Is there a right way or a wrong way to do church? The church has been defined as not a building but the assembly or gathering of believers. The location and building of a church do not matter as much as what goes on in the church. You can argue that just because a group of people gather together, does that make a church? No, it is the gathering of saints (faithful and holy, believers) who come together in the name of Jesus Christ to worship him and be unified together in faith.
I am not wanting to define what is the church as I am more so wanting to say the service and goal of the church can be done the wrong way. I do believe Scripture gives some guidelines in how a church should function (Acts 2:42-47). With that, we also have some flexibility within those guidelines as Scripture may not be specific. For example, the building, music style, and the frequency of the Lord’s Supper is not in specified in the Bible. The Bible does not tell one how to adjust to contemporary culture yet is relevant for one to live in context to ones culture. On the other side, there is a danger of being innovative while missing these guidelines that are presented to the bride of Christ, the church. Granted, I would be amiss to assume that my approach to church is the best way or right way.
I think there is a great responsibility for the pastor to study the Word of God, seeking to apply Biblically what Scripture gives as those guidelines with the desire to proclaim the whole counsel of God.
How can you do church the wrong way?
1) The Method is more important the Message
Over and over the methodology of church structure and service structure are thought through to what seems to look the best or be the best. I do think that as pastors and church leaders we should strive to serve the Lord as best as we can (Colossians 3:23). I am thankful for the church leaders who strive to use their creative abilities in wanting to reach the lost. But, I strongly urge that the methodology cannot and should not ever trump the proclaiming of the whole counsel of God. When methodology replaces or overshadows the proclamation of God’s Word, the pastor/leader is directing the congregation in the wrong direction.
Though methodology may bring an influx in numbers as marketing can be done right, yet if the message is lacking it will be a short impact instead of long-term growth. Methods for a church are good and needed, yet fail in comparison to the greatness of the Word of God which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The message should shape the methodology and not the other way around. The message of the Gospel through expository preaching is needed. As Jesus even points out that all of Scripture points to Him (Luke 24:27).
2) Pragmatic and Not Prayerful
Pragmatism is defined as dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. The danger of approaching church in a pragmatic way leads to decisions that are reactionary. Prayerfully seeking the counsel of the Word of God helps with reactionary thinking as well as visionary planning. A healthy church is one that consistently over time is prayerfully studying the Word of God together through expository preaching.
My friend and Pastor Daniel Eichelberger listed the five reasons for a slow growth church: 1) Quality is better than quantity 2) Good growth is likely lasting growth 3) Churches are not factories 4) Your ability to shepherd well will grow with time 5) Frail, faithful churches look a lot like Jesus because slow-growing churches appear weak. Given these reasons of a slow growth, we can see at certain times where godly, Biblical churches have quick growth too yet it seems more than not that slow growth is healthier for the church long term.
3) Attractional and Not Biblical
The Bible as the Word of God is remarkable! Jesus is enough! We do not need to dress up or add to the Gospel message. The attractional model desires to add more to appeal to the unchurched person to come into its doors. I understand the desire to reach the lost, and that is commendable and Biblical.
God takes his time and time is important for the pastor/lead to realize that it is rare to have fast growth instead of slow growth. The Biblical model of growth is discipleship. Discipleship takes time, it is hard work. It is messy. You can not rush discipleship and it is must implement the Biblical model
The danger of the attractional model is that it will draw people, not to the greatness of Jesus but the greatness of the church. Jared C. Wilson said in his book The Prodigal Church, “They may be won not to the church but to the event. They may be converted not to Christian community but to religious activity. You can’t program discipleship.” Events are not bad, but a good saying is, “What you win them with, you got to keep them with.” You will constantly have to outdo yourself at the next event.
Another danger is the thinking that one must do extra things to draw in someone to the church when Jesus is the most attractional aspect of the church. When one thinks about the Gospel message, that Jesus lived perfectly, died a sacrificial death for us, and rose again from the dead three days later, that alone is amazing and worth highlighting.
The desire is for the church to faithfully exalt Christ and to be confident in the sufficiency in Scripture which surpasses time and culture.