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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Upside Down Church by Greg Laurie

Pastor Greg Laurie is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. This book was written in 1999 and, at that time, his church was one of the 10 biggest churches in America then. Now they have 15,000 members so it is still considered one of the megachurches in America. Pastor Laurie lost his son, Christopher, this year in a car accident on his way to the church. He was only 33 years old and I'm sure that has been very hard on the Laurie family. I pray for the peace that passes all understanding for Pastor Laurie, his wife, Cathe, and their son Jonathon, Christopher's wife, Brittany, and their daughter, Stella.

Stan and I are looking for a church and I've discussed this in prior postings. I've been studying what a church should be and came across this book at the library. It was really good. Laurie started off with little things. He was born again in 1970 as a young man and within a few weeks was sharing his faith with others. His church started off as a Bible study and slowly built up. He says, "What God requires of us is faithfulness. And if we are 'faithful in the little things,' He will give us more to do in His perfect timing. Scripture reminds us to not despise 'the day of small things'." I'm not sure how I feel about megachurches but I liked Laurie's down-to-earth style in this book. I've seen local pastors mimicking Laurie's style even down to riding Harley Davidson motorcycles.

He talks about the beginning of the church with the Disciples and other Jesus followers. "Two centuries ago a group of believers, led by twelve men armed with little more than the message of the gospel, turned the world completely upside down. This was a relatively small group of believers who began meeting in an obscure upstairs room. They lacked almost every advantage we enjoy today. They didn't have mass media, computer and satellite technology, or stadium rallies. They didn't have the ability to publish their materials or the financial resources to build beautiful cathedrals.

"And yet the church these Christians founded together in the small room upstairs not only survived but flourished. While being attacked spiritually and physically, this small group of men and women spread the message of salvation abroad and performed countless miracles in Christ's name. From every possible perspective - spiritual, historical, political - they left the world a different place from the way they found it."

I've found myself asking why should we go to church? I know better, but it was good to hear it again. "Many people question the validity of the church as an institution. But the church is the only organization that Jesus himself established."

I've found myself in this group: "Or maybe you're among the many Christians in the so-called boomer and buster generations who have grown a bit cynical. You're not so much disappointed with God as you are disappointed with church."

The First Church
Acts 2:42-46
And they were continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and in fellowship and in the breaking of the loaves, and in prayers. And fear came on every soul. And many wonders and miracles took place through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things common. And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. And continuing with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they shared food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

These disciples walked in the Spirit (not in the flesh); they kept God's purpose in mind rather than the people's desires; and, acted in God's ways and not their own. Laurie breaks these three things down very well.

Laurie says that his goal is to promote the gospel, help his people grow in Christ and multiply God's work in the world. Unfortunately, numbers have become the measuring tool for some pastors NOT for how many souls are saved but how successful their churches are. And congregations are getting used to a "consumer" experience. Consumers consume which means "it's all about appetite..." Laurie says that some churches are looking at how to market to that appetite. They do market surveys, figure out the demographics, offer programs to attract or keep spiritual consumers. Full service churches. Laurie doesn't denigrate anyone and even sees some benefits to this such as drawing the unsaved into the church, motivating believers to be relevant to people's real needs and caring about others, finding new ways to communicate, being creative and diverse in approaches. But he also points out the dangers. It can take God out of top priority and puts people in top priority. If it becomes people oriented rather than God oriented, it is idolatrous (my words, not Laurie's). God must be first. "God can meet the needs of our generation with or without a lot of spiffy marketing techniques to help Him out. At best they're optional. But what the church can never do without is God's own blueprints."

He says that the first church was a Worshiping church, an Evangelizing church, a Learning church, a Loving church...W.E.L.L. He did a great job explaining this in more detail.

Laurie goes on with much more and I got a lot out of it. I thank God for this book and how it reminded me of what I'm looking for and why I'm looking.

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