My email inbox receives at least a half dozen messages a day that announce yet another ‘church growth’ program. Subject lines include leads like this – ‘Pastor, grow your church!’ So much of the material is focused on leadership techniques, programs, and gimmicks to attract a bigger crowd to the church building. I feel confused, as if I am being asked to be a circus ringmaster rather than a shepherd of God’s people. I pray for understanding to separate gathering a crowd from making true disciples.
What did Jesus say? “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 28:19-20, NLT)
Much of what passes for the work of ‘making disciples’ is just salesmanship using the same methods to sell Jesus that are used to sell consumer products. We learn to capture interest using the right kind of words that ‘hook’ a person’s interest, how to move the conversation along by exploiting the other person’s felt needs, and then how to press for the close – getting Sam or Sally to pray the ‘Sinner’s prayer.’ Ugh… is that it? It makes me so ashamed that we would substitute that for the work of the Spirit. It is nothing more than human manipulation and is not aligned with the truth that recognizes the primary place of the Spirit of God as the active agent of salvation!
Christian friend, there is a part in bringing people to Christ for you and me. It isn’t a gimmicky thing, it isn’t learning ‘tricks.’ True disciples begin their efforts to share the Word with prayer and then do the work of serving that makes Jesus visible on earth. If evangelism (our churchy word for sharing the Gospel of Christ) puts you off, probably you are reacting to a program or method.
Jesus led people to the Truth without manipulation or pressure. He found opportunities to meet people and the Spirit flowed through Him. Look at a story John tells about a day when He met a woman with a heart in desperate need. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” …Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water. … ”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” (John 4:7-30, NIV)
What did He do?
He accepted her, listened to her story, answered her questions, and the Spirit brought revelation!
Are you praying for opportunities to share Jesus’ message? When He brings people to you, are you ready to love them in His Name and point them to Him?
The hope of the world is Jesus! Our primary mission is to “Go, to teach, and to make disciples!” It is hard work, slow work. Creating a ‘religion show’ is much easier and doesn’t require the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Building His Church is impossible without knowing the Spirit and living in His Presence. But, when we walk with Him an undeniable reality comes into us that invites others to want to know Him. In that moment we must be ‘prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks the reason for the hope’ that we know.
Here’s a word from the Word. Pray that the Lord would allow you to cause a party in Heaven today. “Imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:8-10 (The Message)
Abba, Your great, loving heart must break as You see Your people
substitute the psychology of salesmanship for the experience of the Spirit.
Teach me to walk close to You, filled with the Spirit so that He spills over
from my life, like a refreshing drink of water in a dry, hot afternoon.
Lead me to those in need, to that one hungry for spiritual food.
Give me courage to speak a timely word, willingness to serve tirelessly.
May I know the joy of making disciples, leading others to know You, Jesus;
Giver of Life, Forgiver of Sin, and Hope for now and eternity.