by Michael Brennan
“We don’t do that anymore. The Body of Christ has matured; we’ve become ‘kingdom minded.’ We’ve grown beyond the church comparison game.” …or so we say. I am reminded of Shrek’s futile efforts to convince the donkey that Ogres are like onions — “they have layers”. On the surface we have matured; but like Shrek, we have “layers” and when peeled back, truth is revealed. We have just become more sophisticated at hiding our “Your Church-vs.-My-Church” thinking.
Let’s be real, even in today’s new “maturity” we would still be hard pressed to find a pastors’ gathering where the need to “casually” mention size and numbers was not alive and well. How about when word gets out about another local church in our region experiencing a time of growth or receiving some local media attention? Once again, even in our new “kingdom mindedness”, such recognition of another church quickly becomes cause to be far more resentfully critical than encouragingly “kingdom.” And we could peel back more: our worship ministry vs. their worship ministry, our outreaches vs. theirs, our media vs. theirs, our youth group vs. theirs… and the list goes on.
The real problem is that “yours vs. mine” is far more insidious than it appears. First, it is a profoundly orphan tendency because it flows out of a need to justify by comparing. It speaks (or rather reeks) of looking for identity in all the wrong places. Second, “Your Church Vs. My Church” plays directly into the hands of the enemy. Kingdom is all about enforcing the dominion of the King in all the four areas of influence in our lives – individual, family, corporate, and territory. Enforcing dominion is military language that requires a protocol of honor and respect in the Body of Christ. Even the subtlest forms of comparing give the enemy all he needs to keep “dominion” in the talking stages rather than in the doing realm.
Before we outline some very practical steps we can take to eliminate church comparisons, let’s go back to our original quotes. “The Body of Christ has matured; we’ve become ‘kingdom minded’.” In some very significant ways, those statements are true. For the Body of Christ to “come to the fullness of Christ”, the five-fold ministry needs to be fully in place. We are seeing the increased evidence of this happening. Also, a vital part of becoming “kingdom minded” is the kind of local unity that creates a strategic army of believers fully equipped to do warfare with a territory realm of influence. So with all this positive “maturity” happening in the Body of Christ, it becomes increasingly important for us to destroy the orphan spirit behind “Your Church Vs. My Church” and get to “Our Father’s business” of enforcing dominion.
Here are some very practical steps that your local congregations can take to totally change “Your Church Vs. My Church” into “Our Church is For Your Church”. The principle here is “overcoming evil with good.”
The first step is prayer. Here I am talking about all forms of corporate praying – pre-service, intercessory, weekly scheduled prayer times. Step by step begin to change the focus of those prayer times away from “my church needs” to the needs of other local churches. In our local church, for example, we dedicate the vast majority of our pre-service prayer time to interceding for other churches in our territory. We name areas and particular churches in those areas, praying for every aspect of their gathering times – their worship, fellowship, preaching of the Word. We also specifically name the many denominational churches in our territory. Our intercessors have a growing awareness that when we seek the Kingdom for other churches, Holy Spirit will always cover our local needs.
The second step is corporate worship times. Once again step by step, begin to change the direction of your worship times from “God-we-want-to-see-You” to “God-we-are-here-to-see-what-You-see.” For a long time, we would begin each worship service by declaring that we are already in His presence – not hoping to get there at some time in our worship. Once we established that (with occasional reminders), we began spending a brief time at the beginning of our worship declaring that we are sowing seeds of blessing, favor, and revival into our territory. We also have eliminated a number of “me” directed songs and have increased the number of warfare songs. During those “warfare” times in worship, we will often prophesy specific breakthroughs for our community and the gatekeepers of our territory.
This is a steady ongoing process that is not always neat and tidy. Sometimes we try too hard, and despite good intentions, end up disrupting the flow of worship. Other times it will be like pulling teeth to break through the “it’s all about me” focus during worship. The joy of “hanging in there” are those increasing special moments of worship when Holy Spirit releases creative prophetic dramas that captivate the entire church family with His eyes and heart for their territory.
The third step is tithes and offerings. This one came to me one day with a firm but loving slap “upside’ my head. Our tendency is to think of “offering” time as the irritating but necessary interruption between worship and the word. A few years ago, I was “painfully” reminded by the Lord that offering time was one of his favorite times in the whole service. It’s the time we actually get to do what He loves doing the most –give! Over recent years, all our offering times have become an extremely important time of continued worship where we prophesy the Spirit of Jesus. We have learned never to just throw money in a basket. At first we declared in all our times of giving, God’s kingdom breakthrough of provision for every person there and for every area of influence in their lives. Then we began using our offering time to prophetically declare the manifestation of kingdom economy for our communities and for all the gatekeepers of our territory.
The final step is the preaching of the Word. Our local vision is summed up in three words – “engage, equip, and empower.” A significant focus of those three E’s is being a resource of blessing for local churches. So almost every sermon given by our many in house teachers and preachers has some focus on that aspect of our vision. From the pulpit, our people are encouraged to attend and participate in any number of projects, seminars, and revivals taking place in other local churches in our area. We are servants to the Body of Christ and that is preached consistently in our church.
These four steps are certainly not the only ways to eliminate “Your Church Vs. My Church” thinking. They are, however, tested and fruitful steps that can become part of the DNA of every local church regardless of size or experience.
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