It is rare you can talk to someone and offer them a short and sweet solution to their biggest problems. That is especially rare in the context of the church. So when someone offers you a bumper-sticker length bit of help you probably want to take it with a grain of salt. That being said, this is exactly what I am going to do here today.
Most of the problems in the church are easy to define. Lack of finances. Lack of leaders. Too many debates about inane issues. Too much ‘gazing at belly buttons’. Lack of vision. Lack of focus. Lack of involvement. No new people. New people leaving through the infamous ‘back door’. These are issues every church has, whether averaging 20 people in Sunday worship, 200 people, 2,000 people or 20,000 people.
There are two keys that you can use to solve these issues, or at the very least put a serious dent in them.
1) Prayer, prayer, prayer! Prayer is the ‘engine’ that drives everything in the church. Prayer is our connection to the Father, made possible by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The closer we get to God, the more we hear His voice and the more we will have a heart for people. I cannot stress this enough. If your church was to die tomorrow, what would be on it’s tombstone? “This was a praying church!” or “This church did a lot and accomplished little.” Pray for your church. Pray for people outside the church by name, and ask God for opportunities to minister to them and to tell them the Gospel story.
2) Get out of the church! Yes, you heard me right. Leave. Go to the park. Go to the beach. Go to Walmart. And get your people out, too. The sad fact is that we have bought into a model that says evangelism must bring people in to the church so they can be told the Gospel and get saved. The reality is that these days unsaved people will not come in to the church in any significant numbers (at least in places like my native New England) to hear the Gospel. Kids who go to VBS are likely from churched families. Kids who come to youth groups are most often from churched families. Men’s groups are populated by men from the church and Ladies groups are as well. Bible studies are predominately for Christians, not the unsaved.
The hard part is we as the church are stuck in our old ways. As bivocational ministers we already have broken one mold…the view that the pastor is available to the local church body 24 hours a day, and is the primary evangelist (“That’s what we hired him for, right?”) We also have the advantage of being able to take the Gospel out into the so-called marketplace…where we work. In doing so we can model the behavior for our people.
I think, though, we have to take it to the next step to be truly effective. This is an area I am struggling with. We need to place less priority on our in-house ministries and more emphasis on ministries conducted outside the four walls of the church. When we do this the church as a whole can start connecting with the community.
Now, the question remains. Do you have the desire to reach people? All of those problems you have in the church…too few leaders, too little money, not enough people being saved…they can all be solved by these two simple elements, prayer and focusing outward. Do you have the desire, and will, to make a difference?