I am taking some time to write about a series of questions Timmy Brister posted on his blog. You can find the full list here. There are 21 questions on the list and I plan to write about the 6 that I have highlighted on the list printed out an hanging on my office wall. You can read what I wrote about the first question here. The second question I would like to consider is below.
If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow?
This question, like many on this list, really is asking a couple of things. First, in what are we trusting to grow our church and second, are we equipping our people to actually make a difference in their worlds? I find this to be an especially pressing question considering the prevalence of marketing/advertisement in so many church plants in Christendom today. This is not meant as a condemnation of marketing as a means of telling people what you are about as a church. However, the tendency can be to place a great deal of resources, both time and money, into a marketing strategy and allow that strategy to become the primary means of telling the community who you are as a church.
In order for our church members to live in such a way as to attract people to Jesus (and then to our churches) two things must be occurring.
- They must be taught and equipped to be ambassadors for Christ in their communities
- They must be taught that there is a biblical mandate for them to be ambassadors for Christ in their communities.
In order for these two things to occur, we must spend more time/effort/resources on teaching believers to be disciples and less time/effort/resources on trying to attract people to our church. It means understanding that our best evangelical outreach will be a body of well equipped, Spirit filled followers of Jesus Christ and not a culturally relevant, seeker friendly church service. As pastors, it is our jobs to make sure that those in our care are being taught what it means to be followers of Christ. They need to know how to pursue God when they are not at church. They must be able to feed themselves spiritually. Only then will they be able to live a Holy Spirit empowered life within the community God has placed them. We do not help our churches or the people in them if we do attempt to make them into disciples, teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). The church was created to be a place for believers to come, celebrate what God has done in and for them, and to be trained and brought into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
The second thing our people need to know is that it is their job to be the witness for Christ in the lives of the people in their areas of influence. Far too many church members today have been told that all they need to do is invite their friends and neighbors to church and let the pastors do the heavy lifting of evangelism. Unfortunately, this is not the biblical teaching on evangelism. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 that we all have been given the ministry of reconciliation and that we are Christ's ambassadors here in this world. We have been reconciled to God in part so that we may be used by God to reconcile others.
Without these two components of teaching in our churches, our people wind up being unable and even fearful of being the very thing Christ saved them to be: ambassadors, salt, light. It is our jobs as pastors and leaders to make sure that this does not take place. We have been called to equip the saints for service to the kingdom, not replace them with billboards, websites, and clever slogans. Committed, equipped, and Spirit filled people are the key to reaching people with the gospel.