Our cities, towns, and neighborhoods need Christ. The gospel would be good news to them if they heard it. As our culture quickly moves from being formed by a Christian story to a culture that is void of any Christian storyline, the stakes are being raised. People are actively running from anything resembling the Christian faith. Leaders have to quickly move our people to live on mission to reach the people who have no desire to know anything about Jesus. Yet, the majority of the church is not compelled to live a life on mission. You would think that if we have accepted the gospel and received forgiveness, we would run to a lost world and share the hope we have found. However, this is often not the case. We talk a good game, but we are not missional.
Here are a few of the reasons I have observed in my own life, my church's life for why we not living a lives compelled by the mission of God.
We Are Too Busy
This busyness is not only from work, family, or hobbies, it is from the church attempting to build up the church. We pack people's nights and weekends with church-based activities. All of these things cause an undue stress and unneeded internal strife between doing what the church is doing or being with lost people. If the people who are part of your church are busy every night and weekend with church stuff, how will they ever be able to reach lost people?
Essentially, we have exchanged the good news of Jesus, which results in resting in his work, for the ‘good news’ of a busy life which results in frantic fatigue. We do so for a plethora of reasons and for a variety of idols. But at the core, don’t live on mission, because we don’t actually believe the gospel. Our lives are cluttered with believing alternate stories of redemption and hope, all which we desperately cling to for our salvation. We honestly believe,
- “If I work hard enough, I will have everything I need.”
- "If my kids get a well-rounded childhood with art, sports, school, and friends, they will have the good life."
- "If I check Facebook every ten minutes, I will find acceptance."
As church leaders we need to start by repenting. Often times, we gauge our value and worth in just how busy our church is. Busyness does not equal living on mission, let alone holiness. We toil thinking that if we get more things done and more balls rolling the kingdom will come. We must confess our sin of not trusting God’s goodness and control. God brings his kingdom; we participate in it. Beyond repentance, we need to take an honest look at our calendar. What is really part of the mission and what isn't? What are good things at the wrong time? What does your calendar say about what you believe?
I am a type-a person. I get things done and much of what I do is based on what my calendar is calling for that day. As I began to better understand the Spirit empowering me for mission it has caused two things to happen. First, I have had to be ok with my plans being hijacked by God. For example, when I am on my way to a meeting, running late, and I pass a guy biking in the pouring rain and the Spirit gently prompts me to help this guy (this just happened two nights ago). The second, is I have stopped doing much of what I had previously thought was so important because I started asking the Spirit the question: “What would you have me do?”
We Don't Know How
Far too many people think there is a magical equation, or formula that they need to master before they can minister to those who do not know Jesus. They are waiting for their pastor or leader to tell them the right combination of words and actions to unlocking the gates of heaven for lost souls. However there is not one magical formula, there are only people who live changed by the gospel and proclaim that gospel!
I am not against education or seminary, but often times pastors are educated and they talk like it. Many folks are left thinking, 'I am not that smart, I could never explain that' or 'I don't fully understand the difference between Calvinism and Armimism'. The good news is we don't have to be that smart. We have to be faithful to live out and proclaim the gospel, and allow the Spirit to do the rest (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Sometimes, people really don’t know how to live with gospel intentionality, or walk across the room and articulate, in any method, the gospel. People don't know because:
- They have never seen someone do it.
- They have never been given any tips on how to articulate the gospel or how to demonstrate the gospel.
Simply, folks have never seen or been taught how to rely on the Spirit, so they don't. People don’t have to go to seminary to be on mission, but they have to be equipped. If you are leading a church or community, you can’t simply say "go and do it"--you have to model, teach, and encourage.
We Don't Care
Since we have made the church service, the church programs, and the church functions all about those who attend, we have also made their Christian walk all about them, the individual Christian. Since it is about them, they don't really care about other people, especially those who do not believe what we believe. What is the point in caring about lost people?
