Following The Good Shepherd

Scripture doesn’t tell us all we’d like to know about spiritual gifts. The writers paint in broad strokes telling us that God has gifted every believer in a unique way to do his work. Thus, not only are we commanded to serve God, but we’re enabled to serve God.

Sincere believers disagree on the fine points. I tend to agree with Bible teacher Charles Swindoll about several gifts being first-century gifts enabling the church to launch, like the booster rockets on the space shuttle got it into orbit and then were jettisoned. For example, the apostle gift. An apostle was commissioned to plant churches around the Mediterranean world but was also a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. He could stand and say, “I saw the risen Christ. He is alive.” Paul argued for his apostleship when he insisted he saw the risen Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).

But some gift inventories propose the apostle is a modern-day church planter or an international missionary.

A group of us took an inventory lately in our church, and I failed the apostleship section. This inventory suggested the apostle is the modern church planter. I don’t criticize those who genuinely feel called to do so, but my interest has always been the strengthening of our present churches.

Over the years I’ve known several who were zealous to plant new churches “to reach people,” but whose efforts were unwise.

A couple became interested in an Illinois church that pioneered the “seeker-friendly” worship. They began to show a video from this church in their home to other couples from their church, suggesting they could reach more people with a church in this mold. This work was done in secret until they announced plans to the mother church and asked for her blessing. One church leader said, “This hurts me that you believe our church can’t reach people and you won’t help us do it. If we felt directed by God to start a new work we’d do this publicly and prayerfully, not in secret.”

Government agencies have “sunshine laws” allowing the public to know what their government is doing. Churches should be no less transparent.

A pastor in another community had the same idea, so he took half the mother church with him to begin a new church with a worship service, he argued, that would reach unbelievers. He left the mother church in shambles.

Every church is called to mission. We follow the good shepherd who searched diligently for the lost. If we’re lethargic, we need to pray for revival and renewal. And if God leads us to start something new, we do it together as brothers and sisters in Christ.