During my twenty years in full-time ministry, eighteen as a pastor, and two as a missionary, I have lost track of the number of times I have heard words like these from church leaders:
I feel overwhelmed every day. Why does everyone expect the church staff to do everything around here?
What can we do to help these people move from just coming to church on Sunday morning to getting involved in the mission of the church?
I am putting all my time, energy, and resources into our youth ministry. Why are the majority of young people leaving the church and their faith when they go to college?
I spend all day helping everyone else grow spiritually, but I am losing the hearts of my family. I am loved at church, but I feel like a disappointment at home.
I tell everyone else how important it is to pray and read the Bible. If they only knew that I rarely take the time to do those things myself.
If we are serious about the Great Commission, if we are serious about making disciples, it is time for our local churches to start doing less. You read correctly. Less!
Perhaps this analogy will help get us started. You are likely familiar with the concept of “limited government.” Christians have traditionally believed that God created the institution of government for a specific, limited number of purposes. For example, according to Romans 13, God created earthly governments to protect its citizens and bring justice against wrongdoers. God did not create earthly governments to provide everyone with a job. God did not create earthly governments to replace parents. These roles are outside the divine purpose, or proper jurisdiction, of government.
Those who believe in limited government believe that when government exercises limited authority within its proper jurisdiction, the maximum number of people are free, safe, and have the opportunity to prosper. On the other hand, when government seeks to exercise authority, control, and direction outside its God-given jurisdiction and responsibilities, the citizens are increasingly dominated, in danger, and lose the ability to provide for themselves and their families.
A limited government, built on biblical principles, blesses the maximum number of people. An out-of-control government, which does what it wants when it wants, is a curse and becomes an oppressor.
In the same way, God created the institution of the local church with a specific mission, and gave the local church specific practices to accomplish that mission. When a local church limits itself to its God-given mission, the maximum number of people are blessed. On the other hand, an out-of-control church, which does what it wants when it wants, actually hinders the mission and stunts the spiritual growth of the congregation.