As we examine the life of Jesus (a good thing to do but first take off your religious glasses), we see that He was amazingly brilliant at cultivating relationships with people who didn’t fit in with the established religion or had been rejected by the religious leaders. Jesus at times even went out of His way to disrupt the established religious practices in an attempt to help people grasp the passionate core of His mission: reaching lost people.Establishing another religion was the last thing Jesus wanted to do. His real goal was to make disciples, devoted followers who would carry forward His mission with the same passion and commitment to reaching people who were far from God.
If you are offended right now, that’s good! Your religion is showing. For the sake of eternity and the Gospel message, I think we need to let Jesus irritate us enough that we are then willing to change and start doing things differently. Unless we allow Him to frustrate our selfish ambitions and personal plans for success, real change will change to elude us, we will not be dangerous to the Devil, and our churches will simply maintain the status quo. Let’s look fora few days at things that might offend and frustrate you – but that might also lead to lasting change in your local church.
1> See through the eyes of the unchurched
It is time to change the way we see ourselves. It is time to take off the religious glasses and see ourselves as the unsaved and unchurched or de-churched see us…
In the United States of America, 85 percent of people who don’t go to church say they would go if they were invited. So why don’t people invite their friends? Inviting friends to church should be natural for your church members, and if you are a pastor or church leader, you may be inclined to point the finger at your people. But have you ever considered that you, as a church leader, are responsible for shaping the culture and identity of your church? So, church member, church leader, or key leader of the leaders… Ask yourself these questions:
* Do you cultivate a country club culture, or is your church a place where sick and broken people can come for healing?
* Is your children’s ministry inviting and safe?
* Are your sermons on Sundays relevant to the questions and problems people are facing the other six days of their lives, at home and at work?
* Are you authentic in sharing your own shortcomings and failures and modeling how to walk in the grace of Jesus?
* Do you treat your visitors like projects or like people?
Often our personal biases, opinions, and love for comfort can lead us to stop thinking about the people outside our walls.
Spencer Johnson, in his book The One Minute Sales Persons writes, “Before I walk a mile in your shoes, I must first take off my own.” What if you, as a church leader or member, took off your own shoes – the shoes that are comfortable and familiar – and stepped into the shoes of someone else for a while? How well do you understand the people you are trying to reach? Have you ever tried to live a day in the life of someone who doesn’t know God, someone who is lost, hurting, or struggling in their marriage? Do you know the things they love and the things they hate? How do they spend their time? What are their interests and hobbies? And for those who have walked away from the church, what was it that led them to leave?
One of the first and most important steps you can take is to begin examining your weekend services, the preaching, and the culture of your church through the eyes of the people you are trying to reach. Take a risk and ask some unchurched people in your community to attend a service and then tell you the truth about what they thought. Listen to them. Find out why they don’t want to come to your church. And then when you ask this question take the time to listen and seriously consider what you are hearing. If you do then God will begin to reorient your lives with a fresh concern for the lost. Your mission of reaching lost people is no longer just an idea; you are listening to real people with real concerns, and then you must begin to make some real changes in your approach and content on Sundays.
Take a hard look at your church right now. Most of us are doing church for people who do church, but we’re pretty stupid when it comes to reaching people who don’t do church. That’s why we need to learn, to ask questions and listen to what unchurched and de-churched people really think about our churches.