March 9, 2007

Are Our Churches Stuck In The Old Testament?

Our church has been going through Spring Renewal Services this week. We have had a special emphasis on "lifestyle evangelism" this week as we have met together. It is our desire to see all of our people become part of God's movement in the community. During the course of these studies I learned something very profound, at least to me. Many of our churches have taken on an Old Testament model of evangelism. For much of the Old Testament the way the Jewish people shared God with the rest of the world was through the temple. Think about it, the Jews very rarely sent out missionaries. The one guy most of us have heard of who was sent out from Israel was Jonah, & he went kicking & screaming. Then he was used to bring a tremendous spiritual revival to a brutal, savage society & how did he react? He went outside the city & pouted! The primary way that non-Jews were introduced to a relationship with God was through worship at the temple in Jerusalem.

I'm afraid that many churches today have adopted the "if we build it, they will come" model of evangelism. Churches believe that if they build an amazing building & produce stellar worship services, then the lost will come. Now don't misunderstand me. I believe we should take pride in our places of worship & in our times of corporate worship. However, to think that is the key to reaching "all the nations" is a delusion. Jesus' command to His disciples was to "Go!". When the disciples of Christ received the Holy Spirit, they were mobilized to take the Gospel worldwide. That's really the only explanation for the way Christianity spread & has survived. The entire paradigm was shifted when Christ gave His "Great Commission". No longer did people have to come to the temple to encounter God. God's people were now going to go to the people. Interestingly enough, the first place they went was the temple because that's where the people were. From there they moved out through neighborhoods, villages, & ultimately into all the world.

However, today we have slipped back into expecting people to come to church just because it's there. Question: Why would a lost person come to church? Seriously, why would a lost person just independently decide to come to church? We like to think that it happens a lot but the fact is that many of the lost people who come into our churches either come because of a personal connection to one of our members or because our churches have a great reputation in the community in an area that appeals to them (divorce care, recovery/rehab ministries, etc.). If we want people to come to our churches, we must first go to the people! I have done my time in traditional outreach methods too. You know, the ones that have you knocking on some one's door on Monday night at 7pm. Most of the time no one was home. You know why? Because they were at the Little League field or at the soccer field! We have to realize that going to the people sometimes means going to unconventional "outreach outposts". It might mean enlisting a team to serve in the concession stand at your local Little League field so that those parents can watch their kids play ball rather that sweat it out in the concession stand. Let's go to the people, minister to them where they are with no strings attached. When we do, we gain the credibility that we need to actually reach out to them when they are in need or to reach out to them at some point with the Gospel of Christ.

If you are a church member or even a pastor, ask yourself if your evangelism model is actually going out to the people or is it over 2000 years behind the times. If you're behind, seek God's will as to how you can "go" to the people in the power of Christ. After all, "all power" has been given to Him. When we go out, we go in His power & authority.