Col 2:8-9 – Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
While becoming acquainted with the Gospel Legacy Church (GLC) model, one thought that often surfaces is that this style of church is just too simple and unsophisticated to genuinely meet the needs of contemporary church members?
As we consider this thought, we might ask in return: “Is our contemporary Christian culture being spoiled by the fatal assumption that complexity and sophistication inevitably enhance ministry?” Are the rudiments (the principles, the elements) of this world leaching into the church in a destructive way?
Our forefathers would be utterly astounded by the “glitter” of the modern church. Now glitter, in its essence, is not necessarily a bad thing. If they genuinely point men to Christ, lights and music and media of most any sort may be okay. But the question really is whether all the glitter that has become commonplace in the American experience has genuinely enhanced spiritual growth for the common believer. It seems not. And while it is obvious that our forefathers would be stunned at the glitter of modern Christianity, would they not be equally dismayed at its dearth of lasting spiritual fruit?
For those who listen in on sports programs of any kind (golf, hockey, baseball, football, etc.), one common topic is how that contemporary sports has become “a science.” Coaches, players and pundits analyze, study, invent. But has it made the game more “fun” for anyone? I doubt it. It has lost its spontaneity. Oh, no doubt the athletes are more athletic. The Coaches are coaching better. Reporters report with pizazz. And the fans? – they are more fanatical! In the end, however, left to the “professionals,” the game is simply out of reach. Fewer people are buying in to the preparation, exertion and/or expense now required just to have a “good time.”
Likewise, we strive to build “professional” churches. Christian ministry is becoming a science. The “science of church” is becoming increasingly sophisticated. You can almost imagine the celebrity preachers saying, as they peer at us through the silver screen: “Don’t try this at home.” All the while, becoming a shepherd in today’s church requires more and more extra-biblical training just to equip Christian leaders to operate the church’s many intricate features. But in the end, do our circus-like programs and magnificent structures actually enhance the spiritual dynamics of ministry? For us in the Gospel Legacy Church movement – it does not seem so.
In fact, many of us are asking whether God is actually resisting the prideful evolution of “high-octane” church. Research implies that up to 80% of American youth raised in churches are bleeding out into the culture, forsaking the faith. Could this inability to retain our children in the faith be due to our lack of humility? Can our children see through the razzle dazzle which competes with our utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus? Is our flawless presentation somehow a substitute for surrendered worship, anointed preaching and prayer? After 2,000 years of life, can the church no longer run on “regular?” Does a simple model somehow hinder members from connecting with God? And are there no “regular men” who are biblically qualified and available who have the giftings to help a simple church to become a fruitful church?
From a Gospel-Legacy perspective, simple is better. Less is more. Thundering media, flashing lights and refreshments will never summons the presence of God or enhance anointed preaching. Not that we have to summarily abandon invention, technology or education, but let us keep our eyes on the scripture. Let us continually evaluate the net impact of new philosophies of ministry. Let us even be skeptical of changes we bring that depart from traditional methodologies. Make new methods and programs prove themselves. Let us not judge our members based on their support of our programs, but let us judge the programs by whether they actually remedy the challenges that they were established to address. If not, let them die. Let us be ruthlessly honest about whether glitter is better. Church members do not need “contemporary” methods, they need Christ. And we believe that a simple approach to church, to discipleship and the presentation of the gospel will make Jesus shine most brightly in this darkening age.
So just as the church has prospered through the millennia without the glitter of media, so it has prospered with men who have been raised up as pastors from within their own congregations. Do you remember the day when a man could go out and fix his own car under a shade tree? A few tools, a part from the hardware store and some baling wire did the trick. Over time, cars got more complicated. Now, many of us resent the need for the specialized tools and training that have in effect disqualified us as “regular” men from even maintaining their own vehicles. God tells us in 1 Tim 3:1-2, If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
The qualifications of an elder stand alone in the mind of God without the requirements of Bible college or seminary. If God says that this is what is required, it is enough! Early church elders arose from within their own churches without the benefit of formal schooling. And while there is nothing wrong with formal education as a supplement to biblical qualifications, God has always delighted in the calling of “regular” men to the role of elder/shepherd of their local congregations.
Throughout their lifetimes God has been preparing these men. He has been building in them a life of consecration and obedience to Him. At home, at work and within society they have negotiated the challenges of our culture. God has used their unique relationships and experiences to prepare them for pastoral ministry and much tension would be relieved in many churches today if a place of ministry was made for these men. They are called of God and should be given room to minister the gospel.
We must recognize that these men are among us! – and in countless churches. Of course – their call must be tested. They must be vetted – mentored – trained. But that done, they have equal potential for fruitful ministry as their “credentialed” counterparts. And let us rejoice knowing that when the Chief Shepherd appears they will join with the assembly of God’s faithful ministers to receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4-5)
Regular men, preaching a powerful gospel, in a simple church. To the pastor of a Gospel Legacy Church, that’s just what the scriptures ordered. We have tested it and we have seen its simplicity bear much fruit as we have abandoned … the rudiments of the world in order to help make the picture of Christ simple and clear.