Tag Archives: Community Outreach

Is It Wrong to Share Your Faith?

Jun 16, 22
JMorgan
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6 comments

Evangelism has become passe.  Only 52% of born-again Christians report witnessing to someone at least once in the past year.  And 47% of Millennials feel it’s wrong to share one’s religious beliefs with someone of a different faith.  A Lifeway study found of eight biblical attributes most evident in the lives of American churchgoers, “Sharing Christ” had the lowest average score.

Today’s culture is not less in need of the Gospel, but Christians are more reticent to talk about it.  That reluctance to evangelize has (ironically) made America less fertile soil for evangelism.  The longer difficult conversations are avoided, the more uncomfortable they become.  It’s easier to criticize from afar than engage challenging topics at close range.  A vicious cycle ensues where the less we talk about Jesus the less important non-believers feel He must be – to us and them.

Church leaders understand and hesitate to pressure congregants to endure too much discomfort, offering to alleviate that Great Commission burden.  Rather than train disciples to be itinerate “preachers” in their workplaces and de facto “pastors” of their neighborhoods, churches encourage sharing personal testimonies and extending invitations to a weekend service.  Of those 52% reportedly making Gospel presentations, how many were simply a testimony or directions to the church?

Few acts could be considered more selfish and inhumane than withholding a known cure from the terminally ill.  Yet church leaders withhold evangelism training and intensive discipleship for fear of losing members.  Churchgoers withhold the remedy for sin, fearing a loss of social status.  The urgency, methods and message of evangelism have been reshaped around self-centered interests.  It’s no coincidence secular society now sees selfishness as Christianity’s principal characteristic.

Urgency

Christians have contributed to our divisive culture by segmenting into “us” versus “them”, alternating between playing “offense” or “defense” depending on which President is in office.  Being offensive during the term of a church-friendly administration has Christians on the defensive today.  Focus has shifted from winning people to Christ to fending off a barrage of attacks.  The tone of comments on this blog’s social media pages have turned dark and aggressive, insulting and deriding anyone who dares to speak positively about Jesus.  Honest debates about the need for God’s grace and forgiveness have evolved into angry, name-calling rants.  Admittedly, leading someone toward faith in that environment seems a more daunting uphill climb today, fraught with abuse along the way.

However, Scripture doesn’t exempt any Christ-follower from imitating Jesus’ Prayer/Care/Share lifestyle.  Our excuses for abdicating personal evangelism don’t hold water, even in the face of hostility:

  • “Faith is a private matter” – yet we talk about what we love (e.g. our spouse and children)
  • “Imposing my beliefs on others isn’t loving” – yet it’s love that should compel us to share our beliefs
  • “It’s not my gifting”not all are a “hand” or “foot”, yet all should be His “hands and feet”
  • “God has already chosen the elect” – yet we should consider it a privilege to be part of God’s plan
  • “I’m not around many non-believers” – yet churches adopt growth models that unintentionally encourage “social distancing”
  • “Speaking up could cost me my job” – yet the Great Calling says we should not draw lines between work and ministry, separating sacred from secular
  • “My pastor can do it better than I can” – yet we can reach many people that he can’t
  • “If I don’t someone else will” – yet you may be the only glimpse of Jesus they see
  • “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words” – yet this adage containing a modicum of truth conceals a cop out
  • “I don’t know what to say” – yet all believers should be able to adeptly explain the gospel and have biblical responses to typical objections

Church is not a destination for attracting and retaining but a vehicle for equipping and sending.  If more pastors had the audacity to teach that the Great Commission isn’t optional, society would be more convinced to listen.  But as it stands, our lack of urgency to evangelize comes across as uncertainty that we truly believe the Gospel is a matter of life and death – or as further evidence Christians are primarily concerned about themselves.

