I grew up in the Church, but never really felt like the Church cared about me. As a result, I was searching for a place that exhibited the love, acceptance, and forgiveness found in Christ. Later, while preparing for ministry, I met Pastor Jerry Cook, author of a book entitled “Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness”, a philosophy that exactly matched my vision of Christ’s Church. Pastor Cook’s view of the Church walking out in love, acceptance, and forgiveness of Christ played a pivotal role in forming my vision of ministry and for the first time, I realized that it was within reach. For the last twenty-one years of ministry, I have focussed on and taught the concept of the Church walking in love, acceptance, and forgiveness including the two types of Church systems found there.
The Church as a Field
The Church as a field is an analogy of a farmer’s field. Everything happens in the field; the seed is planted, watered, and grows within the confines of the field all under the direct control and supervision of the farmer. In the same way, the Church as a field sees everything occur within the confines of the church building with the “professional” Pastor responsible for overseeing all the work and ministry that happens. The Pastor leads people to the Lord, teaches, is involved in, and controls everything within the church walls. Essentially, the “church” is defined as the building and the activities are the “ministry” of the people where they serve God and the “organization”. The focus turns inward to keep programs going and the organization running smoothly. People come to a saving knowledge of Christ if they can be persuaded to walk through the church doors. The services are designed to keep them entertained and programs are intended for retention and growth of the organization. In short, the church building becomes the field.
The Church as a Force
“The Church is people, redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit, equipped to serve, meeting the needs everywhere in Jesus’ name.” The Church is out and about during the week praying for people, leading people to the Lord, working individually in the ministry that God has gifted them in. The people do the work and don’t rely on the “professional,” releasing the Pastor to train, equip, and mentor God’s people to bring them to maturity in Christ. Sunday morning service is a time of rest and restoration. The Church comes together to share what God has done throughout the week, to be encouraged, uplifted, and fortified in order to go out and minister; living the purpose of Christ in the world on a daily basis. The focus is outward, reaching people where they are through the power of the Holy Spirit in a climate of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. The Church is fulfilling the mandate of Jesus to go into the world; the world is the field where His work is done.
Taken from Ephesians 4, Pastor Cook wrote his book in 1979 (updated in 2004) and I believe that the concepts illustrated are as relevant today as they were then, perhaps more so. In this age of social media, instant gratification, and excessive focus on materialism and self, the only path to contentment and eternity is the reality of abundant life through the love, acceptance, and forgiveness that can only be found in a redeeming relationship Jesus Christ.