Making the Church As Sleek As A Race Car

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Have you ever experienced a tension in your heart about how you look at the Church of today and the lost people in your community and wonder if this is really the most effective and efficient way to bridge the gap? As a church planter and lead pastor, I have felt a pull within me for a couple years now. A sense that there can be something more. Not just something that can be possible, or should be possible, but something that has already been promised to us to be reality. And it isn’t thinking of new forward-ways of doing things, creating new or improved programs, raising more (when is enough enough to fix the problem?) money, or grow bigger to be better.  The answer is actually looking back and a coming-home to what the Church was when it was born, what it was simply designed to be and do in its purest form.

Jason Shepperd, planter and Overseer of Church Project, a network of home-churches collectively organized of over 60 homes across multiple states and countries, is a pastor who felt this tension and couldn’t continue doing what he was doing in his traditional church. He felt God revealing to him that the church had grown and morphed into something it was not intended to be. What scriptures had to say about the early church and what he saw in front of him in the 21st century were too far apart.

Watch the conversation with Jason Shepperd here.

With his science major, two of Jason’s favorite words are “reduce” and “refine.”

“I studied every element of the church…boiled down and synthesized into its purity and simplicity. And that is now what we call Church Project.” 

What makes a church a church? What is the difference between a church and a home-church or microchurch? Where is the line between a life group or Sunday school group and a home-church? How do we classify the difference between a pastor and a group leader?  These questions have hit me like ocean waves over and over. But let’s not get lost in the confusion or the risk we take by entering a space beyond and outside of the traditional church model. We owe it to the Kingdom to continue to ask the greater question of, “What does God want me to do in leading and being His church?”

For many years I looked at the people within the church and just wanted to shake them! You say you want change, but you hold so tightly to your ways that you won’t allow for it to happen. You say you want the lost to come to our faith family, but you won’t get outside of your box to bridge gap to Jesus. Don’t invite a friend to church so I can tell them about Jesus, you go to them and tell them about Jesus. And then when I began lead pastoring, the Holy Spirit loving punched me in the chest so hard I had to sit down, “You have trained them to be this way.” Too often we woo our people in by attraction, the show, by what we have to offer them, what they can receive when they arrive. With our Frontlines team ready to engage: “Which program do you want to use? First-time guest: here we have a gift-bag for you!” And then we are surprised that when they stay, they continue to want to sit and receive, not serve and give.

I keep picturing this race car which over the years added layer upon layer of random objects it passed by or ran into. The form of the race car eventually was barely recognizable because of the accumulation of various objects built up around the car. The car still moved forward, however, the size and shape created drag, misalignment, balance issues, burn through unnecessary fuel and made the race car much less effective and efficient in its design and purpose to race. Like this, the church has added so much to the original design, it has lost speed, efficiency, awe, and is damaging the testimony as the witness of Christ.

I wrestled with this while trying to equip myself . How do I articulate the challenge, so we can even discuss it? How do we shift the vision and have people actually turn and change expectations?

Being a part of the Exponential community has by far been the biggest source of direction, encouragement, and knowledge-filled/Holy Spirit-lead empowerment I have experienced. Jason and the book “Church Project,” along with his website churchproject.org walk through the dynamics of the questions I am wrestling in (with so many others are, I am coming to realize so many more people are in this space with me).

I found encouragement from Jason:

  • Follow what you are deeply convicted about.
  • We need more ecclesiological clarity, not less. Define, refine, stay right there, and keep doing it.
  • Don’t do this alone, surround yourself with godly counsel and accountability.
  • Start small, go very slow, and build into it.
  • You will know you have a movement of house churches, not groups, if your house church fulfills all of the elements of a church: purpose and mission, leadership structure, discipline and accountability, community, all surrounding the Word of God.

We don’t have time to waste in our time here on earth. I want our church to be a race car that is sleek, aerodynamic, free to be and do everything it is designed to be, and to carry nothing that it isn’t intended to. Love God and others, Go and make disciples, gather together in Jesus’ name, take care of those in need, heal the sick, be His witnesses and ambassadors, right where you are. #GoTeam

Watch the conversation with Jason Shepperd here.

We are better together!

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

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