Sunday, November 16, 2014

Inviting people to church is NOT an effective disciple-making strategy ...

A popular saying within the church is that we must keep "the main thing the main thing."

I agree!

The problem is, in most churches we do anything but.

Here's how we do church in the 21st century ...

... the pastor and pastoral staff uses social media and any other means available to try to get church members to bring non-Christians to church. To do so, they use a great deal of hyperbole to try to make people think the service this coming Sunday will be the most exciting event they will ever experience in their entire lifetime (that's the perception communicated every week, and the service never lives up to its billing) ...

... we try to alter what we do in a church service to have some kind of appeal to non-Christians, hoping that will cause them to have a desire to "come to church" ...

... the evangelistic effort of the church is then hoisted directly onto the shoulders of the preacher who is expected to preach a sermon that will convict any non-Christians present so they will walk to the front of the church and pray the "sinner's prayer." The pastor and other church staff will talk with anyone who comes forward. Just one fatal flaw in this plan is that the Gospel often is not preached in churches, you're more likely to get something closer to a motivational speech or marriage seminar than a thorough exposition of scripture containing a Gospel message ...

... the members of the congregation observe that they have no role in sharing the Gospel because the "real evangelistic work" is being done by the pastor and staff during church service, so they expect them to handle the sharing of the Gospel, and they might occasionally invite someone to church ...

... before dismissing the service, the pastor tries to make the congregation feel guilty for not inviting people to church. After all, how are they going to "win their city" for Christ if the members of the church aren't bringing non-Christians to church so they can hear the preacher preach and respond by walking down an aisle and praying the "sinner's prayer?"

Doing church that way is more about trying to build attendance than it is trying to fulfill the Great Commission, which is the "main thing" for the church. To accomplish that "main thing," Jesus told us to GO into the world ...

"Jesus came and told his disciples, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age'," Matthew 28:18-20.

The idea is for disciples of Jesus to go into the world and share the Gospel with non-believers, and as they do, converts would then be added to the church ...

"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God'" 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

 For this plan to work, God provided the church with leaders who would equip disciples to be able to do this ministry ...

"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ," Ephesians 4:11-12.

Yet another problem: most churches today are not equipping disciples to be able to effectively share the Gospel with non-Christians. And so they aren't. And so we aren't going into the world to share the Gospel. And so instead, we're trying to get non-Christians to come to church. And we know that inviting people to church is not an effective disciple-making strategy.

If you really want to make disciples, if you really want to see the church grow from new converts being added to it, if you really want to make the "main thing the main thing," why not actually equip believers to be able to effectively share the Gospel with non-Christians so that every week, as they GO into the world, they will be trained to look for opportunities --- and even be able to create opportunities --- to share the Gospel, lead people to Christ, and help them be added to the church?

If you need help doing that, let me give you two resources:
  • First, the Scott Free Clinic (ScottFreeClinic.org) consults with churches to help them become effective disciple-making churches. Key to this is offering the training disciples need to become highly effective ambassadors for Christ. You can contact me personally at dr.scott@ScottFreeClinic.org.
  • Second, since the Clinic isn't fully launched yet, I would strongly encourage you to consider the outstanding "Relational Evangelism" course taught by John Hendee as an online course offered by Hope International University. This course will equip you, your staff and other church leaders, and ANYONE in your congregation to be highly effective disciple-makers. You can learn a little more about this course at this blog post http://go.shr.lc/1sTLkO1.
Making disciples is the main thing for the church. That isn't accomplished by focusing on building attendance at church, it's accomplished by taking the Gospel message into the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. You might be surprised at the impact THAT would have on church growth!

Scotty

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