Most of us don’t remember learning how to speak. At some point, we started with one word and have continued learning words and how to use them ever since. We learned from an early age that if we want to understand what’s happening around us and help others understand us, we need to communicate accurately through our choice of words.
But what if we were to learn a word incorrectly? In that case, we would continue to think of and use the word incorrectly until someone corrected us or until we came across an example of it being used properly. For example, in her early speaking days my toddler often excitedly referred to orange as “app-poes!” After a few weeks of corrections— “No, this is an orange and that is an apple”—she came to understand that apples are green and red and taste a certain way, while oranges are, well, orange and taste much differently. If we hadn’t said anything she’d still be calling them by the wrong names.
Is it possible this is what happened to us with the word “church”? Did our understanding of what church means come from the Bible, or from the picture we were given as children or as new converts? When we talk about the church, are we referring to it the same way God intended, or are we calling oranges apples?
Let me illustrate it another way, this time with the universal language of food. My favorite food in the world is Nashville hot chicken. A cousin introduced me to its spicy goodness a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. The problem is, I don’t live in Nashville. I don’t live within 500 miles of Nashville. You would think that with its ever-increasing popularity I’d be able to find a suitable replica in the Dallas area, but every attempt I’ve found totally missed the mark.
In mentioning it to friends I’ve often been asked what exactly Nashville hot chicken is. I can tell them that it’s a very specific type of spicing that heavily features cayenne pepper. Other than that, though, I couldn’t really tell you what it is. What I can tell you is what it’s not. With every one I’ve tried around here I could instantly point out why they didn’t do it right.
When looking at the Bible’s picture of the church I’ve often had the same feeling. I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly church should look like, but I’ve always had a nagging feeling that what I’ve known and what I’ve been a part of is not what it’s supposed to look like. Of course, it’s not terribly important that I ever figure out how to properly explain and describe Nashville hot chicken. Being able to come up with a Biblical picture of the church, on the other hand, is something that matters greatly. So, a few years ago I set out to read and listen to everything I could find about the church. I studied the Bible’s picture of the church deeply. I spoke with others who have been a part of different church structures.
So, Church Reset is the result of years of studying, reading, and conversing on the topic of the church because I and the others I was speaking to and learning from couldn’t shake the feeling that God had something different in mind for His people. Rather than just pointing out what I thought it shouldn’t be, I hoped to find out and start working toward a picture of what it could be.
Before I share the conclusions of my study, a few disclaimers seem necessary.
What this book is not:
- This book is not written for church leaders only.
This book is for any Christian. There will be parts that speak more directly toward leadership, but overall it’s my prayer that any Christian who picks up this book can gain from what they read and use the practical suggestions offered at the end. It’s for the Christian who feels like God had something more in mind for the church than what we know today.
- This book is not meant to bash the church.
I want to say right up front that I love the church and could not feel more blessed to be a part of it. I have no intention of bashing Christ’s bride with the critiques offered in this book. The very idea that there must be something more to church than what we commonly see today is one that many will view as negative and critical, though. The point of this type of discussion is not to be negative or critical. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The distinction comes down to how we’re using the word church. If by the word we mean God’s perfectly planned institution, then there’s no room for change or criticism because He does all things well. If, on the other hand, we’re discussing church from the angle of what we as humans have done with it, then there is always room for improvement. With that second use in mind, if my hypothesis is true and there is more to be found in church than what we currently see, then by necessity something would have to change. In a sense, we would be attempting to move away from the second in pursuit of the first.
The point, then, is to believe God has even greater blessings to give us if we abandon the business-like practices that have crept into the church and turn instead toward more mission-driven, family-driven lives. It’s the belief that the kind of love and unity we see early on in Acts is attainable today. It’s the belief that our personal walk with God can reach a whole other level when we share our lives with our fellow Christians as God meant for us to do.
To view that as negative would be a mistake. It’s nothing short of thrilling to consider what kind of love, service, outreach, and growth can happen when we get back to doing things God’s way.
– This book is not meant to address every single situation.
Before the charge is brought up, I freely admit that much of what is written in this book could be called painting with a broad brush. Because every situation is different I can only start from a generic picture of the modern American church. Some of the critiques and characterizations offered will not apply to you or your church. Some of the changes suggested from the Scriptures might be things you are already practicing. I can’t possibly know every situation, which means I can’t possibly address every situation. So, I’m trusting you as the reader to take what applies to your situation and make use of it as you will.
On the other hand, I ask you to keep an open mind. While realizing that not everything written here may apply directly to you, don’t go so far as to assume that nothing is of use to you. In raising some of the points you’ll see in the book I’ve received responses along the lines of “Yes, that’s what my church already does!” when it’s plainly evident that such a claim isn’t true. While the broad brush can not reach every intricate detail, it is still aimed at reaching that which is broadly true. So, take it for what it’s worth and evaluate each point on its own merit with regard to your situation.
– This book is not an attempt to write the next big church growth strategy book.
This is not me writing as the next in a line of megachurch leaders sharing the new thing that will make your church boom. In a sense, it’s quite the opposite. I’m part of a small church that’s not looking for the next big thing but rather working toward getting back to the simplicity with which the church first began. For that reason, it’s my hope that the ideas shared in this book aren’t new at all. Rather than being a church growth book, it’s intended as an ecclesiology book — a study of the Bible’s portrayal of the church.
As part of the churches of Christ, restorationism is in my blood. It’s my belief that much good work has been done with regard to restoring New Testament doctrine. However, it’s also my belief that we have more to do when it comes to restoring New Testament practice. So, rather than being “Jack Wilkie’s 3 Step Method to Growing Your Church,” this book is first and foremost the result of a multi-year study on the church. I’m sharing what I’ve learned by study and experience in hopes that it blesses others.
I certainly believe that doing things in the way God prescribed will lead to growth (both internal and numerical), but that’s not the same thing as “Try this method and you’ll get lots of people.” The important thing is to focus on process and not result. God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). It’s left to us to leave that part to Him and be faithful to His way of doing things. That’s the aim of this book.
– This book is not meant to be a manual.
Though there is a discussion of practical actions churches as a whole and individual members can and should take toward the end of the book, I’m not writing to give a step by step guide. I am not writing as the person who has all the answers. I’m just hoping to share Biblical principals that in my view have been overlooked and neglected over the years. Whether you agree with them and how you decide to act on them is left to you, the reader.
It’s my prayer that this book is a blessing to you. More than anything I hope it helps you love Jesus more by appreciating the beauty of His plan for His bride.