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By Victor Odundo
While we may have the luxury of worship facilities, freedom of worship enshrined in our constitution, evangelical open – air crusades, conferences, church meetings and fellowships going on unhindered, in Iran, Iraq, generally in the Arab world and China, it’s the opposite!
China has an impressive growth rate of conversion and discipleship making ever in the world, from three million adherents in the 1980s to as many as an estimated 100 million this year in the midst of intense persecution, closure of churches, de-registration of churches, jailing of pastors and believers by a government that is officially atheist.
The quality of their disciples and discipleship-making, community life is clearly seen in their ability to withstand and multiply their numbers through the underground “faceless” churches. How are they succeeding under such environments, yet we who have the freedom of worship have challenges of being the church but not going to church? Can we learn some good lessons out of this lockdown?
When the Church gates and doors were placed under lock, many wept and gnashed their teeth, with religious leaders and the laity all wondering anew about what it means not to access the house of God. To many, it was like God was locked in their buildings, their prayer altars no longer accessible, the place where they lived their Christianity was no longer accessible. The pastor’s office, home all became a no go zone. As the days go by, and with the threats of the pandemic, it has dawned to many that life has moved on with everything going online and digital.
The reality hit many saints and they had to stand alone with Jesus, the one who is Omnipresent. This in a way helped them to be equipped to pray, lay hands, prophecy and read the word for themselves in their Home churches. Many are a lot happier and empowered now than before. Most of the flock depended on the Pastors for everything, but also knew that prayers, worship, singing can only happen in the Church facility, “the House of God” because that’s where we have to go and pray! They were never equipped to do the work of ministry…it was all done by their loving, caring “man or woman of God” who fasts, reads the Bible and prays for them.
When will the Churches be opened? I don’t know. Why were they closed in the first place? COVID-19. Did the government close the churches? No. Are we continuing to become the church in communities? Yes. Are we still connecting? Yes. How? At homes and digital. Is it safer for your congregation? Yes. Can we learn from other churches? Yes. Have you taken that step?……
Saints, the world has been preparing us for this transition yet many have refused to either listen or turn a blind eye. Soon we shall have no paper money, and mobile money transactions (cashless society) are already preparing us for this world – the virtual world – employees, weddings, court proceedings e.t.c. are being done virtual. We must now take our flock in this new level, otherwise Christians will continue to be left behind.
What did Jesus tell the woman at the well who cherished their mountain as the only place of meeting God? Read John 4: 20-24. How did the Early Church Meet? How are they doing it in other nations?
How do you tell if the Church building or facility can become a hindrance to the Church mission in the world?
1.) When it has become your only preaching platform and without it you feel you aren’t doing God’s work.
Watching many online productions during this COVID-19 pandemic, you will notice that many are still missing the pulpit, the mics, the sound etc, some have brought them back at home, others have to access their buildings in order to preach..Etc. Friends, in as much as those might be good, let it not hinder you from ministry. People know we are under lockdown. All they need is to hear you sharing your authentic testimony and insights from the word – it’s a sharing that connects through relationship. It should come out as natural as possible, from a real environment.
2.) When your facility has become an end goal rather than a means for equipping for the work of ministry.
Sunday morning becomes your major avenue of wining the lost and this is basically given little attention, or few minutes to the end of the service, just in case there was one among them who is not born again.
3.) Meetings in church are never participatory.
God made Church with family in mind and that’s why it thrives faster in-home settings because there’s member participation. 1 Corinthians 14: 26 says, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the Church.” It’s a family gathering, notice, whenever the church meets, everyone participates.
4.) When you make your facility to be the focus, i.e. works as a marketing tool rather than God’s presence. We need great, nice facilities, but at the end of the day, man’s problems need an encounter with Jesus, His presence. People come in our meetings because they want Jesus, for where two or three are gathered, He is there.
5.) Greater percentage of Church activities are in-bound not outbound.
No outreaches, but even if they are there, little attention is given. The members have become very content with simply going to a Church meeting or participating in a Church program rather than obeying the specific commands of Jesus that we see recorded in the scriptures or are spoken to us by the holy spirit through his inner promptings. They are hardly trained to evangelize but are heavily accustomed to invitations of visitors to the sanctuary with the hope that they will be saved after the Sunday sermon. Because of this practice, members can clearly “sell” or articulate about their Church ministry, the man of God, the powerful preaching, prophecies etc more than Jesus Christ the head, the builder of the church.
6.) When the Pastors become the ‘superstars’, while the rest become professional mutes. They are supposed to sing some few songs, listen to the lectures, give their money and go home, come back next Sunday, year after year. They are commended for being faithful church members and when they die they are assured of descent burials etc. These professionals are the Church in the market place, no wonder very little transformation is taking place in our offices because of their “training” in Church.
7.) When “membership” or “numbers” become your drive for Church growth not discipleship – making.
Numbers aren’t bad per se, but when all or most efforts are put to increasing numbers at all cost it becomes a challenge. Jesus’ main focus is in making disciples who will make other disciples, and in most cases we are only giving people opportunities to “join our church”. Few can articulately share about Jesus and defend their faith. They see the Church as belonging to the pastor, his wife and family and so it’s his business to win souls and carry all the burdens of the house. Making disciples doesn’t apply to them! Mark 16: 15-18
Friends, things have changed! Internet has revolutionized the world. Content or information used to be a rare thing, only found with the men or women of God. It is written that in the last days knowledge will increase. Now they can get everything from their phone and in fact better resources than you can imagine. When information is free, it’s no longer valuable because scarcity drives value. People are not looking for nice presentations, information, they want an encounter, experience and insight of that Word.
Pastor Victor Odundo is a computer specialist who received God’s calling upon his life in 1994, and was separated by God into full-time ministry in 2011. He is the founder of Yahoshua Global Consult, a Kingdom Business Organization specializing in Christian publications, empowering and equipping of leaders, and a mentorship program for children and youth aimed at equipping and raising a new generation who can effectively “inherit and govern thrones” based on God’s blueprints in all spheres of society. He is a member of Watoto Church, Intercessors for Uganda, Africa House of Prayer, and serves as an Executive Committee Member with Uganda Jubilee Network (UJN), an umbrella body that serves the body of Christ in Uganda.
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