Two of the most important texts for our time are Matt. 9:36-38 and John 20:21. In this post we will examine why.
I began sharing the faith in the late 1950s. Back then I could share the four spiritual laws and in forty-five minutes lead someone to Christ. It was also the custom that most people went to church. It was the natural thing to do and in some cases it was one of the main avenues to getting the best job possible. During those days the “build it and they will come” was one of the ways to grow a church. I remember in 1973, when I restarted a church, hanging out a sign that said, “come grow with us.”
But I remember in 1982 I got wind that something was changing. A couple of teachers came to me and asked what to do. It was our custom to give a bible to all the second graders in Sunday School. But these two teachers were stumped because they had a couple of second graders who had never seen a Bible. They wanted to know how to explain what it was. I knew then that change was in the wind.
By the 1990s it was clear – more and more people were stopping coming to church on their own. Didn’t matter if Grandma wanted them to attend worship with them, they would have no part in it. This trend has not only continued, it has escalated with no indication of slowing down. Today the vast majority of people in the U.S. are not found in worship. Now they are called the “Nones” and the “Dones.” The U.S. and the West has been lost to paganism and secularism.
The first greatest change in ministry since I began sharing the faith fifty-nine years ago is the fact that people no longer come to church on their own. This change is huge with huge negative implications for Western Christianity. Now, if we want to engage those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, we have to go to them, and most churches are still setting back waiting for them to come. News flash- those days are over, we have to go to them and that’s where our two texts come in. So take a look at them.
The first text is Matt. 9:36-39
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The second text is John 20:21
“As the Father has sent me, so send I you.”
Both texts emphasize going rather than coming. These texts emphasize that we are suppose to be a “sent” people. We are people of the “Way” not people of the place. We were called to go rather than sit and wait.
What the U.S. needs most today is pastors who will get out of their office into the harvest and become Jesus for someone. The U.S. needs pastor who function more like missionaries than pastoral counselors. And the U.S. needs more lay people who spend more time sharing their faith with their networks instead of spending time going to family night dinners at church and attending endless rounds of mindless meetings.
That brings me to the second biggest change in ministry in my lifetime. Over the last decade I’ve noticed a new metric of success emerge among many of the churches in the U.S. During most of my lifetime the metric of success for most churches has been accumulating as many people in worship as possible. But that’s changing. The new metric among many of the thriving churches is how many people the church can give away to plant churches that plant churches. This change is huge and has great potential for the future of Christianity in the West because this new metric doesn’t depend on large churches. What we are learning is smaller churches are planting more churches than large churches because they don’t have the baggage of a huge mortgage and staff. The irony is the church that is responsible for church plants that account for more than 250,000 is a medium size church. Another church of less than 500 has planted over 90 churches in the ten years, 30 of them this year alone.
Folks, now is the time to think “go” rather than “Come.” Whether you are into church planting, multiple sites, or servant evangelism, the more people you can send out into the community to share their faith the more likely your church is not only to thrive but also to grow the Kingdom.
But that brings up a chilling thought. Most of our people are equipped or discipled enough to share their faith with the “nones” and “dones.” Which means of the greatest needs of our time is the age-old process of discipleship. We have to turn nominal Christians and consumers into disciples who are willing to go and do whatever to win the West back. We have to prepare them and ourselves to function more like missionaries than pastors. We have to see the world as Jesus saw it when he cried out to Jerusalem that he would have gathered their children like a hen gathered her chicks, but they were not willing. We have to have broken hearts for the lost. Until that happens the decline of Western Christianity will continue.
Now’s the time to act. Now’s the time to equip and send out our people. Who’s ready?
Need help equipping your members and leaders to be disciple makers? We have disciple making tools and training resources to help. The Effective Church Group is here to serve you.
Contact us today to speak with a consultant.