“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10: 41-42 (NIV) “What is necessary for church planting” the headline screamed out. The author then went into this ingenious three step program for how to duplicate and replicate what they had predetermined to be successful models of church planting. Each step simply oozing with human wisdom and carnal knowledge that most would find difficult to disagree with. Trainings in this discipline or that. An ever increasing desire to be relevant to the people you are trying to reach. Demographic data and leadership conferences. Details that would make the Andrew Carnegie School proud. Sure enough God is mentioned somewhere in there. Maybe in the introduction. Maybe in the conclusion. Just enough to give the appearance of doing the Lord’s work. Lip service before launching into the basics of human reasoning in trying to advance the church of Jesus Christ. Or maybe we have seen similar articles about what is necessary for successful prayer ministries. Successful missions programs. Successful street evangelism. I recently wrote about a mega church pastor who insisted that we shouldn’t preach the cross on Easter Sunday because we want the people to come back! That we should preach something practical, like how to improve our marriage. If that is not filled with high sounding nonsense, I do not know what is: Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powersof this world, rather than from Christ. – Colossians 2: 8 (NLT) We see today that the church is far from merely captured by human thinking and the spiritual powers of this world – they are the chief marketer of it! It starts with a failed premise that carnal measurements of success can assess the spiritual success of our efforts. The world says that if you look at a church from a business model perspective then you need more consumers to buy into your product. Thus if your number of attendees grows, then you must be doing something right and if it decreases, you must be doing something wrong. This is a horizontal perspective of success, which is reinforced within the mega-church mentality. It is not supported biblically: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. – Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV) Do not assume because there are so many around you singing kumbya that you are on the right road. Remember, Jesus had few true followers. Most fell away when the teaching became too tough. The Pharisees had plenty of support. The notion that “if so many people are doing it; it can’t be wrong” is a lie straight from the pit of hell. True Christian success is measured vertically – not horizontally. The object is to see true regeneration of hearts and people saved not merely to see more people willing to spend an hour and a half inside our building and throw some money in the basket. True Christian success is measured by real Christian growth. When we see disciples making disciples. The modern church is good at convincing goats they are sheep or at best, producing spiritual babies who never grow to feast on the meat of the Word. So what is needed? What is needed for any Christian venture? What is needed for church growth? What is needed for better ministries, better missions, or even better church planting? The answer is not trite – it’s Jesus. I know many are casual at casting such things aside and saying “or course…but.” There is no “but.” The Book of Acts teaches us that God adds to the church as He sees fit. No where are we commanded to build mega-complexes and compromise the Gospel to “reach as many for Jesus as we can!” The reality is we are not supposed to reach people for Jesus – we are supposed to reach people WITH Jesus. He alone is the way the truth and the life. He alone is the leadership theory for future Christian leaders. He alone is the successful theory of church growth. He does not require us to help Him – He requires us to preach Him. The key verses today come from the theology rich story of Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha. Jesus is speaking and Mary is at His feet listening intently. Martha is busying herself with all the preparations. She wants to make sure everything is just right. She gets offended however that her sister is not helping her and actually rebukes Jesus to try and get Him to tell Mary to help her. That is when we come to the key verses where Jesus calmly reminds Martha what is necessary. Indeed only one thing is truly necessary and that is Jesus Christ. Mary had discovered that while Martha busied herself with the preparations for Christ. What are you saying preacher? I am saying that Martha is the modern church today in America. So busy with all the show. So busy with all the numbers and metrics. All the fluff. Many times quite well intentioned but nonetheless distracted as the Bible says in this story Martha was. Distracted from Jesus by claiming to be about His business. If that doesn’t encapsulate the modern church, I do not know what does. Mary on the other hand can be the churches that refuse to compromise. That are satisfied with the 200 people God has blessed them with until He decides to add more. The ones that are derided or looked down upon almost reflexively because of the mega church mentality which is taught in this country. Or maybe Mary is also those individual people that refuse to buy into the broad road mentality. The ones who just want to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear what the Master has to say. Perhaps they do not serve in a ministry or disclose their tithing records – neither demands being biblical - but placing them squarely against the mainstream in the purpose driven, seeker friendly churches across this land. Whoever Mary is today we need to remember that she has chosen the only thing that truly matters and the only thing that is truly needed – Jesus. Maybe Martha wanted everyone to see what a great dinner she prepared for the Lord. Maybe the modern churches want everyone to see what great ministries they prepared for the Lord. Maybe Martha wanted everyone to know how her home sparkled for Jesus like the churches want everyone to see the shiny new lobbies and grandly ornate pulpits. Martha has everything to do with appearances. She appeared to be working hard for the Lord. She made the most of the appearances of her home for the Lord. Yet somehow amidst all the fanfare and hoopla, she forgot the Lord was actually in her home, talking. She didn’t have time for God because she was supposedly working for God. What a dangerous place we can find ourselves in too. What a dangerous place for a church to find itself in as well. What is necessary for church planting? Jesus! What is necessary for successful ministries? Jesus! What is your leadership program? Follow Jesus! What is your missions plan? Present Jesus! I do not need a 20 page manual and schematics to lead me to the only place I need to be – at the feet of Jesus with Mary – listening to Jesus! Sounds too easy don’t it? Isn’t that so typical of our carnal minds? When did Jesus stop being enough? When did Christ lose His sufficiency? He didn’t beloved and He never will. We just need to convince the Marthas that are running the churches to slow down, lay down their preparations, and spend some time at the feet of Jesus. Only one thing is needed and Mary has found it. I pray we all find it again and never lose sight of it. Thank you Jesus. Rev. Anthony.