Just thinking this morning about the lack of intention and every day evangelism in the life of most Christians and thus in the life of the local church. A good number of churches that I work with in numerous countries are not seeing the lost saved; seldom get to witness people making a public confession of their faith through baptism by immersion in water; and seldom hear the gospel explained or expressed in the weekly teaching times of the church.
In North America most of the growth in churches comes from shrinkage in other churches. It is simply moving the existing number of believers around as they leave one church for whatever reason and join another. Overseas this too occurs. Of course, some who leave a church for whatever reason, at times, don’t reconnect with another church but still consider themselves in right relationship with Jesus, the Head of the Church. However, statistics show that the Church in many nations is not growing, has plateaued, and, in some cases, is shrinking in numbers. In almost all cases in all nations the Church is shrinking in percentage of the population that is born again.
So, that leads me to my question – does the Church have a future or is there a funeral in the making here?
I believe it is time for the Church to focus on the one thing that The Lord left for us to do. This is the mandate of the Church. We know it academically as The Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples. However, it needs to be more than information. This command must be transformational – changing the way we see and do life. To go into all the world and make disciples we first need to be disciples. You reproduce who you are and so we need to become disciples of The Lord and not just followers. This sounds simple but it is not. In the Church today we have many fans, some followers, and very few true disciples. So, discipleship must become an immediate emphasis.
Secondly, we need to take the focus off of our needs and wants, desires and dreams – and simply obey Him and His command to His Church to go and make disciples. It is all about Him and His commands – not about us and our needs. This is a second massive change in the way Christians think and in the way the local church operates. Changing the focus is not going to be easy and is not for the faint at heart.
Thirdly, to become a soul-winning church will require a lot of teaching – teaching by example as well as in classes and on Sundays. Becoming a church that focuses on the lost will require the leaders to be thick skinned and willing to lose those who want to remain self-centered and comfortable.
For a church to become “other-focused” and majoring on soul-winning will not happen by accident. This needs to be intentional and not accidental – because if we are not intentional it simply will never happens. A quality decision needs to be made that winning the lost (impacting lives for Jesus) will be central to everything we do as individuals and as a local church. It must be part of our very DNA. It cannot be a program – it must be part of our on-going daily life and central to every activity that the local church plans and the community events we become part of.
This change in focus and approach is not an easy one to introduce and then “manage” but it needs to be done nonetheless. We can say we love God and love The Lord Jesus all we want – but if we don’t obey Him we are deceiving ourselves and are simply hypocrites. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” And the “go into all the world and make disciples” is a command and not an option in a buffet of spiritual alternatives. It must be the central focus of every true disciple and every church that calls itself “Christian.” Otherwise, in time, as more and more people die and others leave for whatever reason and stop attending any church we will soon be preparing for a funeral and not a future.
So, it cannot be business as usual. Jesus told us to “occupy until He comes.” The word translated “occupy” was a business term meaning to “increase your market share.” Right now the opposite in happening and we are losing ground in the market place. Time for some tough decisions and some major changes so that you and your church actually have a long-term future.