Little Foxes and Other Legalisms

I’ve been taking some heat lately.

A few weeks ago I published a free book – How Nearly Anyone Can Start a Microchurch. That triggered frustration in several people who judged the book by its cover.

“You’re saying just any person who wants to leave our church and pull a bunch of people can just go do whatever they want…”

Well, that’s not what the book is about.

And If I had people like that in my congregation, I’d be happy to see them go (taking likeminded people with them).

The other sound and fury came from those who can’t support micro because of its size.

“You can’t have an elder board in such a small group.”

As if they could find an elder board in the Bible. Besides, if you send them, they operate under the spiritual authority of your board.

No real problem there.

These legalisms and other little foxes spoil the vine called church.

While Solomon wrote of a vineyard, Jesus spoke of the church. “You say it’s for months till harvest, but I say the harvest is ready to go” (my paraphrase).

We postpone, or even prevent, the harvest with our legalisms.

Have you noticed that the harvest isn’t interested in religion, especially when it’s legalistic. Seventy percent of Americans say that they’re not religious at all. They just don’t care.

This while we play musical chairs with the 30 percent of the harvest that’s already in the barns.

Church planting has grown less effective as we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lighting up a big Sunday show in hopes of attracting disgruntled believers from other churches.

The good news is that a major chunk of that 70 percent are white unto harvest.

Between 2012 and 2017 the percentage of “spiritual, not religious” grew by fifty percent.

That equates to a lot of folks interested in God but not your church, or mine.

We must stop asking these people to act as missionaries.

Inviting the harvest to find it’s way into our barns is bad enough but when we clog the entrance with rules and religious structures, we completely miss the opportunities around us.

We’re the missionaries.

We need to go to the harvest where people work, eat and play.

Microchurch is all about taking the living water of Jesus into their world. You wouldn’t ask a person in Syria to move to America to sample your church? Why would you expect the same of a Syrian immigrant living two miles from you. The obvious gospel path is for someone to enter their world, build trust and share the joy of the Lord.

Same goes for other people groups.

What about people recently broken by divorce? Or the kids at the skatepark? Those who hang out in a place “where everybody knows their name?”

We pull people out of their world rather than equipping them to evangelize it.

I’m no standup comedian but I recently pulled down a huge laugh from a large group of friends. I was invited to describe the revival we experienced back in the 1970s.

That was all about taking the gospel into the streets, parks, beaches and bars.

One sentence triggered the laughter.

It also revealed a little fox.

The admonition to drink a lot of coffee, or a lot of beer, along the way to building friendships with pre-Christians set off a storm of mirth. It confused me until someone whispered, “Our denomination forbids alcohol.”

I get it.

Alcohol ruins a lot of lives. But the call for total abstinence has more to do with the years leading up to prohibition than the Bible. We’re told to never get drunk while taking a little wine for our stomach’s sake.

This is no plea for Christ-followers to start hanging out in bars—unless that means hanging out with someone you’re trying to evangelize.

A hundred years ago, during prohibition, we turned politics into ecclesiology.

I grew up in a church which preached that tobacco would take you till hell. I then attended a Bible college where we read Charles Spurgeon. My native legalism over tobacco nearly cost me the joy of reading a giant of the faith.

Good thing I figured that out before I began reading C.S. Lewis—a man with a pipe.

Little foxes of legalism build walls between us and a world which desperately needs the love of God.

After teaching about the harvest, Jesus sent his disciples into the fields. His instructions included finding a person of peace then helping that could bring the good news to their household (and friends). Seems to me he was talking about what I’d call a microchurch.

So, it’s time to take inventory. What are your little foxes? Can you cage them before they destroy Jesus’ call on your life?