 

Burdened by this, this revelation came to me: If the top of “Mt. Zion” is the place where we experience God’s presence, the destination for worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, and the only pathway to the top is from our “church culture” side of the mountain, then how do those on the other side of the mountain, those of other cultures, ever find the way? Do we expect them to travel around to our side of the mountain, convert to become part of our “church culture” and then we will show them the way to Zion? I can tell you now, “the unchurched,” those dwelling on the other side of the mountain, have no desire to come around to our church culture side.

 

What if we are to blaze a new trail to worship from the other side of the mountain?

 

Isn’t this what Apostle Paul did when the decision was made that the Gentiles did not need to convert to Judaism in order to become true believers in Christ? Didn’t he blaze a new trail for the Gentiles that was unfamiliar to the known “church culture” of the day? Radical and controversial, but Praise God he blazed that trail!

 

It takes some guts and grit to shift away from that which has become normal and expected in church culture.

 

And it takes sacrifice, transformation, a change in the way you think. Romans 12:1-2 comes to mind where Paul beseeches believers to be a living sacrifice and “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” He continues that we are all part of one body, the body of Christ, and each are members of one another, but we do not all have the same function (Romans 12:3-8). He tells us each to do our part, and that every part is necessary to the whole.

 

If a church is merely a part of THE CHURCH which is the Body of Christ, doesn’t the same principle apply? My small church has a particular gift in which we are supposed to function. If we are spinning our wheels to be just like the other churches in the area, we aren’t likely to be fully functioning in our particular purpose.

 

So, we are willing and excited to change the way we have been doing church at RockSong to move into the realm of being the church. To carry out our mission and function within our purpose. We are shifting from the normal and expected, gathering up all the guts, grit, and grace we can, embracing the transformation and metamorphosis, to change the way we “church”!