Last Tuesday night our church held a special church meeting to discuss Vision 2012. We crammed 50 people into the Steeves Room and discussed the proposed vision for next year in small groups and in the large group. It was fantastic to see people of different ages and interests talking about the mission and future of our church. In the discussion of the vision we considered questions such as: How did we get to this state of decline? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the vision? What role do you see yourself filling in this vision? It was a healthy and helpful discussion and some people even volunteered to be involved in new ministries! (Wouldn’t it be great if our Nominating Committee Report could be done in one meeting where all the positions were filled by people who volunteered?) A second part of our discussion was concerned with what we were looking for in a second staff person. It was generally felt that a staff person who focused on family ministries would benefit children, youth and adults.
I was very encouraged by the turnout for the meeting and the discussion and I look forward to continuing the conversation in the new year. I have also received several emails and phone calls from others who felt the meeting was very beneficial. This was a church business meeting. When I said this to several people over the past few days they looked at me puzzled. How could this have been a church business meeting? There were no motions made or votes taken and there was almost no mention of finances. This raises a question of grave importance, “What IS the business of the church?” Is it not the ministries of the church? Is it not how we fulfill our mission and vision as a local church? Since when did the business of the church become reduced to motions and budgets?
The church meetings recorded in scripture were not centered around finances. One church meeting is recorded in Acts 6:1-7 when it was brought to the attention of the church leaders that some of the widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food. The leaders and people then came up with a plan to chose seven men filled with the Spirit and wisdom to be responsible for that ministry. As a result, the Word of God spread and the church increased in number (Acts 6:7).
Another church meeting took place in Acts 15. This time the issue was theology. From the time of Abraham, Jewish males were required to be circumcised as a sign of their covenant relationship with God. However, since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, non Jews were being saved and were receiving the same Holy Spirit as the believing Jews. The question arose, “Do Gentiles have to be circumcised in order to be saved?” It was a difficult question. Centuries of religous practice were at stake. After discussing it and listening to the reports of Paul and Barnabas and the wisdom of James, the brother of Jesus, it was decided that Genttiles who believed in Jesus did not need to be circumcised.
Did the early church ever have to deal with finances? Absolutely! Acts 4 tells us that the first Christians shared everything they had with each other so “there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (vv.34,35). Also financial support was given to poor believers in Jerusalem (See II Corinthians 8 where Paul reminds the believers at Corinth to complete the task they had started of collecting money for these suffering believers.). Paul, although he was a tent maker, also received financial gifts from churches like the one at Philippi. Money was an important resource to be shared but it was not the central focus of the early church.
Could it be that one reason for the decline in our church is that we have taken something of secondary importance and made it a priority while making a biblical priority secondary in importance? The great commission is to make disciples. Perhaps we will grow when we understand what is truly the business of the church and make it our primary focus.