4: Why The Church Stopped Growing

 

1. WORLDVIEWS

In 314AD, with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the entire Empire. The result is what we today call “Christendom”, which is a fusion of New Testament theology and Roman culture.

2. CHRISTENDOM V NEW TESTAMENT

Activity: Get audience to come up with a list of church activities that are from the New Testament and those that are not from the New Testament

Apostolic Age (AD32 to AD 313) Christendom Age (AD314 to AD 2000)
No dedicated buildings, meetings were usually in the home. The church was the people (1 Cor 16:19). “Sacred” buildings are absolutely central to the power structure and the meaning of the word “church”.
Lay leadership with most training being practical and on the job (1 Tim 3) Professional leadership by an institutionally ordained clergy with highly intellectual training.
Leadership based on the fivefold ministry gifts (Eph 4:11-14). Pastoral and teaching gifts dominate while the evangelist, apostle and prophet largely disappear. Administration dominates ministry
Grass roots decentralised movement (Acts 8) Centralised and hierarchical command structure.
Services were centred on communion, which was celebrated as a community meal (1 Cor 11:20-22). Services became highly, ritualised, formal, symbolic, and disconnected with the real world.
A culturally adaptable and servant-minded movement (Compare Acts 2, where Peter spoke to Jews with Acts 17:16-34, where Paul spoke to Greeks). A culturally stagnant institution only interested in maintaining its central place in its host culture. It expects people to come to it. Mission was unnecessary, everyone was born a Christian
Holistic, bringing the Kingdom of God to all aspects of life, not just “church” (Matt 28:18). The Church is the kingdom. All else is “secular” and irrelevant.

3. PARADIGM SHIFT

New Testament Christendom
Purpose:

To start a movement

 

To plant a church

How:

Start discipleship groups

 

To win converts

Structure:

Wherever people meet

 

Need a building

Leadership:

Ordinary people

 

Specialist training

Financing:

Volunteer or bi-vocational

 

Funded externally of by others

Cycle:

Win lost, disciple, win lost, disciple

 

Win to attend church, no cycle

Positions:

Not titles, servant leadership

 

Titles and hierarchy, pyramid style

Who has the power:

New believers

 

Hierarchy

Training:

None except scripture on the job

 

Theological and separated from application

Sign of maturity:

Obedience

 

Theological knowledge

Who does the work:

Everyone

 

The professional

Evangelism:

The core of the movement

 

Peripheral to attendance

Old relationships:

Kept and evangelised

 

Abandoned

When is church:

Any day

 

Designated religious days, Sunday

Situation: We have adopted so many practices and traditions from Christendom that we have left the New Testament mandate behind.

Result: We have slowed the growth of the global church dramatically

4. ACTION

1. Teach someone what you have just learned

2. Write a list of the extra Christian traditions we follow that do not come from scripture

3. Now write a list of the actions of scripture that we don’t do

4. Start re-aligning your lifestyle with scripture

5. Start praying for apostolic movements to start in your area