Methods

Even if we drum up the courage to broach the topic of faith, the ways we’ve been coached by most American churches to evangelize are designed around self-interest, not selfless urgency:

  • Efficient – Just tell your story and let pastors do the rest
  • Egocentric – Focus on what God did for you, and what He could do for them
  • Convenient – No need to get your hands dirty caring before sharing, like Jesus did
  • Transactional – If they don’t respond to your story or invitation, you’ve done your part
  • Easy – Evangelism training isn’t necessary; we’ll answer their tough questions for you
  • Comfortable – No one can argue with your personal story so that route carries little risk
  • Non-Committal – There are no requirements or timelines; just speak up when you feel “led”
  • Indirect – Get to know people, show them who Jesus is by how you live, and see if they bring Him up
  • Arms-Length – Take a stand for moral issues, virtue signal, and keep a safe distance
  • Worldly – Tell how God got you through tough situations, the theme of most Christian songs
  • Attractional – Convince those who don’t worship Jesus to come to a holy worship service
  • Non-Controversial – Don’t bring up sin even though its resolution is the basis for your faith
  • Liberating – Cheap grace frees you from the obligation to align your words and behaviors
  • Lighthearted – Don’t be a downer, making anyone feel guilty even though suppressed guilt is driving rampant medication (escapism) and self-justification (cancelling others)

God’s justification in Jesus is the only viable alternative to self-justification.  But learning how to present and contrast those options requires more time, effort, and risk than most churchgoers are willing to endure.  Statistics and the evening news confirm that designing evangelism to suit the schedules and preferences of cultural Christians isn’t effective in leading people to Jesus or growing churches.  In fact, it is validating society’s caricatures of Christians as uncaring.

Message

Assuming a Christ-follower senses the urgency of evangelism and understands biblical methods for sharing our faith, it’s unlikely he or she was taught by a church how to communicate the Gospel in ways that will resonate in Post-Christian America:

  • All roads lead to God – Since Adam and Eve, creation has tried 1,000s of ways to make things right with the Creator. All world religions except for Christianity go down the same path – telling mankind how to fix what we broke.  Christianity alone contends that our “good” works or “enlightenment” can never do what only God can.  We cannot raise ourselves up or bring God down, trying to earn a “wage” (salvation) we feel we’re due – that’s why Jesus came down, to offer a “gift” we don’t deserve.
  • “I’m living my truth” – Being your “authentic self” is impossible if your identity is not as a child of our Father.  However, America’s fastest growing religion, Selfism, places its faith in mankind rather than God, believing human nature is good with the capacity to define “truth” and no need for redemption.  Evangelism today requires proving that we are not innocent and therefore it’s unwise to bet our eternal lives on our goodness rather than God’s.  Only Jesus satisfied the requirements of the law (works), qualified to graciously gift us His righteousness.
  • “I’m not religious” – The ranks of “Dones” and “Nones” have grown so rapidly because they rejected church growth models that appeared self-serving, and/or the self-centered Christians it produced.  Getting through to them starts with humble confession and by encouraging them not to blame God for man’s mistakes.
  • “There is no God” – When entering into conversations with someone who claims God does not exist, it’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as an Atheist.  While listening and respecting their views, it should give us courage to know deep down everyone understands something didn’t come from nothing and has an innate desire to reconnect with our Father.  For most, unbelief emerged from belief – at some point consciously walking away from God when He didn’t give them what they wanted or allowed something to happen they didn’t want.
  • “Christians are nothing like Jesus” – As churches have lowered expectations for following Jesus’ model for evangelism, His emphasis on (and example of) demonstrating His love before telling people who He is also went by the wayside.  Jesus served the poor and solved real-world problems, but compassion is now a low priority for most churches.

Pitting our story, our Scripture, our God, our world view, or our philosophies against someone else’s is just our truth against theirs (from their perspective).  Christians won’t often win those arguments in today’s culture, but can disrupt the self-confidence of non-believers by making them question its underpinnings – the enormous wager they’re making on their “goodness”, capabilities, intellect, identity, and spirituality that obviates their perceived need for God’s descent into our decadence.

It’s Your Turn

What methods and messages for conveying the love of Jesus have you seen most effective in breaking down the walls of self-determination and self-actualization?

America’s Undiagnosed Health Crisis

May 19, 22
JMorgan
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one comments

I came to faith in Jesus at 16 and studied Scripture for 20 years, but it wasn’t until I launched Meet The Need 20 years ago (yes, I’m 56 now) that I understood what a church really is, what discipleship means, and how to help the poor.  It also took working with thousands of churches and ministries over 2 decades to realize how pervasive and intrinsic the topic of health is in the Gospel, the ministry of Jesus, and the history of the Church.  Since the Fall of man inaugurated illness and death, God in His infinite love has been executing His plan for reconciliation and restoration.  He will eventually not only restore our bodies to perfect health, putting an end to illness and death, but will heal the spiritual and mental health challenges that are so evident in our world today.

