The Need For the Five Fold
If you took a poll of your current congregation, of those who are considered “new” who have come to your church over the past year, the past 12 months, you might discover why they are there. Most “new” people today are not newly born Christians but Christians who are hopping from church to church. What has drawn them to your local congregation? You need to also ask what has drawn those away from your local congregation over the year? The results of why may surprise you.
I know of evangelical minded congregations that are mainly evangelistic in nature: offering an altar call at every service and often seeing people responding to that call. If everyone who got “saved” remained in that church, it would instantly become a mega-church and remain that way because of its constant growth pattern. Unfortunately, many who are spiritually born in that kind of church climate and atmosphere eventually leave because they think they have mature or grow beyond what that congregation offers. Often they are hungry for growth. As a toddler becomes school age, he wants to leave mom and go to school to be “a big boy or girl”. Spiritually, that happens too in Christian growth.
That growth may cause one to seek further nurturing, in depth Bible study with teaching, a desire to listen to the small voice of the Holy Spirit and be obedient to it, a chance to be socially active in one’s community through food kitchens and clothing banks, to become advocates for those who have experienced social injustice, and so on…. The current congregation supplied what was needed for a time or season, but one’s spiritual growth spurt has urged one to move on in another direction, during another season, to experience
another step of faith in one’s faith journey.
Often these transition times are painful, for church is all about relationships. I am a proponent of equipping the saints, but the hard part is releasing them to move on in their gifting, their calling, their destiny. It is hard to release a sheep to join another herd, and because of that when the sheep is pleating to be released we often send them out into the wilderness alone, bewildered, frustrated, and seemingly lost instead of helping them toward another flock, or congregation, where they can be fed and properly released when mature in the faith.
Unfortunately, rather than investing in equipping the saints and developing their Christian character, numbers have often been the barometer to measure a church’s success. Last decade it was how many church members are on one’s roll that provided the data needed for supposed success. Today, mega-churches are envied for their numbers as large auditoriums measure the success of a church. The church needs to look beyond numbers, and look toward Christian development.
How do you judge success in Christian development? If your congregation is over 50 years old, over two generation of believers, how many members, average church people, have been developed and released as evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, or apostles? What is a mature Christian to be doing in order to be considered a “success” in the Christian world? Is he out winning the lost, nurturing the newborns, teaching those younger believers in the ways of the Kingdom and truths in the Bible, proclaiming the written word, the Bible as the Rhema word, the living word, listening to the small voice of the Holy Spirit for himself and being obedient to it, or seeing over the Christian development of his fellow believers, equipping, encouraging, and releasing them in their destiny, or is he still “coming” to church every Sunday to do “church” by sitting passively in the pew to listen to yet another sermon, shake hands with the saints, and tithe to financially support the local congregation’s institutional efforts. I am sorry, but the latter is what is filling up most churches on Sunday.
People naturally grow physically, mentally, psychologically, and if “born again,” spiritually. That individual spiritual growth, if not fed by the local congregation, will produce restlessness in an individual to move on to another congregation that can fulfill that need to grow causing a person to leave their current congregation. This restlessness may be destructive to relationships, and the church is all about relationships. Most church hoppers have been “hurt” by some Christian somewhere. Christian churches are often hospitals for the wounded: those not knowing Jesus who have been hurt by the world and need a spiritual healing and a spiritual life; and those who know Jesus and have been hurt by fellow Christians in their Christian walk. I am not blaming local churches for this phenomenon, because children make mistakes when growing. They challenge authority. But Christian churches do not allow you to make mistakes, nor challenge authority. Most churches really do not have “parenting skills” needed to nurture their “children” properly, so that they can release them as mature Christians when it is time to “leave home” and “be on their own”! Most churches groom dependence, not independents.
Only when we, the church, get to the point that we take Christian growth seriously will we embrace the five fold, for in it there is a model for birth, for nurture and care, for grounding theologically, for development spiritually as a person, a believer in Jesus Christ, a building of trust in the Holy Spirit, and a protection through proper oversight and development. I believe if we had true five fold churches, church hopping would become history, looked upon as a weird phenomenon that once happened in churches. Why would you want to hop to another local body if your spiritual development was birthed, continued, and completed in your current local body? That is my vision of the five fold.