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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How Jesus Started Church 1

Image from Leisure OneHowTo.
Here's the first part. 

You can never kick out Jesus from his church---unlike most pastors today. They're often at the mercy of their members, especially the influential ones, and one mistake gets them kicked out so easily. So they try to please these members. I've seen it happen lots of times.

How did it come to this?

Because they started out pleasing people. They invite them to church and try to be nice to them and plead with them to attend church regularly and be regular members. They beg them to come back next Sunday and so on. This surely builds churches (by pampering people) and can make them grow fast, but Jesus never did any of them. He always had this challenge---take it or leave it.

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." [Matthew 16.24]

I don't see this principle working in church anymore. I mean, for instance, here's this guy who tries your church and asks about joining you. Most pastors would give this guy special treatment, and it's a good thing, really. Nothing bad about that. But Jesus wouldn't do that. He'd never done it in the bible. He'd tell the guy, "You want to join me? Deny yourself and be ready for hardships and obey me."

I haven't heard or seen any pastor do this yet. But if we want genuine church revival and genuine sharing of the Gospel, we should do them as Jesus did. And we apply the principle---and the principle here is never run after people. Tell them about Jesus and let them pursue after Jesus desperately. Either that or nothing. That's how we come up with the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle. Not any other church.

But smart Alecks would say, "We can only hope for people to pursue after Jesus after we make several follow ups on them." The term follow up has become an important idea in evangelism, discipleship and church growth. But it's really just man's invention, especially to fill up churches with people much faster.

Jesus never "followed up" people so they'd come to God or attend his ministry, and neither did the apostles in Acts. Paul followed up churches when he made rounds among them in his missionary trips. But these were already believers. In fact, Jesus said that after sharing the Gospel to non-believers and they refuse, shake the dust off your feet and leave. He never said follow them up and keep visiting them until they finally go with you.

But follow up is important. And only the Holy Spirit can do it. All we can do is pray for souls after we share the Gospel to them. Any human effort to force conversion spoils everything. Hence, a lot of churches today are spoiled religious gatherings, churches birthed by human prodding, efforts, gimmicks and even harassment and intimidation ("You'd lose your job in church if you don't attend our church," something like that).

"...children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."[John 1.13]

Conversion forced by the flesh will remain of the flesh. It should be a spiritual conversion urged by the Holy Spirit.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [John 3.6]

So Jesus started church thus. He went around healing the sick and driving out demons and people went out and crowded around him. He never invited them---he never advertised himself or used any crowd-attracting gimmick---they just ran after him. He started church with God's supernatural back-up, which was signs and wonders. Where is this today? If Jesus used it in his day, how can we ignore or trash it today?

How did he call his disciples to his ministry? With them, he simply walked past and called them using a very short sentence---"Come follow me." And they left everything and followed him. Peter, James, John, Matthew, Zacchaeus---they all pursued him without much effort on Jesus' part. One call and they left everything. 

Pastors today harass and pester people to make them come to church and be regular members. There was even one that sent me their best visitation team and almost wanted to force me to join their church even when I was already attending one. I also used to work with a pastor who was fond of visiting people in their homes to make sure they remain attending our church. And lots of pastors do the same strategy for their "church growth."

Jesus never used any of that.

So, to follow my Master, I seldom invite people to the church God entrusted to me. I share the Gospel with lots of folks, but I very seldom follow up a second time. And I never "oversell" or over follow up when I do follow up. A short, "You may try my bible studies if you want to" is enough. I like talking about Jesus and his Kingdom with people around me, casually sharing what I see in the bible, and I sometimes do that with folks I have shared the Gospel to but rejected it or wanted no commitment in it. I don't do that to force them to receive Jesus but simply to share Jesus.

As a pastor, I now follow Jesus' evangelism principle ("If anyone wants to come after me..."). If people decide to join you on their own---decide to deny themselves and obey you---then you have a real church, and no one but God can kick you out of it. But if you beg people to come, and beg them to stay, you become their hostage and one day they'd kick you out. See? You beg them to join you and they'd begin to think they have the right to decide with you. Soon, they'd decide everything for you. They become your lord and master. They become rulers. 

There are churches with several rulers---tiny emperors---with their own small empires and followers, and the pastor and his wife become even more helpless hostages with more than one of these hostage takers.

I pity pastors from congregational churches who cannot do what God is telling them to do because their church boards do not agree with them. They have to vote on everything. Imagine if Jesus was like that. If he had to ask his disciple's approval for something he wanted to do or submit to a vote something the Father told him to do.

You may ask, but what if the pastor abuses such power? Then, it's not a church he's doing. He's building his own empire. Then, just get out of his empire. As simple as that. Abuse of power is most likely when you see the pastor becoming greedy and always concerned about (and mesmerized by) money and possessions and membership and income. 

If you remain radically simple, low-profile, selfless, fixing your thoughts on things above and on Jesus, abuse will always be far from you. Sadly, a lot of so-called popular men of God today with big ministries live like the rich and famous of this world and act like syndicates. Some even have bodyguards.

It's not evil to be rich. Some church ministers may be prospered by God financially. But they show no sign of it. They live simple lives and have meek characters. They remain poor in spirit. Being God and Creator, Jesus owned everything. He was really rich. Yet, he didn't seem to be thus. He remained poor in spirit. In fact, he was so simple he looked poor. Today, you'd get tired of pastors who love talking about their big churches and how much income they have and what possessions and properties their ministries have.

So, if you want a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any blemish, start ministry as Jesus did. Follow his examples, ministry principles and strategies in the bible.

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