I know of one pastor who recently had a couple leave his church because they claimed there weren’t enough programs for their kids. Yet, this couple was in a missional community with unbelievers who were on the cusp of coming to know the good news of Jesus. They simply didn’t care to be part of seeing those people go from death to life. They were more concerned about what they wanted, than the lost. Their decision was based on what they needed from the church instead of what they could give to the world outside it.
The gospel is we are redeemed sinners brought into an amazing family, the family of God. So, it is not a bad thing to focus on caring for one another, but even in our caring we should be motivated by our love and service to King Jesus. Our Christian walk is not about our hapiness or doing what we want. It is about proclaiming the King, and living our lives as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of us. This needs to come not only from the pulpit, but also in the way we structure our church life.
Lack of Prayer and Spirit leading
We don't pray. We don't trust the Spirit to work; therefore, the mission is on our shoulders, not God's. He is the one who leads, guides, and works--not us. Pastor, you need to know this. Church family, you need to know, understand, and embrace this truth. Seek the Spirit to change your heart to actually love the lost and lead you to reach them. If you're busy, seek the Spirit to free up some time in your life so you can actually do what the Bible has called us to do.
This one is simple, you and I need to be about prayer. Plain and simple. I have come to realize in my own life that daily the Spirit is opening doors for me to proclaim and portray his amazing message of grace. These have been there for years in my life, but it wasn't until I started asking, "God as I walk into the quick lube to change my oil, would you open my eyes to what you have for me?" did I start to notice what God was doing. Seek and ask. Rely on God as he sends you on his mission.
You are not living on Mission
Finally, and maybe most importantly, the leader is not living on mission, so how can those in the church live on mission. I know far too many pastors who do not actually have much, if any, interaction with unbelievers--unless they happen to stumble into their Sunday service. Pastor, this is not fulfilling the great commission. We cannot find a biblical model for pastors preparing sermons for 30 hours a week in an office only to emerge and preach for 45 minutes on Sunday. Instead, we see the apostles and elders of the church living in among the people. Going from house to house, in the temple courts, and wherever the Spirit lead them proclaiming Jesus to a lost people. Many of us would do well to read less books, read less blogs and spend time investing in people. Yes, pastor give yourself to prayer and study of the Word (Acts 6), but may we not neglect actually serving others, and no preaching a message on Sunday does not fulfilling this.
If you are a pastor and do not have anyone who would call you their friend outside of your church family, then you are actually unqualified to be an elder by Paul's standards. When we look at the requirements of an overseer of the church, there are two things that directly apply to the overseer having relationships with those who do not yet know Jesus. The first is that he is to be hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2) and the second is even more apparent, it is that he is to be well thought of by outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7). Being well thought of does not mean that you don't blow your lawn clippings on your neighbor's lawn, or that you clean up after your kids leave their toys on their property. It means more than that. It means that people actually know you, and like you. Pastor, church leader, disciple maker, let me ask you this question, “Do you have people in your life who do not know Jesus that you would call friend and who would call you friend?” The question is not do you know people who attend your church who don't know Jesus, but do you know people who are your friends and it has nothing to do with the fact that they attend your service, went to a wedding you did, or know someone who is in your church family.
What it Will Take?
To be a disciple that lives on mission you have to be in and among the world. If we are ever going to be affective in our call to make disciples, and in leading our church to be people who make disciples, we have to wrestle with these objections and answer with the gospel. If your church family is not having conversations about Jesus, if there are not new people coming to know Jesus, let us not look at the programs that we are lacking, but may we look at our own schedules and hearts. How have we structured our lives? How are we seeking the Spirit? How are we living? Are we intentionally looking outward and building relationships with people who do not know Jesus?
Josh Cousineau was a youth pastor for over 5 years & is now the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Community, which launched in Auburn ME in 2012. Josh is married to his high school sweetheart, Anna. They have 4 amazing children (3 boys & 1 girl). Their daughter was adopted from Uganda in 2011. Josh blogs at http://joshcousineau.com
For more insights into evangelism & discipleship, check-out Jonathan Dodson’s Unbelievable Gospel.