Archive for June 1st, 2011

June 1, 2011

It’s Not a Program

by pastortimfowler

For the last 5 years I have purposefully removed myself from participating in any of the mainstream denominations because of the politics and what I consider to be a lack of genuine care for the churches that are not big money givers. I have given myself time to focus on our church and ensuring that biblical values are taught and that people understand that Christianity is more than coming to church and participating in a program.
The other day I got a call from the state office of a well know denomination asking me to take part in a forum that would discuss evangelism and because our church has averaged over 50 baptisms a year for the last 3 years, I was one of 25 pastors selected to participate. I was honored to be asked and even though it was a particular denomination, I thought that maybe they were changing and I am for giving anyone who promotes evangelism a chance.
In this denomination, there are churches that belong to local and state group within the national group. Usually those who participate in the policy of the denomination are those who pastor the big churches and therefore give the big money. Rarely do the smaller churches get much of an input that actually gets given much consideration and that frustrates me. Just because a church is not large and rich does not mean it is not doing God’s work.
So this forum on evangelism began by hearing a fellow speak from his heart about what evangelism is. Evangelism is nothing more than sharing the gospel. Telling someone Jesus died for their sin, rose from the grave, will forgive if they ask, and is coming again. How this is done is often the center of my headache. But this guy laid it out very passionately and very plainly. He said that in order to effectively share Jesus, you must have a relationship with Jesus and have a burning desire to see people who don’t know Jesus get to know Jesus. All of which I agree.
Then the fun started. We were told to break off into groups and discuss what we could do to overcome the downfall in baptisms of this particular denominations. You see, the total number of people within this denomination who were baptized last year had dropped 23% and this has been the trend for the last 5 years. In the small groups I was hoping to hear that maybe it was time to examine real change instead of superficial change. I was disappointed.
Here is a fact that I left out of how churches in this denomination were grouped. Most are part of the county group within the state and then all are part of the state and national group. But in the state of SC there are perhaps 40 or 50 churches who are part of the state and national but not the county group. The reason is the denomination has excellent doctrine but horrible politics and leadership. So these 40 or 50 churches are still counted but in a separate group. So let me share these statistics.
There are almost 1900 churches in this denomination in the state of South Carolina. The 40 or 50 churches that are separated like I was saying are usually churches who teach the doctrine but have forsaken the traditions and the politics and even the title of this denomination within their own name. Well those churches did twice as many baptisms as the other nearly 1900 churches combined. And guess who was not represented at this meeting (other than myself)?
In fact not only were there not anyone else from these churches at this meeting but those who were there began to talk about what was wrong with these 40 or 50 churches. You know, the ones that doubled their baptisms with over 1800 fewer churches. And now I remember why our church became unaffiliated years ago.
You see the programs that organized religion does were one time great ideas that were effective tools to reach people who need Jesus. But somewhere, some one forgot that the world continued to chance and that everything else changed the way they reached people; business, schools, government, but not churches. They got stuck in the rut of traditionalism and politics and forgot that evangelism is the act of sharing Jesus, not a program.
My son attends a church that has radically evangelized the state of South Carolina and is now reaching the world for Jesus. It is also one of those churches that are part of the larger group, but, have distanced themselves from the denomination. This church alone baptized almost as many people as those other 1900 churches in this denomination. And sadly, this pastor was mentioned by name, at my table, as what was wrong with where the denomination was heading, instead of looking in the mirror and telling themselves that evangelism is about reaching people with the Gospel, it is not a program.
I pray that one day they will get it. But until then, I expect that the churches who have decided that evangelism is more important than politics will continue to baptize more people and those who play politics and religion will continue to wonder why their numbers are declining. It’s not a program!