Jesus could have chosen any way to demonstrate His power – any miracles to show His love – but He chose healing and feeding.  Health is our greatest concern.  Nothing stops us in our tracks like pain and disease.  The instant we get in an accident or receive a dire diagnosis, all of our seemingly significant problems suddenly fade into the background.  Nothing brings us more joy than healing – physical, spiritual, and psychological.  Restoration to health directly and dramatically affects us like nothing else can.  Imagine taking your first deep breath in weeks following COVID-19 or getting word from doctors that you’re in remission or cancer free.

The Old Testament foretold that Jesus, the Great Physician, would one day take our infirmities and carry away our diseases, a uniquely encouraging prophecy.  No act of compassion is more intimate and impactful than the touch of a healing hand.  Consider the ripple effect of Jesus violating social distancing laws and touching the leper.  Consider the “word of mouth” effect of the thousands Jesus fed telling everyone they knew how a few fish and loaves filled all of their bellies.  It’s no wonder Jesus referenced food so frequently in His messages to those who were physically and spiritually hungry – “eat my flesh”, “bread of life”, “shall never thirst”.

Meet The Need follows suit and focuses much of our efforts on feeding and healing.  We’ve partnered with Feeding America for 9 years to build the world’s largest food rescue network, redirecting over 3 billion pounds of food before it goes to waste to shelters and agencies who feed the poor.  We’ve also helped Tampa Port Ministries connect with the University of South Florida College of Nursing to provide a more personal service to sailors than it ever had before – health care.  That port-based clinic may be the first of its kind in the world – long overdue given the duration seafarers are on ships.

Since its inception, the Church was instrumental in the provision of health care services.  Jesus’ gave His disciples the power to heal, before and after His ascension.  Early believers risked their lives to care for their oppressors in Rome suffering from the plague.  The first hospitals originated from distinctly Christian principles like charity, dignity, and healing – and most were founded by churches.  Yet few churches today are integrally involved in providing health care or regularly feeding the hungry, which (ironically) has significantly diminished the Church’s own “health”.  Church “health” is a frequent topic in pastor publications and conferences, but few assess their own churches’ “health” biblically.

It took years in full-time ministry to realize that how churches measure their “health” determines how people in those communities assess their “health”, which in turn dictates our nation’s “health”.  To the extent that churches focus on numerical rather than spiritual growth, their members and those in their circles of influence are more likely to adopt self-centered views of their welfare as well.  The healing and restoration that our nation needs right now hinge largely on whether pastors will revert to Kingdom-centric measures of congregational, community, and (big “C”) Church “health”.

Church Health Crisis

Churches underperform on “health” metrics they track (e.g. attendance, growth, giving, programs, volunteers, facilities) when they don’t pay close enough attention to what they should be tracking:

  • Nutrition – No longer positioning church as a “hospital for sinners”, which casts members as patients served by doctors rather than medical staff trained to treat others.
  • Fitness – Making disciples who’ve essentially attended “medical school”, taken the proverbial Hippocratic Oath, and are fully committed to doing the Lord’s will no matter what that entails.
  • Medical Missions – Deploying churchgoers into neighborhoods and workplaces, equipping them with medical instruments provided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
  • Healing – Offering vital services to those suffering, not just spiritually but psychologically and emotionally, recognizing only Jesus offers true, enduring hope.
  • Triage – Resuming a role on the front lines of poverty alleviation since only churches are ideally suited for short-term Relief as well as long-term Rehabilitation and Development.
  • Hunger Relief – Serving food insecure families and walking alongside them as they navigate the road to a brighter future, demonstrating the Father’s love the way Jesus did.
  • Home Health Care – Doing a better job of preparing members to make “house calls” during the next pandemic because most chose self-preservation over self-sacrifice during COVID.
  • Pro Bono – Only expecting members to be as generous in giving to the church as that church is in giving to those in desperate need of a cure for loneliness and hopelessness.

As churches have gradually outsourced the Great Commission over the past few decades, Americans and our nation as a whole have increasingly experienced a mental and spiritual health crisis that exceeds the damage from any physical ailments.  Once churches changed their definition of the “customer” from those outside the “4 walls” to those in the pews, their measurement and incentive structures shifted from equipping and sending disciples to attracting and retaining members.  Consequently, the “health” of churches and our country has declined as the (discipleship and compassion) expectations of churchgoers diminished and the (performance and program) demands placed on pastors skyrocketed.

