Posted by: John Edwards | January 24, 2009

The Word of Faith Rat Race

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I am glad to be out of the rat race. I was in it for ten years and one month.

By rat race, I am referring to the constant pressure that many pastors feel to be successful with their vision. Keeping up with the church down the street, trying to chase a selfish, self initiated vision, thinking that it is from God, and trying to meet every one’s expectations.

I feel that many pastors get caught up with these things. Many pastors claim to have a vision from God about building up their church with programs designed to entertain, buying up land and building nice buildings. For many pastors, where they are now on the success scale is never quite good enough.

If they have 50 people in a storefront, they must have 100 people in a nice facility. Once they have 100 people, they want 200 people and a nicer facility. One can visit most any church today and see the plans to build a fancy facility hanging on a wall or posted in a bulletin. Stewardship drive, fundraisers, building programs.

Gone are the days of the local pastor of a small community of believers. Or maybe not. With the impending gloom of economic collapse on the near horizon, many pastors may re-think their visions, especially when the tithes go down. Pastors are no longer satisfied with what they have right now. I am and was a prime example.

There was a time, when I had 75 people and we had church in a small rented building. Our rent was $700 dollars. Things were very simple and very exciting. We had great services and wonderful fellowships. Many times we would have spontaneous get together, fire up the grill and hang out for hours, talking and laughing. Then people want to grow. They want a little nicer building. A little more respect. I felt the pressure from myself and from a small handful of others that wanted to grow, buy land and build something nice and pretty. One board member told me that once we bought and built, that I would be a “real pastor” and a we would be a “real church”. I let that lie take root in my ego. Things were fine as they were. People were getting saved and discipled. The church was a tight knit family. Vision and ambition ruined the simplicity of it.

Many pastors would cry out, and say that building a bigger, nicer facility is so that they can reach more souls for the Kingdom, but I do not believe that at all. Why not spend those millions on local outreaches and missions?

Instead of spending 6k a month on a mortgage, what if we had spent that money on evangelism in the community?

I believe that today’s American church mentality is completely off the New Testament model. I fear that it is about egos and pride.

I have visited some small churches that were on fire about God. I have visited booming churches that were on fire about their vision. Its easy to step into a new mega church and be swept away with all of the lights, bells and whistles, all of the synchronized music and all of the entertaining programs and think that all of the excitement is about God. On the other hand, it is most refreshing to go to a simple grass roots gathering in a storefront or house and be blown way with the presence of the Lord among some people that care nothing of keeping up with the trends.

I read with much interest about the House Church that is flourishing in China. Because of their government they are forced to meet underground and in hiding, yet they do by the hundreds of thousands. Some pastors have church in their home several times a week. They are passionate about Jesus. The time spent in these house meetings is pure ministry and worship.

I would love to go!

Lately I have been meeting in a small group that meets on Wednesday nights in a house. We pray, we share, we ask questions and fellowship around some food. It is very simple. The message is always anointed. Then we have big church on Sunday morning, and like it is everywhere else, things are a little bit more formal. Although the Sunday service is awesome, there is something about hanging out together in the house and having church there. I love it.

For many years all of my close friends were pastors. We hung out together on a regular basis. Most always the subject turned from Jesus to “How can I get my church to grow?”. “How can we market and advertise, where can we buy and build”? “Why is the church down the street booming with people and money”? Pressure to succeed. Pressure to grow. Pressure to build.

Pressure to have the perfect praise and worship team. Pressure to keep up.

I think it was mostly ego myself. It was with me.

I know that this does not apply to every church and to every pastor, but I think that what I have written is the case with many.

I had dinner with a very famous minister right before we began our building program. he told me that once we moved into our own building, that everything would change. He was right. It changed for the worse. I deeply regret not being satisfied with what I did have. I wasted too many years focusing on what I did not have. If I could only go back, I would have never bought that land. I would have never built that building. What waste of money for the wrong reasons.

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