We have been talking about believers being the Body of Christ in this world over the last couple of days. This kind of organic unity with Christ and the fruit that comes from it is what will draw others into the Kingdom of God. People today are longing for a relationship with God that is genuine.
I remember a story that John Wimber, the founder and church planter of the Vineyard Movement, shared about an event that happened during a conference where he was the main speaker. Before the time John was involved in the Vineyard group of churches, he worked for Fuller Theological Seminary, and taught extensively on church growth. At one of his conferences, a frustrated pastor and delegate stood up and stated that he already knew the things John was saying, but when was he going to get some advice of getting his church to grow! John patiently told him that he would have all his questions answered in a short while. The man became desperate a little later on as he hoped to learn some new method from the conference that would catapult his church into more significant growth in numbers, so he stood up again, saying, "Yes, I know all that, but when are you going to help me grow my church?" John just looked at him, and at that moment, the Spirit of God gave John a wise, intuitive answer. He asked the man a loaded question; "Okay, well how many more like you do you want?" The man fell back into his seat and exclaimed; "I don't want any more like me! I want them to be like Jesus!"
The truth John Wimber was stating was that often the followers go as the leader goes. If we want our congregation to embody biblical truths, those truths must be seen in the leaders first! If we're going to grow spiritually, we must follow the Maker's instructions. True life can only come from union with the True Vine. Think of it; all life in nature is born out of intimacy. Why would it be any different in the growth of the Church, the Body of Christ, which is a living organism? To grow the church "for Jesus," we have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the road. These failures are especially true in the Western Church today. We started out with a good and logical idea; to make church comfortable enough for non-believers. The goal is to draw the lost to hear the Gospel in such a way as to remove the roadblocks to their understanding and make church "a seeker-sensitive" environment.
I think this is an idea close to the heart of God since He sought to remove the religious obstacles obscuring the image of the heart of the Father from the people of His day. Jesus often challenged the Pharisees and taught people using simple stories that they could understand. Unfortunately, what has happened in many churches today is that we have focused on a performance-oriented event and put a greater emphasis on professional presentation and less emphasis on the One whom we are presenting. The Word of God is in itself powerful. In contrast, our presentation is at best, human effort. We need to connect to the divine source—Jesus. When we connect people to Christ through His Word, He has the power to transform lives. Do you believe this? We cannot afford to forget or push to one side the Lord from being the One living in His people. People want the "real deal," the true Living Bread that alone can satisfy. Keith Thomas