Heard from a fellow Jesus follower about his frustration as he attempts to lead the congregation God has entrusted to him in reaching the lost of their community. The following thoughts came to me as we exchanged ideas.
My heart goes out to Michael as he searches for the ways to be more effective in reaching the lost in his community. We face the same issue here in Destin, Florida. Members in many of the congregations here seem content to come to church on Sunday and many come whenever the doors are open. But very few ever bring anyone who does not know Jesus with them.
Church staff and leadership scratch their heads and come up with programs and events that they believe will attract “the Lost” into the building. We design invite cards and build websites that make it easy for a member to invite someone but still very few invite anyone. Thom Rainer has said that fewer than 2 percent of church going people ever ask an unchurched person to come to church. I have experienced this phenomenon first hand.
To compound the issue many church staff and volunteer leaders are so busy maintaining the programs designed to be attractive to churched and unchurched alike that they never leave the building to speak with lost people. I have experienced this first hand too. And this brings up another interesting thing. Somehow many have come to believe that programs for church people and unchurched or lost people can look the same. How this came to be I do not know. But I do know that it is a false assumption. In the ministry of Jesus we see Him interacting the two groups in entirely different ways.
Even small groups can exist and produce little fruit from the ranks of the lost or unchurched in our communities. Sometime small groups look just like our larger church gatherings. We gather at the appointed time in someone’s home and pray and study scripture and in some we have fellowship meals and perhaps we even engage in the sharing of each others burdens. But this all happens in the home and never reaches outside into the neighborhood beyond the front door.
So, we must learn to work outside the “buildings” of our religion to reach lost people. We can do this inside the walls, at first, by intentionally cultivating a culture among the attendees that is outwardly focused. Failing this we must intentionally leave the building and be His witness outside the walls that have so comfortably insulated us from those our Master came to seek.
It is my belief that many of our churches are shrinking in attendance and in community influence precisely because we have lost out outward focus. Whenever I hear of a congregation that is actively seeking outside the walls and living their faith in their community bringing hope and help I see that that congregation is growing. When I see a congregation that is focused inward even though it supports overseas missions and has great programming it will be seen to be shrinking. When I hear of a congregation that is actively planting new congregations I will see a congregation that is growing. When I see a congregation that has not and or is not currently engaged in the planting process I see a congregation that is shrinking.
So Michael I say this to you and to myself as well. Live seeking the lost. Live a life in front of your congregation and your community that witnesses of Jesus, and live in His power. Help the people He has entrusted to you to learn to share each-other’s joy and to bear each-other’s burdens. Live the Jesus-Life outside the walls of the building everyday as you together-walk becoming more and more like Him each and every day. Learn from each other as He has given everyone He has called gifts to edify the Saints and because two are better than one, for when we fall down it is good and proper to have one nearby to help us back up.
You have expressed an earnest desire for the lost of your community and I know that God our Father will give you the desire of your heart. I join you brother as my family and I head out from under the “protection” of a large congregation to seek the lost and walk with those who will as they become His Disciples. He is our strength.