Finding Life in a Dead Church | Jay Fesperman (2/3)
The first thing to look at is the church’s leadership. Paul’s guidelines for the church’s leadership is found primarily in the letter to the Ephesians church. In the fourth chapter beginning with verse eleven, he outlines the major roles of leadership: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service.”
Most churches are absolutely afraid to talk about “apostles”, since, they say, “the apostolic age came to an end with the close of the New Testament era”. But from some of the things we see in the church today, it looks more like the “pastoral” age has come to an end. Very few denominations today prepare their ministers for real pastoral functions. Pastoring is a whole lot more difficult [of] a work than preaching. Pastoring requires personal involvement. Preaching doesn’t. Pastoring hours are 24 per day. Preaching hours, including some study time, is far less demanding. In many other cases, the church is so limited financially that the man dubbed “pastor” has to double over in several other areas of responsibility, reducing greatly his opportunity for pastoring.
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples“. A disciple is one who seeks to emulate his teacher in every way, so that the multiplying factor may be carried forward. But the church makes very little provision for discipling, either in the local scene or in the broader system of denominationalism. The Lord’s example was to select a small group of a dozen men and give a great part of His life to them. That’s how leaders are developed. You cannot take men into a classroom situation and make . . . disciples [of them]. The area of learning must be seen as out in the field where the action is.
One of the most serious things wrong with the church today is its almost total lack of anything to attract the youth of today. Here is where the leaders of tomorrow’s church must come from. Since the normal socio-family life of today is not conducive to the development of well-disciplined lifestyles, the church must find a way to train its future leaders for the spiritual warfare that lies just ahead for the victorious church. Having worked through a dozen years of our “Disciplined Life in Christ”[now Heroes Semester] training program at [CTCI], we are quite knowledgeable of today’s young adult segment of the church. We know how very much they appreciate disciplines and lifestyles that establish peace and order in their lives. And it is a well-proven fact that the training must be on a very practical basis. It must be based on daily living, in the family, with peers, in situations that call for immediate action.
Today’s young people, in the main, want to learn the things that most of their fathers are not showing them. They want to replace the intangibles of the educational systems with reality. They want to de-politicize the controlling factors of life as it is lived in our nation. They want to learn how to work. Simply speaking, “How do you hold down a job? How do you, by the sweat of your brow, earn a promotion? How do I fulfill the ambitions that are in my heart? I want to be able to establish myself, to . . . have personal satisfaction out of knowing that I can accomplish some things on my own. . .” These are all questions that need answers for today’s Christian youth. The church must equip herself to provide this kind of work day preparation for the disciples the Lord is calling for.
I could name several large, successful organizations that are training young folks in the disciplines of service and witness. And we can be thankful for them. But why doesn’t the church recognize this is the Lord’s call on her? And where else but in the church (or at home) [should] they learn how to pray? Or how to give help to others seeking a new life? Or dealing with all the false religious goings-on in the world today? And where else should they see signs and miracles as the work of the Holy Spirit, but in the church? And healings or casting out of demon spirits?
From Jay Fesperman’s “Letters of Exhortation”, Volume 5, No.3, May 1985.