I grew up in a culture that idolized the almighty start-up. Whether it was Steve Jobs’s genius forged in a garage, Bill Gates’s quest to create the perfect operating system, or Google’s internet-eclipsing success, the moral behind the stories was clear: It pays to be a part of the next big thing.
I still hear this message reverberate among the young women I teach. They love Jesus. They love his Word. And yet somewhere along the line, the idea of a unique and individual “calling” has descended on their shoulders like a ton of bricks. They want to do big things for God’s big kingdom, but the end result is often paralysis. They don’t use their gifts because they aren’t sure where they’ll have maximum impact.
But the church doesn’t just need entrepreneurs with big ideas; the church also needs stick-with-iters. We don’t need more sharks in the shark tank. We need fishers of men, willing to do the ongoing and often unglamorous work of kingdom investment over the long haul.
The Original Start-Up
The church is the original start-up, launched in an upper room, led by co-founders Jesus and the Holy Spirit and a bunch of guys crazy enough to bet everything they had on the mission. The church is how the gospel went viral. The disciples set the world on fire with their message and a simple mission statement:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:19–20)
More than 2,000 years later, the novelty may have worn off, but the mission hasn’t changed. We’re called to make disciples, teach the Word, and cheer each other on as we strive to be a source of light in a dark world.
The church is how the gospel went viral.
And we’re called to do all these things primarily through the church. The local church may not be breaking news, but it’s uniquely designed to achieve its mission.
The Church Has Unique Authority
As Paul traveled through Europe and Asia planting churches, he implemented a specific and effective leadership structure. Titus 1:5–9 describes the appointment of elders. These overseers are to be godly, self-controlled, and dedicated to the welfare of the local church. Matthew 18 shows how to lead the flock to exercise discipline when needed. Ephesians 4:11–16 calls shepherds in a church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
God has given church leaders authority in our individual and collective lives for the sake of spiritual health. Part of the allure of the start-up mentality is the ability to buck the system and forge our own path, but we never outpace our need for pastoral authority in our lives.
We never outpace our need for pastoral authority in our lives.
The Church Has Unique Funding
Not only is the church the original start-up, it’s also the original crowdsourcing forum. In the Old Testament, God instituted the tithe, calling his people to give a portion of their belongings to kingdom work (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:26; 2 Chron. 31:5). The early church upped the ante, sharing all of their belongings with each other (Acts 4:32). Either way, the big idea is this: Our resources are from the Lord and belong to the Lord. We gladly surrender them for kingdom gain.
Each time we drop money in the offering plate, we loosen our grip on our wallets. We don’t control the exact use of the funds we give, but we trust church leaders to use them to minister to the body. In my church, we need funds for several covert ministry efforts. Examples include:
- Portable communion trays for delivering the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins and the infirm.
- Buying supplies for an anonymous volunteer who cooks chicken pot pies and stocks the church freezer to feed families in crisis.
- Curriculum and supply needs for an anonymous recovery ministry we host and support but cannot advertise.
By giving generously to the local church, we support activities that might not receive funding on their own.
The Church Has Unique Impact
When we minister in the local church, our impact on the surrounding world is cumulative. You use your gifts to serve others. I do the same, and our efforts add another layer of brick and mortar to the foundation laid by Christ and built on by the Christians who came before us. We’re building something together through the ages that Jesus promised will stand through eternity (Matt. 16:18).
As I serve in my own church, I like to think of myself as a runner responsible for a single lap in a long and high-stakes race. The baton that was passed from Christ to Peter to Paul to Augustine to Martin Luther to Jonathan Edwards to Charles Spurgeon to Elisabeth Elliot has, in some ways, been passed to me. I get to share the gospel, teach the Word, and equip the saints for a season, and I don’t want to fumble. Instead of scrambling to build something new, I want to keep building the legacy of the church that’s been under construction for 20 centuries.
The gospel is a message that never needs rebranding. The local church, though operated by broken sinners, will remain the epicenter of individual and cultural renewal until the King returns. Instead of looking to only invest in the next big thing, we should faithfully invest in one of the best things Christ has given us—the local church.