The Fantasy Church
One of the most engaging preoccupations of our generation is a game called Fantasy Football, where players assemble make-believe teams from real-life players and battle one another for victory. Although it's a fun pastime for friends and family, it has very little to do with the real game of football. In the real game, plays are run, contact is made, points are scored and titles are won. In the fantasy game, all the results are imaginary and reality remains unaffected.
This is a perfect parallel to what I call Fantasy Church, in which we go through all the motions of church but never really move the ball or score real points. Much like an athlete running in place—the members are working hard and expending a lot of energy, but they never truly "arrive." In the fantasy church, we conduct worship services in which people come for an hour and then leave, with very little measurable change in their personal lives, or in the impact in the surrounding community. In fact, many of the largest churches in the world are located in communities with the most troubling social statistics. A fair question that every church needs to ask itself is this, "If you were to close your doors tomorrow, would anyone except your members notice you were gone?"
Many churches have lost the real metrics for measuring success and have defaulted to a set of measurements that are irrelevant to heaven's priorities. We measure attenders, income, buildings and events, while Jesus measures the transformation of souls, saints and spheres. In the fantasy church, the majority of people's time, energy and money goes into maintaining the status quo and managing members until they get to Heaven, and only a small percentage of the church's resources is used to advance the kingdom of God. In the fantasy church, we fall into a maintenance pattern that makes us feel like we're "doing church," but we're not actually achieving any noticeable or measurable outcome.
The Factory Church
In response to fantasy church, many churches develop a variety of systems and programs designed to accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. These models produce program-based churches that are designed to streamline the discipleship process and create cookie-cutter Christians in an efficient and effective manner. The Factory Church can be a megachurch or a cell-church but the eventual outcome is the same. They end up with a system that relies on policies and programs rather than on relationship and personal process.
Unfortunately, Factory Churches almost always end up being like a massive furnace, with all the members feverishly shoveling coal to keep the fire burning. Our resources are drained and we slowly burn out. Churches thrive best when they exist to foster the destinies of their members, not exploit their members to fulfill the destiny of the church. As Jesus once said, "Man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man" (Mark 2:27).
Factory Churches tend to get the cart in front of the horse and that leads to frustration and eventual fruitlessness. Although the innovators of this kind of church have the best of intentions, they opt for a corporation model of church that often violates key values of the kingdom of God.
The Family Church
What is the answer? I believe it is the family church. Every believer intrinsically desires to be part of a healthy spiritual family, but building this kind of church can be full of challenges. In the first place, our model of family in current culture has been damaged through materialism, workaholism, divorce and a hundred other problems. This family dysfunction has produced a deep wound of orphanhood in our culture. This orphanhood leads, on the one hand, to a deep "performance orientation" where people obsess and strive to receive love and acceptance through outward achievement or, on the other hand, where others just give up trying in resignation or resentment.
Many churches mistakenly utilize the orphan mentality to recruit and reward their workers. In response to this, many people have romanticized the idea of "The Family Church" into a Disneyland ideal, of a place where each member is accepted, loved and cared for, without any expectations of reciprocation. In pursuit of this ideal, we miss the whole point of family. When I ask leaders to define what they mean by Family Church most will say, "A safe place to belong." Is this really what a true family is all about?
You, as a ministry leader, are called to be a spiritual father or mother to your congregation, which means you have a certain responsibility that is akin to natural parenthood. We're going to look at how we can build a true family church that benefits all members and powerfully grows into the future. The process of building a true family church is almost never accidental. A healthy family is built on the solid ground of unconditional love and acceptance. Without this essential foundation, a home will always revert to an orphanage. However, love is not the only quality that defines family; in order to truly understand family, we have to consult Scripture.
When God created the first family, He had a prime purpose in mind. He told them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it." In other words, family is God's methodology for ruling the earth and filling it with His glory. It is also His methodology both in redemption and restoration. And true family is not about raising children. It's about raising mature healthy adults.
We invite you to stay tuned for more insights into how to do church as a family.
Listen to the podcast below to hear Pastor Ron Lewis teach how to deal with hot-button issues from the pulpit.
Michael and Diane Brodeur served as a pastors in San Francisco for over 33 years, and by God's grace, established one of the largest churches the city had seen during that era. Michael and his family moved to Redding, California, in 2010 and have served in a number of ministries, including Jesus Culture, Global Legacy and the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM). Michael launched PastorsCoach.com in 2014 and is currently equipping and coaching hundreds of churches around the world. He is the author of several books, including Revival Culture: Prepare for the Next Great Awakening. He also travels globally as a conference speaker and catalytic consultant for churches and organizations. Michael and Diane have seven children and eight grandchildren.
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