Church Grace (part one)

Never once in my 43 years as a pastor did I look in the mirror and think, “They are so lucky to have me as their leader.” But there were very few days when I did not stop and pray, “Thank You for your grace in this church. You are so good to me.”

While I made my share of mistakes, God generously provided unity, vision, and many other good gifts.

My first lead pastor role was in a college town inOhio. The church’s name was Grace—one of two churches in that town bearing this name. Ironically, these two churches extended very little grace to each other. Due to hard feelings, a lack of vision, and stalled thoughts of growth and outreach, at 27 years old I was charged with leading a flock of people mostly over 60.

One of the leaders called me “Young Man.” He might as well have called me, “Boy.” But grace and love were embraced, and we began to lead toward change and effective ministry. The church relocated to escape a deteriorating and out-of-the-way building. A group of young adults, including my wife and I, embraced the ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship) movement; and what started with a few of us grew to 18 ABFs (three of which were young adult ABFs) 15 years later.

During those years, the church I once referred to as a “rest home” became an aggressive local congregation with a global impact. Many lives were changed, three building additions occurred on that site, and grace flowed. It continues today, 29 years later, in that church now known for its grace, not just its name.



2 Responses to “Church Grace (part one)”

  1. marcoartisto says:

    Hello,

    Every time I see the mention of buildings it immediately takes me back to Acts. I think how Christ intended for His Church to operate in a more ‘organic’ fashion, as setting up shop in homes.

    Today, Christianity is much like ‘big’ business, with the focus primarily on building programs. Other distractions like programs for everything imagined, but somehow these building programs never really reach the street.

    Men are hired (hirelings) and the money intended for ministering to the lost now goes to pay large salaries? The focus is now shifted to enlarge the business and so more and more funding is required? Of course this business ignores the scriptures found in James about favoring the rich because if the poor attend, how can this business thrive? So, the street people are turned away by an intended unseen force called prejudice, other ways of directly discouraging anyone whose income falls below what’s required to attend Church along with the elite, is implemented in other subtle ways?

    What we have done is to put up walls and invite the affluent inside so the Pastor can have a unscriptural, comfortable salary, start his 401, while leaving aside pure and undefiled religion. The new covenant tithe taken from the Old Covenant is scripturally non-existent–save to the hirelings who pull it from the Law and attempt to bury it under grace? Without the Holy Spirit this is easily accomplished?

    Where are the storehouses as mentioned in Acts for everyone? Why only the elite attending The Chapel in Akron, Green, and Hudson, Ohio? Why the focus on money, retirement, and why only for the wealthy and the rich?

    I will tell you why! These facilities were started without the full recognition of the Holy Spirit. Even today the services lack any real zeal, as the worship is fleshly alive, but spiritually dead. The preaching is soft and carefully thought out in order not to offend those attending. Save to perpetuate a comfort zone for the well off, these Churches are totally irrelevant to the authentic gospel. Jesus calls it ‘luke-warm’ that He would spit it from His mouth? he calls these folks sick, sore, and in need of white raiment and salve for their eyes? They are rich and in need of nothing?

    Certain factions within the Church have looked outside to help the lost and disenfranchised, but these are few and far between. By and large these facilities have no real foundation based on the scriptures and are likened to nothing more than colleges with unspoken, expected, tuition. Rather than preaching the whole gospel to everyone by the light of the Holy Spirit they appeal only to the flesh as in intellectual pursuit.

    This is why we see hundreds of such institutions closing year after year. And hundreds more such ‘candlesticks will be put out in the near and not so distant future. God never intended for His Church to become a marketplace where men explored the scriptures without the Holy Spirit of Promise. Men who may have had personal issues within their own respective families, and who never reconciled these, save to undermine God himself.

    It’s much easier without the Holy Spirit to gain worldly followers, gain notoriety, and wealth. But the Bible also warns the Pastors that purposefully, with intent, lead the sheep in such a way they follow or replicate his views and not Gods, and so lead these astray it would be better a ‘millstone’ be place around their necks and thrown into the sea?

    marcoartisto

  2. Dennis Moles says:

    Marc,

    First I wanted to thank you for signing your name to this post. Second I want to say that several of the cautions you bring up are valid for all of us who labor in Pastoral ministry. We must resist the urge to minister from anything other than pure motives. But I must be honest and tell you that I am concerned by the free and easy way you seem to pass judgment on the motives of our brothers and sisters who labor in churches with large facilities and earn decent livings.

    In your post you seem to insinuate that Pastor Knute and everyone who pastors a large church and makes a decent living is a false teacher and in ministry for faulty motives. I think this is a false claim – at least in the case of Pastor Knute and the Chapel. I know that many years ago the Chapel leadership made a conscious decision to stay in inner city Akron in order to take the message of Jesus to the people who need him most. I also have personal relationships with 5 former Chapel (or churches planted by the Chapel) staff, three of whom currently minister in other large churches around the country, that all love the Lord and minister from hearts filled with mercy and grace.

    And while all of us would do well to heed your cautions because there are certainly pastors who minister for inapproprate motives but I think we also need to be cautious about making sweeping generalizations.

    Dennis Moles

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