So, I celebrated my 29th birthday this past weekend. OLD I know–but while there are some parts of me that make me feel older than I am, it hasn’t slowed me down. In fact, I keep looking for the next thing that I could glorify God with in each moment. And this weekend, I had a discussion with a friend, who I hadn’t seen in close to 5 years, that REALLY refocused me on how my home church could grow. And a lot of things were discussed. I’ll do my best to summarize my friend’s points. So here goes. On face value, I believe we agreed that, generally speaking, the Church, meaning the body of Christ, has grown apathetic in the way it’s been fulfilling the biblical mandate given to us by Christ. The mandate is otherwise known as the Great Commission. For reference, here is the Great Commission taken from Matthew 28:19-20, in the ESV…
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, I’m going to get to the finer points that my friend has made to me about growing the Church by breaking down the Great Commission into two parts.
First, Jesus says to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” This is and should be the driving force of the Church and its full complete focus in the world today. It should be its top most priority in the operation of the Church. This is what the Church is apathetic about in its entirety. Now, I’m not saying each individual church is apathetic–I just don’t want to get into all the shades of grey in this post, so I’m just speaking in broad and general terms. In talking with my friend, the American Church in particular thinks that by sending missionaries out, that it has fulfilled its biblical mandate in the first part of the Great Commission, meaning the part where Jesus says Go. I didn’t get into the nitty gritty details with my friend about this, but by the statements he made, I believe he would agree with my assessment going forward here. When Jesus said go, he did not just mean send others. EACH AND EVERY FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IS REQUIRED UNDER THIS MANDATE TO FULFILL IT. This means that the follower of Christ who gets up in the morning, goes to his or her 9am to 5pm job Monday to Friday, comes home to their family, makes dinner, and lives pretty much a vanilla life, is required to obey the first command within the Great Commission, given to us by Jesus, to speak of God’s gospel, truth, and Word just as much as the person who went to Africa, Europe, Asia, or any other continent, and bring more people into the fold of God’s family.
However, the Church also has a misguided approach, I believe, in reaching out to people and making Christ known to them in trying to grow God’s Church–my friend stated that there are three ways that the Church has approached this–1) Growth by conversion, 2) People think of the Church as the building–thereby letting anyone not part of God’s family make the decision to come to church on their own and reaching them once they’re in the doors, and 3) the organizational structure of the Church–raising up committees and letting people on those committees fulfill the first command of the Great Commission.
Let me just say that all three of these ways are wrong–and it creates the atmosphere of apathy towards everything that God says we should be focusing all our attention on–Mind, body, and soul.
As I said before, each follower should not just be passing the buck because of the 3 aforementioned approaches. Look at your own church and see if they fit one, two, or all of the approaches. And then look at your own life and see if you’re following Christ’s mandate of “Go,” if you’re not, then you might want to reevaluate how you should be fulfilling it. Take a look at John 15:1-11 if you need further evidence beyond what I’m saying here. If we wish to remain in Christ, we should be keeping ALL of His commandments and we should not be apathetic to them. In fact, if you or your church has become apathetic and withdrawn itself from the community, it has entered into a state of sin before God, and I firmly believe this. It is in the apathy of the Church that Satan rejoices, for if we are not fulfilling the Great Commission, then we are not allowing God to work through us to win souls for Christ from Satan’s deathly grip.
In fact, the biggest reason the Church has become apathetic in its attitude to the world and to Christ’s command is because they’ve become solely focused on two things: 1) the second command of Christ in the Great Commission, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” and 2) the Church has become focused on the spiritual health and growth of those already become believers and not reaching out to those not part of God’s family.
It’s okay to make sure that there is growth in one’s walk with Christ–teaching them what Christ has taught us. But in order for any church to grow, that means the Church must be going out and inviting those who are living sinfully to come and worship with us. We cannot expect them to come to that decision on their own unless they are presented with the opportunity to either accept or decline the invitation. And the only way to do that is by using my favorite method of evangelization–relational witnessing. Confrontational witnessing had its place in history, and it still does today–but the environment has to be right for it. However, in my opinion, relational witnessing has a better success rate of bringing those to Christ. It means going out and creating a friendship with these people by first meeting their physical, emotional, or mental needs then meeting their spiritual needs. Christ did this repeatedly–he often met the worldly needs of people before speaking to their spiritual needs. He would feed people and then used the feeding He had done as a spiritual lesson and brought it back to who He was and who had sent Him.
The Church, once again generally speaking, has become more concerned with those already in the pews and come consistently every Sunday rather than those who truly need the Church’s help and are in need of the love of Christ–as Christ said: “It is not the healthy that are in need of a doctor but the sick…” (Paraphrasing here). The Church has fallen into the reverse of this–we are treating the healthy but not the sick.
My friend and I both came to and agreed upon the same conclusion–the Church has become inwardly focused when it should be outwardly focused.
Let us, the body of Christ, become healthy vines again bearing good fruit and representing Christ who is the root in all our lives…
Closing in prayer:
Thank you for giving us another day to live for your glory. It is only because of your will that the sun continues to bring each new morning to your creation–and with it new mercies. We ask that if any who have decided to read what I have written tonight are struggling in their own lives, you lay your hand of comfort, peace, and wisdom upon them. Help them to feel your presence next to them, and to draw their strength from that to continue into each day. We also ask that you walk through each day with us, helping and guiding us to make decisions that will ultimately glorify you, your Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In your Son’s and your Name we pray, Amen.