Thursday, February 26, 2009


A few weeks ago I went to a meeting with mega-church leaders and micro-church leaders. There were about 50 key leaders in attendance; some were from the largest churches in America (all over 5000 in attendance), and some from the smallest churches in America – house churches, small groups and cells. And then there was me. As a network, CTK is small and large at the same time. The meeting lasted two days, talking about how big churches can support little churches, and vice-versa. But the conversation was largely superficial, until the very last hour, when something really significant happened.

One of the micro church pastors turned to one of the mega-church pastors and asked, “What do you need from us? What do you want from the house church?” Without skipping a beat, this mega church pastor said, “Grace....We need grace. Quit throwing stones at the mega church. Quit launching grenades. We need grace. We love people and want to see them become followers of Christ. We just do it in a different way than you. We need grace.” Up until that point there was an elephant in the room. We were talking about how to work together, but we did’t much like each other.

Let’s be clear: before we can get the work done with our hands, we need to get the work done in our hearts. We are here to experience and express the grace of God. There is no question that we have experienced grace. The question is, "Will we express it?" As I was thinking about what happened in that room between those two pastors the word that came into my mind – maybe a synonym for grace - was validation. It is incumbent upon members of the body to validate other members of the body. What that large church pastor was saying, in essence, was, "I need you to validate my ministry." And if the shoe would have been put on the different foot it would have fit. Small church pastors are longing to be validated by large church pastors.

We sometimes try to do city-wide events with other churches, some in hopes that the world will see that we are united. But the world does not see us as divided because we don't do events together. The world sees us as divided because we talk smack about each other. There’s a need for us to look at what others are doing and say, “Isn’t that great!” As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:21: The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" God works in different ways at different times and places. In fact it's not way, it's ways. All the time we spend trying to figure out which one "way" God is at work is dissipated waste. God is the head of the body. He is at work in various ways in people’s lives.

One of the long-standing challenges with Christianity is that however God is at work in our story, we imagine that that is the only way God could be at work in another story. We need to fall in love with the master and the mission, not the model or the method. Let me suggest 3 steps we can take to validate those whose ministry is different than yours:

1. your heart about what God is doing throughout the world. His work is much bigger than us.

2. Recognize...what God is doing throughout the world. Validate the thing that is different than you, maybe opposite of you. For those of us in a church like CTK that is not programmatic, or institutional or traditional, it might mean expressing thanks to the ministries that are programmatic, or institutional or traditional. When was the last time you said, "Thanks."

3. Report...give a good report to others about ministries of other styles in other places. Spread some good gossip. As Ben Franklin said, "Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know about everybody."

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