Sadly, church as we know it, is largely: we gather together once or twice a week and worship a little and pray a little (usually very little) and listen to teaching. After saying hi to friends and small talking with others, we head out into our world until next week.
May I suggest that one of the problems is the structure of the denominational church and the Bible Colleges it has spawned. Few now believe and teach the inerrancy of Scripture and hence have compromised with the world on major issues such as gay marriage and the transgender movement.
This prophetic word that Pastor John Burton delivered to city pastors in Detroit several years ago is revealing.
“He said, I don’t believe it was received well, as most remained silent after I shared it. I do believe it was the Lord, however. It was a word of warning and a strategic call.
I saw an ocean beach on a sunny day. There were many people on the sand, a good number splashing in the shallows and a handful of people swimming in deeper waters.
Those who were on the sand were mostly happy building sand castles, tanning and enjoying the afternoon sun as the cool mist from the crashing waves blew over them. Some were curious about the water and even took off their sandals and walked where the waves met the sand. Others would slowly venture out and start splashing in the shallows, but most were satisfied just where they were.
The people in the shallows were having a good time. They were together, jumping, splashing and swimming. They were in waist-high water and were able to stand on the sandy bottom. They were also satisfied.
I then looked out at the small number of people who were in the deep. They couldn’t stand as the water was well over their heads. They were so hungry to explore the wide-open seas. It made no sense to them why anybody would be satisfied to experience so little. However, these people had nobody to lead them into the deeper waters. You see, the people on the sand, in the shallows and in the deep all represented a single local church.
What I saw next brought clear, obvious revelation to the situation.
I saw a man, the pastor, in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His shoes were off and his pant legs were rolled up. He had one foot in the water and the other on the sand. He was not dressed for the deep. In fact, he wasn’t dressed for the shallows or the sand either. He determined to remain anchored between the sand and the shallows where the majority of the people were, yet unable to really reach any of them.
The pastor was under great stress, as he would look upon those on the sand, then those in the shallows, and he’d then squint as he saw those who were drifting out to sea. His eyes continually darted between the three groups, attempting to maintain some sort of control over the spiritually diverse congregation. However, he couldn’t. Those in the deep became a nuisance. He found it easier to allow them to go and to focus on the sand and the shallows. He knew those in the low water would not go deeper, and those on the sand were safe. Maybe someday, they would jump in and splash around with the others.
Pastor Burton summed up with: I believe the strategy of the church must radically change. The pastor, the leader, must be in the deep ahead of the people. Just as the priests in Israel led the armies, usually with praise and certainly the blowing of trumpets, understanding that victory will come from the Lord. The priests are called to step into the waters and to lead people into miraculous situations.
“Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will perform wondrous deeds among you'” (Josh. 3:5).
The Gideon Church Growth Principle
Churches have too many people, or at least they have the wrong people. Church missions have been compromised.
Churches and pastors will benefit from applying the Gideon principle, though it will be scary, painful and humbling. Death to self, rejection of selfish ambition and mighty faith are required. I believe God is about to invite leaders into divine wrestling matches as they renounce their fabricated and confused identities and adopt their divine callings and discover their identities in Christ instead of success.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valour!”
Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6;12-13
We know that Gideon was still not convinced God was going to use him to save Israel and He tested God twice with the fleece. God did not get angry with Gideon and He obviously convinced Gideon to trust God no matter what, as he was prepared with only 300 men, to take on the “the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, who were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude (Judges 7:12)”.
How desperately we need pastors/leaders who will cry out to God to know His call for their lives, to seek confirmation, to hear God’s voice, to discover their new identity and emerge as a true leader.