Every church begins in hope. Whether it is a new denomination or new local church, the common attitude among the founders is that God is going to be pleased with this effort because it constitutes either an extension of His realm of authority or a purification of it. The former refers to the planting of churches in new locations for the purpose of gathering “unchurched” (or “dechurched”) people. The latter refers to those who come out of an existing denomination or local church because of the perception of error or apostasy in the existing environment. In either case, spirits are high and founders are expectant of God’s blessing.
The next stage is growth as the founders reach out to others to share their excitement. Regardless of theological issues, sociological and organizational dynamics usually combine to foster growth. Newcomers join and hopes remain high…as long as the growth continues.
Sooner or later, the last stage of church life is reached either when growth subsides and the congregation cannot financially sustain itself or when perceived error or apostasy arises and some within feel called to step out and start another denomination or church. And thus another cycle begins.
It’s a dismal cycle because it always ends up the same place it started. (For this reason, it’s a circle as well as a cycle.) Moreover, it does not advance the realm of God’s authority – it merely avoids that authority while paying lip service to it. I say this because God’s authority is advanced when people obey Jesus and there no record in the Bible of Jesus commanding anyone to start denominations or churches.
To avoid this cycle, the Lord brought in the kingdom of God at the close of the New Testament age so that church life would no longer be necessary. You see, the New Testament church itself started in great hope but was eventually plagued with error and apostasy, as the letters of the New Testament amply testify (both prospectively and contemporaneously). For this reason, God designed that the church age should last just one generation, succeeded by the eternal kingdom age – that is, the age of eternity in which we live.
People who choose to pursue church instead of the kingdom of God are doomed to the negative cycle described above. It has never been avoided and never can be avoided. If you are happy with your church right now, just give things time.
The only solution to this vain pursuit is to do what the Lord said to do: seek the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). This kingdom can be found by following the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, who speaks in our consciences.
The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.