Pastors & Plumbers Print
Saturday, 19 January 2008 19:03

 Having just bought my first home, pipes have taken a more significant place in my life. A broken pipe is bad news. It has occurred to me, however, that the reason pipes are so important to me is that water is important to me. In fact, we don?t really think much about pipes until they break, but we think about water every day.

I am coming to see that much of what we give attention to in church leadership these days are pipes. Most of the programs, principles and practices of church growth and mission are really just pipes - conduits of living water. Whether they be small groups or Sunday school; seeker services or traditional services - they are really just different pipes.

Ministry pipes are of great significance, for without them we would have no way of bringing the life-giving water to a thirsty world. Some pipes are better than others. Some are stronger, some are more resistant to corrosion, some have a greater capacity for increased volume, but all pipes basically serve the same function - channeling water. All our ministries are basically for one function - translating God's word into people's lives. We may disagree on which pipes are better, but we must agree on the purpose of the pipes.

A bad pipe can be very damaging. When a particular pipe is leaking you need to patch it or replace it. A rusty pipe can even pollute its contents, and so can a method of ministry that begins to take on the authority and permanence of God's word itself. The water can be clouded by the faulty pipes and can cause sickness.

My problem is that I often see the pipes as an end in themselves. Our methods are often seen as the needed ingredient to bring success to our churches. However, pipes are never an end in themselves. Water is the main thing, the pipes are to facilitate the getting of water. What would be the point of pipes that never tap into a water source?

Often we design a ministry system thinking that it is going to be the final ingredient to prosperity for our church, but pipes don't satisfy thirst...water does. In the same way, we can't see our great strategies and plans to be the solution to our ministry, only a channel for the solution. Someone once said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." People need pipes because people need water. We can't live for more than a few days without water, but people have lived lifetimes without pipes.

For example, the cell-based model is not the solution for the western church. Neither is the seeker model, the purpose-driven model or the traditional church model. I will even admit that the organic church is not the secret to reaching the nations. It may be the best conduit for the solution - the longest lasting, greatest volume and cleanest - but it is not the solution.

Jesus said... "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." --John 7:37-38

by Neil Cole