The May 22nd Episode of the Rainer on Leadership podcast is titled “Six Reasons to Love the Established Church.” There was a time in my ministry when I did not love the established church. Even now, it’s sometimes a struggle.
I was raised in the established church. My great-grandfather, Matthew Bunyan Smith, was the pastor of 3rd Baptist Church of Nashville, TN. My grandfather, H. Paul Smith, was a pastor and missionary.So, you see, there’s a lot of history…and baggage there. I became disillusioned with the established church. It had all the vim and vigor of a glacier. Even when it could admit that something was wrong, it took FOREVER to get anything changed.
I answered a call to missionary work during college. I earned a degree in missions and was all set to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of our planet. That calling didn’t go as I had envisioned.
When I was church planting, I was preparing to preach the Luke 5 account of Jesus reaching out and touching a leper and cleansing him.
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
He touched the untouchable before he cleansed him. The order in which he did this caused me to ask the question, “Who are my lepers?” I realized “church people” and the established church were my lepers. I didn’t want to touch them.
Convicted, I began to pray that God would give me a heart for “church people” and the established church. My next ministry was in a 130-year-old church and I’ve been working in church revitalization since. I confess that I still struggle at times to understand church people. I have to constantly exegete the culture of the established church before I can help them understand, and reach out to, the unchurched culture around them.
One young woman in my current church said, “God called you to be a missionary to the established church.”