At first glance, it looks like we’re going Very Far South in a handbasket.
In fact, it looks the same after five or 10 glances at the government, education, cable television, the press, political correctness and even the church, where the number of pedophile priests is surpassed by the 37 percent of Protestant pastors who struggle with Internet porn.
But there is a comprehensive solution to the mess, and here it is: Over the next 10 to 20 years, we Christians are going to liberate our church. From the bottom up. In that short span of time, we will multiply the number of believers in active outreach by a factor of 50 to 100.
While most of the traditional church of today will continue as it is, some of it will reform into a radically biblical model. And as for the new, expansion phase of global Christianity, you won’t even recognize it.
Two weeks ago, this column announced the discovery of a still-under-the-radar core of the worldwide church that is growing at a white-hot 8 percent a year and has been since 1970. That core is well on the way to producing a billion new born-again Christians in the next 11 or 12 years.
(In my e-mail, some have doubted these numbers, saying that Christianity overall is not growing much. True. But that’s lumping together anything that could vaguely be called Christian, including the dying liberal churches, whereas I’m talking about the explosive core of 707 million. You’ll have to read “Megashift” for details.)
Now, how do we expect to get 50 to 100 times as many Christians out from behind the stained-glass curtain, actively changing the whole basis of human society? By redeploying ordinary believers by the hundreds of millions.
For the past 1,700 years, we have been dumping the work of the church onto the backs of our pastors, executive preachers or priests, who run local churches for pay – a system completely unknown in the New Testament. These highly overworked souls are prime victims of the system, but the clergy-laity split has also crippled the pew-sitters in ways that are far more devastating than any heresy or persecution in history. Small wonder that Jesus twice said He hates this layman-suppressing system. (See Revelation 2:6 and 15, where He denounces Nicolaitanism, which means, literally, controlling the people of God.)
Today’s churches – Catholic and Protestant – are centralized, top-down institutions. Though pastors are supposed to equip the people to fulfill their mission in life, the exact opposite is true. Pastors have their vision for ministry, and the people are there to support it.
The endless efforts to tweak the church structure are doomed – you just can’t change a pastor-centered organization into a grass-roots movement. And that’s why we aren’t transforming U.S. culture and solving its problems: Most of our solutions (flowing from our top-down hierarchies) bear an uncanny resemblance to the problems.
Hence, God is starting to redeploy the entire church. Instead of letting one reverend (revered one) try to do all the work, He is beginning to liberate and empower everyone. Instead of having a church composed of spiritual consumers, sitting and soaking up a sermon in hopes of getting their batteries charged up enough to make it through the week, we’ll have a church composed of spiritual producers, vividly illustrating Christ’s words, “He who believes in Me, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
In a traditional church building, the pews are screwed into the floor, making everyone face the same direction and blocking participation. But soon, instead of an audience, the church will be a huge array of independent yet networked teams, meeting in homes, schools and offices, and functioning as a family (or sometimes a hospital, team, army, or school). What the homeschool movement is doing for education is just a warmup for what the house-church movement will do for every facet of American culture: overwhelm it.
As a pure guesstimate, U.S. house churches may have grown from 2,500 to 5,000 in the last year. The National House Church Conference over Labor Day weekend may double, too. If you’re interested, get involved. Learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit instead of the government and media. Learn to be proactive, not passive. Gather an open fellowship around yourself, a loyal team that will support you 24×7, no matter what. Dump your spectator identity. Dive in and enjoy the new freedom to alter the course of history.