Jesus’s ministry vs. church ministryPosted: February 8, 2011 | |
Just a quick thought – I was just reading this article Mark Driscoll tweeted about how Acts 29, his church planting network, fared in the last calendar year: “4000 saved and 133 new churches.” 2010 was Acts 29’s “biggest year yet” after “an explosion of growth over the last five years.”
It’s pretty clearly implied in the article that numerical growth is linked to divine approval. Which is interesting. It’s one of the peculiarities of American evangelical culture that people simultaneously believe that their “persecution” is a sign that their version of Christianity is the true faith, and also believe that growing churches and revenue are a sign of divine blessing. It’s a convenient paradox; either way God is on their side.
The other thing that occurred to me was how very different the Acts 29 model of “ministry” is from Jesus’s ministry in the gospels. By a lot of measures today his ministry wasn’t terribly “gospel-centered” or all that successful. He had a small, rag-tag bunch of followers, most of whom were of pretty low status if not total outcasts (fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, adulteresses…). Sure, he told people to repent and converted people into his followers, but that wasn’t really the bulk of his ministry.
In the gospel accounts he seems to have spent far more time healing the sick, feeding people, and caring for the poor and marginalized, even arguing that such people were more righteous and closer to the kingdom of God that the rich and the religious elite of the time. He preached a radical vision for society: give up your wealth and security to follow the way, share what you have with those who have less, nonviolence, the poor are rich in spirit and the meek will inherit the earth, make yourself last if you want to be first. He spent a lot of time ministering to the physical needs of people who didn’t have much – something contemporary evangelicals consider to be a “distraction” from the gospel – and called that righteousness, and said those who failed to provide for the physical needs of those with less than them could not be part of his kingdom.
What if churches measured their ministries by this standard? What if they spent more time making sure everyone has food, shelter, healthcare, basic rights and needs than they did trying to police people’s morality or make their churches bigger or win more converts? What if they defined success by how many people they helped, by how much they shared with others, not how much money or people they could claim?
I’d be proud to belong to a faith like that.