If your church closed today would anyone notice? If for some reason you had to close the doors of your building and walk away how long would it take for your community to miss your presence?
How you answer those two questions says a great deal about your ministry and vision for the people of your town. The sad reality is that scores of churches close each year and no one misses them. Churches die because ministry dies within the church.
If you are not sure about the status of your church in relationship to your community here are a couple of things you can do to find out if the church would be missed or not. List two ministries that your church is involved in that impact the community. Once you have done that, ask some of your fellow church members what they consider to be the outreach of your church.
If you have two legitimate ministries that are touching the lives of others, then your church is fulfilling its reason for existing. If you can’t list even one ministry, then why does your church exist?
Here is the reason the church in North America is in trouble. We have become an inward looking social club that is more concerned with our own comfort zones than reaching the lost for Christ. In case you think my assessment is unfair let me ask another question. What changes would your congregation make to accommodate visitors?
In the early days of the Calvary Chapel movement people in the church were complaining that all the hippies who were coming to church were ruining the pews. The next week the members showed up to find the pews replaced with chairs. Would your church do anything that radical to accommodate the lost?
Understanding what is most important to the membership, themselves or the lost, will determine outreach and the relevancy of the church. So, what can you do if your church isn’t orientated to outreach and ministering effectively in the community?
We need to be honest about the condition of our church and not pretend things we do for ourselves is real outreach. We also need to stop defining our church culture by what we are against. One of the saddest testimonies to the ineffectual witness of the church is when people associate us with what we don’t believe in instead of WHO we believe in.
For many churches their belief that they have doctrinal purity trumps outreach because they believe God will bring all true believers to their door. These people sit back and wait for God to flood the church with new believers that just happen to associate truth to their particular brand of Christianity. This approach often leaves the church scratching its collective head when the pews are not overflowing with new people.
Let’s be honest. We can talk about ministry to the community until the return of Christ but nothing is going to happen until we become serious about our calling as fully committed followers of Christ. As long as we are content to drift along week-to-week, church service-to-church service, everything will remain the same.
Out-reach to the community begins with allowing God to do in-reach to our hearts and fill us with a desire to see people know the saving grace of Christ. Churches can’t sit down and dictate outreach; it needs to be spontaneous based on understanding the needs of the community, and it needs to be bathed in prayer.
If there is no real outreach in your church ask yourself why? Take your heart to Jesus and ask Him to give you a desire for the lost, the broken and the hurting. Find some like-minded people in the church, meet together and begin to study the Gospels. It won’t take long to realize that the church of the New Testament wasn’t fortified behind brick walls and stained glass windows but lived its life on the streets.
Now, dare to dream what God could do with your Church. Allow yourself to become a radical for Christ, then go for it. Some of you have been following along with this post and now you have come to a screeching stop because you know your church will say no to your suggestions for outreach.
You know from past experience that the church will have to take it to a board meeting, committee meeting, elders meeting, give it a pastoral review, come hat in hand to the treasurer to ask if there are any funds for the project and the list goes on. It of course will have to meet the approval of the patriarchs and power brokers of the church. And it will have to not make anyone uncomfortable or cause too much energy to be expended by the church as a whole.
Is this what we have ended up as a church? Sadly, in way too many churches we have relegated outreach to a yearly church picnic, and inviting family and friends to an occasional church service. So what do you do when you crash into these walls of tradition and indifference? You do it anyway. You find people who will help you and you carry out the commission Jesus has given you. No church owns you and if they don’t like what you are doing and how you are doing it because it interferers with the status quo, keep on going.
If God has given you a ministry for single mothers, for example, and you start an outreach at the church to baby-sit two afternoons a week so moms can go shopping or have some down time and people oppose it because it will make more work for the caretaker, find a way to overcome the objection. Work with the church but don’t give up because of roadblocks. Jesus will see you through and open the doors that need to be opened to make the ministry work.
Using the ministry to single mothers as an example again we can be sure that if the church closed its doors, these women and children would miss your presence in their lives. The reason—- you are making a difference for them and meeting their needs.
* Don’t forget to check in with Nine-o’clock Club/Prayer for Persecuted Christians for updates on persecution of Christians.