Have you heard about the rescue society in New England? They were formed to build and run a lighthouse to steer ships away from the rocks. Long hours of training in rescue techniques followed. Members were dispatched in rescue boats whenever a storm would push a ship past the lighthouse onto the rocks. But across the years, as the ships steered by more successfully, their meetings became social gatherings and self-help classes. Instead of being a lighthouse to rescue those who were lost, their goal became fellowship and fulfillment of the membership. One night when a fierce storm drove a ship onto the rocks, they discovered that they no longer had the capacity to effectively rescue. Their boats in disrepair, their members untrained and out of shape, they stood and watched helplessly as the ship wrecked and its crew drowned.
When churches become more concerned with meeting the needs of members, we become deceived about what God formed us to do and be. Our communities and the people around us are experiencing one shipwreck after another, and we are no longer equipped to do much rescuing. Why would a drowning victim wander into my church looking for help if that person knows nothing about what happens there? And how can our members become rescuers if they are sitting in church “waiting to be fed”?
We too often suppose that all of our church activities and meetings are leading our members to become effective disciples. We want to think that our softball teams, music groups, men’s and ladies’ groups, senior adult luncheons, children’s activities, and on and on, are training the rescue society to rescue the world with the gospel of Christ. Under close scrutiny, though, we may find that the purpose of all these activities is primarily fellowship and fulfillment of the membership. No wonder that some have become proponents of starting churches with nothing more than a worship service and a few home groups to avoid the trap of institutionalism. That strategy works in some settings, but it is not my intent here.
This is not a call to abandon the church and its groups and activities that we know and love. God has ordained his church as the bride of Christ. Though local churches may close their doors, God’s church will triumph just as he has promised in his Word. So we must re-dream and re-structure the church to become once again the rescue society God created us to be. Our worship ministry programs must form an intentional process to equip and lead members to become worshipers on mission—disciples who are actively engaged everyday leading others to become disciples. Most of us would agree that this process begins with worship focused on glorifying God that engages each of us personally in discipleship and mission.
What do you believe should be the next step to growing disciples and taking them on mission in your community?
— Mark Powers