In these two versus in Hebrews Paul is talking about the nature of the church. He tells us that we should motivate each-other to love and good works, not giving up meeting and encouraging one another. Somewhere along the line the church forgot the essence of this message being that believers are supposed to be motivating and encouraging each-other.
In a recent talk at Facebook headquarters Francis Chan, founder and former senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, and author of the New York Times Bestselling book Crazy Love, equated the modern church to an orphanage; a bunch of kids with one leader. When in reality it is supposed to be a family where we're all using our gifts to minister to one another. Here's a link to an article that covers the highlights of his talk. There's also a link in the article to where you can go watch the whole talk he gave yourself. It's a really good talk, I encourage you to go listen to it.
The real problem is that we find ourselves in the modern church with a culture obsessed with attendance numbers that places all the weight of ministry on one to a handful of people. We're left with a culture that believes that discipleship is the job of the church when Jesus in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 makes it the responsibility of the individual. We're left with services designed by and for extroverts in a world where just over 50% of the population is introverted. We're left with a culture where five out of every six men identify as Christians, but only two of those five attend church regularly. We're left with weekly concerts followed up by religious lectures where there is very little motivating each-other to love and good works or encouraging of one another going on.
The current church norm was fine for short term tent meetings back in the day when the goal was to fill the seats for a limited number of nights, hit the people hard with the word of God, and then move on to a new city. And, it does seem to be a natural progression from what church was when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in 1517. But, as a format for building community, motivating each-other to acts of love and good works, as well as encouraging one another it fails. In 2015 the Pew Research Center found that the North American Church as a whole is not growing, but shrinking by about 1 million members a year. I believe the current modern church setup in addition to it's proclivity to create churches where individuals get lost in the crowd is responsible for this decline in membership.
So at this point you're probably asking if I'm anti mega-church, cause it really sounds like it at this point doesn't it. I'm not going to answer that question, but let's take a look at some numbers; The Barna Group did a study over 2007 and 2008. It showed that 41% of adults in the United States attend a church congregation of 100 or less people, 23% attend a church congregation of 101 to 200 adults, 18 percent a church congregation of 201 to 499, and only 9% a congregation of 500 to 999 or more. If you're keeping score that means for every 30,000 member Mega-Church there are 1800 to 2400 other congregations serving a combined membership of 273,332 people. When you look at the big picture of The Church as a whole the correlation is that bigger congregations attract and keep less membership than smaller ones.
In response to our modern church culture and in order to provide some missing biblical church experience for its members many churches have encouraged their members to create or join home/small/cell groups, whatever they want to call them, that meet during the week separate from what the larger organization is doing. This is a good thing. This is where that Hebrews 10 ministry is going to happen. The One Another, the Encouraging Each Other. The question is whether small groups is enough to turn the tide of a sinking ship? Remember we're losing a million people a year. According to Joseph Meyers in his book "The Search to Belong" only 35% of church goers are participating in the small group program offered at their church. My friends, it doesn't look good.
So what are we going to do about this? What are you and I going to do? What should your response be if your church fits in the category above as part of the problem we're facing as a culture? Well, the way I see it you have a few options and only prayer can guide you to which one will work best for you:
1. You need to recommit yourself to your current church. Don't just show up, dig in. Make a point to pray for your church and it's leadership every day, multiple times a day if you think about it. Volunteer for whatever task needs done. Take your Pastor out for a meal or a coffee, offer friendship on a no stress human level.
2. Start a small group of your own and start developing a community within your church. If your church doesn't already have small groups then this could be a great kick off for a movement in your church. If your church does have small groups then focus on creating a group out of the 65% of those not already in a group. Don't focus on being a bible study. Just connect on a human level with each-other, this really is when the ministry from Hebrews 10 will take place.
3. You could start your own church. I really don't recommend this option. But, if after prayer and seeking counsel from others to make sure it's right you feel that this is what you should do, then by all means, do it. Build a church that feels like a small group when you meet. This is what Francis Chan did after leaving Cornerstone. He started a movement called We Are Church and they start small home churches, the churches stay small, and they really do community together. They engage each-other, connect with each-other, and really minister to each-other. When you start to grow you could create more churches, or you could appoint Deacons to create small communities within your church so that every time you open the doors there are small groups connecting with each-other engaging in Hebrews 10 ministry. Most of all you have to remember that it's not about what you as a leader of a church, as a pastor, can bring. It's about you being the catalyst and letting the group members carry it from there.
Acts 2:42, talking about the church says, "They committed themselves to the apostles' teachings, life together, the common meal, and in prayer." This sounds an awful lot like a small group to me and that's how I strive to lead the church that I'm pastoring, The Ekklesian House. If we, The Church, as a culture and influence in this world for Christ are going to survive then we need an overhaul. The question is are you ready to do the work, where you are, to ensure that The Church sticks around? What are you going to do to motivate each-other to acts of Love and Good Works? What are you going to do to Encourage your fellow believers?
Until next time...