Churches should model the behavior they want members to imitate.
Yet as we’ve discussed the past three weeks, few churches are having a continual, relational and meaningful impact in their communities. Instead, most:
- rely on occasional events
- measure impact more in terms of outputs than outcomes
- rarely serve non-members families (as Jesus so often did)
It’s not surprising that church members and attenders have followed suit when it comes to living out the Great Commission, falling into one of four camps:
1. Passive Christians
DON’T SPEAK OR ACT
Bill hardly misses a Sunday. He volunteers as a greeter one weekend a month, gives regularly and hosted a small group last year. By all accounts, Bill’s an active church member. Considering how busy he is with career and a young kids, he does his fair share. There’s not much time left over for charity work, nor is that something Bill thinks much about – and it’s not a big emphasis at his church. However, his pastor does mention inviting people to church pretty frequently and Bill loves his church so he’s done that a few times. When it comes to evangelism, that’s about as far as Bill typically goes – he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his faith and rarely broaches “religion” with coworkers or friends.
2. Pensive Christians
SPEAK BUT DON’T ACT
Rusty is concerned about where America is headed. Unlike Bill, he’s not afraid to talk about religion or politics. As a Christian since the early 1980s he’s watched the country go downhill, increasingly upset as our moral foundation crumbles under the weight of every secular, liberal court decision. Rusty’s church recently held a ministry fair inviting members to express interest in local causes like hunger relief, the homeless or foster care. However, what caught Rusty’s eye was the Christian conservative radio ministry asking for support to continue fighting for the values that made our nation great. Rusty signs up and notices that over 150 others had done so as well, whereas none of the other compassion ministries had more than 20 on their lists.
3. Private Christians
ACT BUT DON’T SPEAK
Stephanie is one of the nicest, most compassionate people at her church. She’s always there for anyone who’s going through a tough time – a family at church, a neighbor, coworker, friend or even a complete stranger. In fact, Stephanie is so caring that she would never want to offend anyone. If she knows that person is a Christian, she’ll talk about her faith and offer to pray for them. Otherwise, she keeps her personal beliefs to herself because they’re just that – personal. Her husband, Jeff, is just as kind-hearted, frequently donating money to local charities, but equally reluctant to impose his ideals on others.
4. Powerful Christians
ACT AND THEN SPEAK
Unlike Bill, Rusty, Stephanie and Jeff, Tamara isn’t passive, pensive or private – she’s both personable and public. She’s a disciple, following Jesus’ model of meeting felt needs to open the door to sharing who He is. Tamara never misses an opportunity to do both, seeing wherever she happens to be at the time as her designated mission field. She understands she IS the church between Sundays. Tamara is deeply concerned not only with each person’s welfare in this life but also their assurance of eternal life. She knows the Great Commission doesn’t stop at a single good deed or the planting of a “seed” – it’s about investing in longer-term relationships.
Which of the 4 are Most Common Today?
Church leaders play a significant role in influencing whether its members are passive, pensive, private or powerful. Churches today are producing far too many of the first three. Few churchgoers see themselves as the embodiment of church once they walk out the front door. They may be active participants in church but they’re not the personification of it outside. In effect, they’re “customers” of churches who fear most would leave if asked to endure the level of commitment and discipleship required of those entrusted to BE the church all week long.
Yes, Powerful Christians are a rare breed these days, not often sighted in churches that:
- cater to members, hesitant to challenge them with the reality of what it truly means to live out the Great Commission
- emphasize serving inside the church continually but offer few chances to reach out to the poor and lost in the community
- focus more on build an institution than building disciples that “take ground” outside the four walls
Joining a church alone doesn’t make someone a Powerful Christian any more than simply joining a gym makes someone a powerful weightlifter. Both require hard work and endurance. Only intensive and extended training will dramatically change their lives. That’s why a large or growing church isn’t necessarily a healthy church – showing up, serving and giving doesn’t mean a churchgoer will make a difference for Christ between Sundays. Active church members are not necessarily disciples. Disciples would never stop at being passive, pensive or private. Disciples are healthy, impactful, forever changed – in other words, powerful.
Implications for the Future
Why do so many Christians fall into the first 3 categories? Why do most no longer have an acute sense of urgency to see the lost saved? Jesus didn’t intend for churches and the Christian walk to be as comfortable as they are in America today. Never did He expect His followers to be complacent or content – “consuming” church on Sunday and doing little to serve the Lord Monday through Saturday – while surrounded by the helpless and hopeless. How many churchgoers realize they’ve stepped into a mission field the second they get back in their cars in the church parking lot? How many try to win people to Christ and spend time making disciples each and every week?
Unfortunately, many have come to view church as a “safe” place to worship and fellowship, not courageous enough to act and speak in the light of day. Yet we’re called to live boldly in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to our faith. Ironically, it is likely our lack of impetus and preparation to be the hands and feet of Christ that have largely precipitated and fueled the attacks on Christianity that have already occurred.
What will happen if churches remain hesitant to challenge members to adopt the level of commitment and courage demanded by Jesus? How much longer can we remain satisfied with most Christians being passive, pensive or private?
The road is about to become much more rocky for followers of Jesus Christ. Only Powerful Christians will be ready for what’s coming next. We must be ready and willing to take a stand. But will we? We’ll discuss those topics more next week…
It’s Your Turn
Which of those four types of Christians is your church primarily producing?