A third entry from my book Church Zero, you can purchase Church Zero Right Here!
I want to challenge the next generation of church leaders to go back to New Testament principles that ensure a church’s survival of any cultural revolution. I’m crying sola scriptura at the top of my lungs and challenging leaders to embody that spirit. Any church that fails to do so will soon become just another subculture that has failed to infiltrate its surrounding culture. Understanding the biblical A-Team is indispensable for a biblical church expansion. What is this team’s special mission? What ground is it supposed to take? You may not view yourself as a church planter, but every church has a responsibility to spread the gospel beyond its own four walls. For far too long, churches have lied to themselves, saying that if they can just get people within their four walls, they’ve spread the gospel. The more people you cram inside, the more you can tell yourself you’re spreading the gospel. But what about the people outside at the liquor stores and pool halls, on the bar stools, in the gay bars, released today from prison, loitering in the parks, eating out of garbage cans? Simply put, we don’t give a rip.
We’re in the numbers game. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a Christian leader playing turf wars like Al Capone. There are plenty of fish in the sea, but if we really cared about fishing, we’d have drawn the conclusion that the more nets in the water, the more fish turn up at the market. But we’re not as interested in catching fish as in gaining profit. After all, we’ve got some big bills to pay. The lighting bill of many churches alone would cost more than you make in a year. Churches are in competition because when you’ve got a megachurch as your endgame, another church in the area is simply siphoning off the numbers of your accumulation and thinning your potential profit. That’s okay though, because the other guy also wants to be the Highlander with immortal powers, and you know what immortals say: “There can be only one.” Paul had a different attitude. Paul knew that some were preaching Christ out of selfish ambition. Nonetheless, he said, “Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Phil. 1: 18). DISASTER ON THE FRONT LINES On D-Day, the 101st Airborne parachuted into Normandy, dressed to kill. Because each soldier had about 150 pounds of gear on him when fully loaded up, some genius in the US army dreamed up the infamous “leg bag” concept. It would allow the airborne infantry to parachute with bags attached to their legs that wouldn’t compete for valuable gear space with the parachute packs on their backs. The jumpers loaded up their bags with everything they could, including their weapons. There was one problem. Because Operation Overlord was already working on an oversized budget, they sought to cut costs wherever they could. Some official somewhere made the decision to use a very cheap piece of cord to fasten the leg bag to the jumper’s boot. The result: the combination of a heavy bag and a cheap cord meant that the cord snapped when the parachute opened, and the packs of guns, ammo, grenades, and rations were scattered in fields and bushes throughout the breadth of Normandy.
This is why in the miniseries Band of Brothers Lieutenant Winters is seen wielding a knife in the dark rather than a Thompson rifle on his first night in France. The other major fiasco was that the pilots flying the C-47 planes were meant to throttle down to ninety miles per hour in order to allow the paratroopers a safe landing. Due to low-lying clouds, German searchlights, tracers, and explosions, the pilots banked left, right, climbed or descended in altitude, and sped up to a hundred and fifty miles per hour to avoid being shelled. The result was that the paratroopers were jumping haphazardly, scattered over farmland, townships, rivers, and roads. One soldier even landed in a pile of manure. As Stephen Ambrose said, “At least it was a soft landing.” 1 This is the lesson: they didn’t make any headway until they reassembled. It’s going to be the same for us. We have been a scattered bunch of one-hit wonders, trying to be the next Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Piper, or Driscoll. If that’s been your focus, I’ve got news for you, pal. It probably isn’t going to happen.
We’re going to need to reassemble ourselves according to the roles Jesus assigned us and relocate our equipment if we’re going to make headway in preventing the Great Commission from becoming the great omission. We’ve become so scattered and out of formation that we’re not even clear what our directives are anymore. David Garrison challenged: If we want to be on mission with God we simply must pause long enough to understand how God is on mission. Only then can we know with some degree of certainty that we are aligned as his instruments and not misaligned as his obstacles. 2 How is God on mission? Jesus said, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17: 18), but are we going as He went? Church planting is essentially bringing the unique gospel community presence of Jesus Christ (where two or more are gathered) into the midst of a surrounding non-gospel community: “I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18: 20 NKJV). It is the process of transforming a city into a city on a hill by shining a beacon of God’s glory in its midst. A scene in Peter Jackson’s film The Two Towers depicts a relay of signal fires being lit across Middle Earth. The awesome responsibility of any church planter is to light the signal fires that stretch the breadth of the land, so that from any one point on the street-view of God’s Google map, you have God’s POV within a community. Ambitious? Maybe. But Jesus thought we could do it— through a Spirit-empowered team effort. As the ultimate apostle, Jesus spearheaded the mission, making the jump from heaven to earth. When His assignment was accomplished, He commissioned His sub-officers to finish the mission, rigged Himself back up to heaven, and kicked down five separate kitbags to help them finish the job. Jones, Peyton. Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church (pp. 65-69). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.