We often use terms that are not commonly heard, so we like to define them to make it possible for everyone involved with the Pastoral Advocacy Network to be working with the same understandings. Today I want to define the terms “Cause” based ministries and “Location” based ministries as we use them.
America was founded primarily on the concept of a “location” based ministry. When our forefathers arrived here from various parts of the world they brought with them a strong vision for planting churches in every community. These were led by ministers who were taught to establish the local church model. All across our land, wherever new towns and cities were built, local churches sprang up to meet the growing needs of an expanding community. They grew the fastest in the densely populated areas. They mushroomed where traveling distance, the best communication opportunities and large sanctuaries provided a gathering place for the religious programs as well as protection from the elements. For many, the distance that the church bell could be heard determined the size of its harvest field.
Even today, the “location” based ministry concept of evangelizing our nation dominates our understanding of the term “church”. For generations we have been taught to believe that the “location” based ministry or local church is the center of spiritual activity. Its stained glass sanctuary is the ideal environment to worship God. Its classrooms, the training centers to teach people spiritual principles. The fellowship hall is for various secondary gatherings. Their altars are for sinners to repent and saints to be refreshed. And, it’s offering plates, the biblical storehouse for tithes and offerings. Generally speaking, “location” based ministries are attendee funded. The leaders are mainly Seminary or Bible College trained professionals, though many churches are led by non-professionals.
Most church planters say that people will only go to a specific church if it is within a 10-15 minute drive, has adequate parking, the programs they desire and can identify with its music and message. This research and training clearly help define the layout of its structures, development of its ministry programs, its means of funding and its mode of presenting its message. When these criteria are met people recognize it as a church. Such location based ministries are essential to the development of vibrant faith in our land.
To the traditional pillar of the “location” based ministry the Lord is adding more and more of what we call “Cause” based ministry. The “Cause” based ministry is built on the concept that the ministry’s work is determined by a singular worthy cause. Their purpose is to meet the unmet needs of specific people in our world who desire a personal touch from God.
These ministries do not need buildings, or be concerned with traveling distance. They thrive on the fellowship of common pursuit, the joint worship of God while meeting the need of its cause, and training its participants by new methods of communication. Yet, “cause” based ministries are every bit a part of the true church, standing side by side with “location” based ministries.
“Cause” ministries are on the rise for a number of reasons:
- Communication and Involvement Opportunities. For the majority of history the best means to communicate something was to gather people together. Now, times are changing. Added to the radio, television, phone, and printed materials, the internet is opening unexpected opportunities not only to communicate, but for involvement of many people from many locations. You can email people all over the world inexpensively, having intense and meaningful relationships. Soon this will be expanded to include a means to talk over the internet and even connect visually by web cams. Right now you can send offerings and gifts directly to the people of need within minutes without having to work with the cumbersome bureaucracies of corporate organizations or denominations. What once was a bell on top of a church tower that rang out a call to its local church members is now an internet connection that draws people together from around the world to participate in the same ministry cause.
- Increase of Available Ministers. Many ministers are being reassigned by the Lord from “location” based ministries into “cause” based ministries. Discomforting things are happening to pastors and spiritual leaders everywhere that are driving them out of their pulpits. Whether they resign or are removed by a forced termination, the result is the same. They are without opportunity or desire to work in a “location” based ministry again, but retain the calling of God to serve somewhere. From the ranks of these displaced Pulpit Pastors God is raising up those who are becoming anointed Street Shepherds with a cause. Many of these Street Shepherds are beginning to see how God can use them to touch the lives of needy people that are not or cannot be addressed by the local churches. (See the definition of “The Principle of Reassignment.”).
- Creative New Vision. “Cause” based ministries are limited only by the God inspired imagination. When a minister is left alone with God very exciting things can happen as they heal. Rising from the ashes of their loss they are being transformed by the healing power of their Savior. They are experiencing a renewal of their calling and being re-energized with insight into what it means to win the lost. These new visions are being expressed in the creation of new ministries and methods.
- An Expanded Understanding of the Meaning of a Storehouse. A ministry storehouse for finances is the place that you have not only chosen to support with tithes and offerings, but have chosen to actually become personally involved. It is the place where you have seen its vision as your own and you can put your hand to its plow of service. There you can give of your life, energy, prayers, talents and money in fulfillment of the great commission to go into all of the world and preach the gospel.
These legitimate “cause” based ministries are a welcomed addition to established “location” based works that have graced our land since its founding. They are serving to expand the Kingdom of God in an ever increasing complex society and meet the biblical designation of “church”.