Saturday, November 23, 2013

Nothing or a little bit? None or two? (How Much Money and How Many People does it take to start a church?)

Everybody knows it takes a lot of money and people and a good band and a funny, smart speaker to “start a church.” Competence, training, giftedness, skill, good looks, healthy psychological profile, good health and general goodness and greatness. A beautiful wife and kids doesn’t hurt. Okay, scratch that. You absolutely need a beautiful wife and kids. Go check it out at The First Church of What’s Happening Now in your area. See for yourself. It must be true. Everybody knows it.
There are a four problems with what “everybody knows”:
1. It’s not true. “Everybody” is limited to Americans and American wannabes around the world.
2. It’s not how Jesus taught his first followers to do it.
3. It’s not how the rapidly growing Jesus-follower movements around the world are doing it today.
4. It’s not what the Bible says about the upside-down kingdom where strong is weak, weak is powerful, and poor is rich. It’s not what the Bible says about God choosing to use cracked- pots so no one will confuse his power with human effort and his glory with human arrogance.
So, I raise two questions:
How much money does it really take to start a church
How many people do you need to start a church?

Bear with me. This won’t take long. There are only two answers and they are really short and easy to figure out.

The two, possible correct answers are:
$0. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Squat. Goose egg. Bagel. Jesus doesn’t need money to rule the world and be King of the universe.
Some. A little bit of money—whatever it took the Jesus-follower to get to where he or she was sent by Jesus to meet the person of peace (also sent to that same spot by God).
I’m not sure which answer is the correct one, but I’m pretty sure it is one of these two, and no other answer. I still crack up every time I remember hearing that one First Church of What’s Happening Now requires 50 people minimum to start a church (because that’s what you need musically to make it sound good, I think they believe). My old denominations (I was ordained in two different ones) thought you needed about 200 rich people so you could afford the needed building and salary, pension and benefits to afford a seminary-trained religious professional. Man, are they good managing pensions! I digress.
There are also two, possible correct answers to this question:
0. Zero. No one. Nobody. Jesus is the initiator, the starter, the builder of HIS church.
2. Two. It takes two people to start a church since, by definition, a church exists wherever two or three come together in Jesus’ name and, remember, Jesus sent them and us to go two by two, right?

This question is easier to answer with certainty than the first question. The correct answer has to be the first one: zero people are needed to start a church. Jesus said he is the starter of his church: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Two is almost right, but not quite. Jesus sent them out two by two to “teach people to obey Jesus,” not start churches. When we do our part (teach to obey), Jesus does his part (builds a church that makes hell fear). Two people together cannot start a church by themselves, since Jesus needs to bring them together and show up for it to be church at all.
One person does not a church make, nor two people meeting without Jesus present through the Holy Spirit.

Brian J. Dodd, Ph.D.

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