Church as decentralized web

It’s not in my job description, or wouldn’t be if I had one. But I joyfully spend a not insignificant amount of time helping saints connect with other saints.

Except for Antartica, we’ve touched all the continents. We’ve helped people find churches in places like Japan, France, New Zealand, and Malawi. Even the American states of Virginia and Kentucky have not escaped our searches.

Today, it was closer to home. I finally got answers for a brother in Rio looking for churches or contacts in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

You’d think that, with the Internet, it would be an easier job to have an online directory for churches. The problem is keeping it up to date. All kinds of sites are out there. None I know of have current data. That’s especially true for churches in Brazil. Hence the personal involvement.

Even in our own region we have people who don’t respond to queries. Some people don’t care about an online directory of churches. That is, until they want information for somewhere they don’t know about.

Last week, I found out that a preacher had been in our city several years ago to visit the family of one of their exchange students. He didn’t know we were here. I’ve no idea how much he searched, but we’re on the internet with our own easily found webpage. Instead of worshiping with the church and introducing the family to a great group of Christians, they worshiped in the family’s home. That works, too, and God probably used that experience for the family, but how much better would it have been …

One feels mystified by how the first-century saints found each other. One suspects they were such intense proclaimers of the gospel that people everywhere knew who and where they were. Times have changed.

One missions strategist said we ought to have buildings on major avenues so people can find us. Like McDonalds. I shall be charitable toward this idea by saying only that it fails miserably. First, those bigger buildings hold bigger churches which tend to be the first ones to go wrong. Second, such buildings tend to be sinkholes of money and time and keep national brethren from developing.

A good brother decades ago used to lament that we didn’t have the organizations and parachurch ministries like the denominations. He’d be delighted to see what the brotherhood has done today. But I’m old school. The Lord Jesus leaves up to the local congregation the work to be done. God gave dynamism and fluidity to Christians and churches. He provided the body of Christ a flexibility and capability that allows them to work well. Simplicity means agility. Instead of a mammoth ship that takes a mile to change directions, the church of Jesus Christ is a sailboat that tacks on a second’s notice. Except people are weighing it down so that it’s about to sink.

No centralization for the Lord’s people, thanks. Because our Savior and Wise Guide made his church into the original decentralized web that allows one to be connected to many, and many to One.

Forthright Magazine is a service of the GoSpeak Missions Ministry and Forthright Press.

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet. His microblog is randal.us.

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