By Bill Martin
Pastor Bill Martin
Some people say that we couldn’t fill the seats of our church, so we closed the doors. While it is true that Points of Hope Church closed the doors to its services at the theatre at the Power Centre, it is because we could no longer pay for the empty seats. In fact, the problem was more about the shortage of boots.
Church should not be about filling seats. The purpose of church is much greater than counting heads in the assemblage. The purpose of church is to empower a movement that makes a difference in our community and, ultimately, in the lives of people around us.
The Christian church is not a building. It is not the gathering place but the gathering. Stated even more accurately, the Christian church is not a monument but a movement, started by Jesus and sustained by those who follow Him.
Unfortunately, today’s church has largely forgotten its roots and its purpose. Success is too often measured in terms of attendance and many churches today have become competitive, like Christian franchises. People have been known to drive by another church so they can count the cars and compare that to the number in their own church parking lot.
Worse, those numbers, however great or small, are too often safely ensconced behind the protective walls of the church. Who are they protected from? Who are the hoping will stay outside? And why do they need great numbers inside?
Such churches are using the wrong scorecard. It doesn’t matter how many people are sitting, because as long as the church is sitting, the movement isn’t moving. It has never been about the bums in the seats: it is always about the boots in the streets.
Church should only be measured by the impact on the community it serves. The Christian movement, as defined by its founder, Jesus Christ, is a call to make a difference in our world. Rather than sit on our hands, we are called to move our feet and use our hands in serving others.
The whole Christian movement is about unselfish love, unselfish giving, unselfish service. Meanwhile, our churches may be full of people saying ‘feed me, let me dine on God’s truth. Fill me up so I can withstand another week in this selfish world.’
There is a role for the church in feeding and filling its members, but it is not to preserve them against the world, it is to prepare them to change the world.
Church should be about teaching, equipping, and empowering a congregation to serve its community, and ultimately, His Kingdom. It should be about moving the congregation out of the church and into the streets.
Of course, the more you have coming in, the more you will have going out. Gathering is important, but it is certainly not the goal. In military terms, church is the staging area, it is where the troops assemble to go on mission.
So, it is true that Points of Hope failed to fill the 242 seats of the theatre. But, it is also true that the seats that were filled were occupied by a mission force that was prepared and sent into the community. The church at the theatre equipped a small group to go out as part of the Christian movement, to demonstrate the love of Jesus, and to make a difference in the community.
Will it be felt right away? Not likely. But it is just the first wave. We will regroup, reassemble, re-equip and keep on going, wave after wave. It is not about how many but about how well we do what Jesus asked us to do.
Bill Martin is Points Leader at Points of Hope Church which is currently seeking a new meeting place. He teaches: Church is a movement to make wrong things right.