Personal Health Crisis

It’s no coincidence that church “health” metrics that favored building institutions over making disciples precipitated a correspondingly self-interested view by Christians of their own spiritual and mental “health”:

  • “Blessed” – Success and wealth became seen as the Lord’s reward for “good” works
  • “Favor” – Absence or escape from trouble became signs of God’s preferential treatment
  • Consumption – Shopping for the best church experience became normalized
  • Recognition – “Church chores” became expectant and deserving of acknowledgement
  • Sin – Obedience to God’s laws clearly spelled out in Scripture became optional
  • Surrender – Cultural Christianity, in name only, became acceptable for church attenders
  • Sanctification – Holiness became something acquired at conversion, not a process

That self-oriented view of faith focuses primarily on what God can do for us and our welfare in this life.  It fails to worship God as He deserves through our submission to His will and service to Him at any cost.  Those lower standards churches and Christians began to use to evaluate their “health” filtered over into the rest of our culture.  Studies of “flourishing” rarely assess an individual’s impact on the “health” of the community or world, but simply record personal views of one’s own happiness, virtue, character, and life satisfaction.  As a result of our society’s accelerating detachment from Christ and grounding in Christian values, those measures of “health” (happiness, virtue, character, and life satisfaction) are nearing unprecedented lows.

National Health Crisis

America’s spiritual and mental health crises are primarily attributable to the Church’s health crisis.  The growing contingent of “Dones” (with church) may not have walked away from God, but have rejected “Church as We Know It”, which redefines “church” (as a place and pastors, not people) and its “customers” (as members, not those who don’t know Jesus).  A brief glance at the news shows how far and how fast a society untethered from the Father can fall.  Our culture measures “health” today in self-centered terms reflective of the shift churches and Christians made toward emphasizing the benefits of faith rather than the costs of discipleship – religion over relationship:

  • Happiness – The ultimate objective and excuse for hedonism
  • Tolerance – The consummate, strictly enforced virtue, justifying deviance
  • Freedom – Escape from the oppression and suppression of Christianity
  • Activism – Realization of meaning and purpose in fighting for a cause
  • Justice – Seeing human nature as inherently good, so even criminals are victims
  • Charity – Defining poverty as material, not spiritual or psychological, fueling hand-outs
  • Independence – Not allowing anyone to tell us who we are or what we should do
  • Equality – Noble, yet twisted to negate the differences in God’s perfect design
  • Control – Doing whatever we want with our bodies (which in actuality don’t belong to us)

While some of those may appear innocuous, the outcome of assessing America’s “health” based on self-aggrandizing metrics are rampant depression, suicides, substance abuse, isolation, crime, division, and hatred.  We’re reaping exactly what we’ve sown by teaching children that they are cosmic accidents, giving fallible humans authority to determine “truth”, instituting policies that break apart families, and positioning government (not Jesus) as savior.

It’s Your Turn

Do you see the connection between Church “health” and America’s “health”?  How can you be part of what God is doing to bring healing and restoration to congregations and communities?

What I Know Now That I Didn’t Know Then…

May 05, 22
JMorgan
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2 comments

In 1999, on a drive home to Atlanta from Jacksonville, the consultant in me wondered whether the burgeoning Internet could provide answers to a question I had asked our church a few weeks earlier.  “How could my skills and experiences be used to bless others in our city?”  It was their hesitation and eventual referral to a local charity that got me thinking…

  • “Is this the only church that doesn’t know the needs in its community or assets in its pews?”
  • “Wasn’t Jesus’ model to feed and heal to demonstrate His love before telling them who He is?”
  • “When did the body of Christ become so fragmented, disconnecting ‘church’ from ‘parachurch’?”

As a strategic planner for aspiring dot-com executives, I was developing business plans leveraging the Web to sell products and connect channel partners.  On that long drive home, the Lord put a thought in my head – “If you can shop online for something to buy, why can’t you ‘shop’ for someone who needs the skills and resources you have to offer?”  That light bulb moment nearly made me swerve off the road, but I managed to get to the next exit and began writing the business plan for Meet The Need.

Back then, there were no technologies that showed needs to those who could help.  It didn’t take long to recognize the incredible opportunity to (re)unite and mobilize churches and ministries around critical causes like hunger, homelessness, and child neglect.  So 20 years ago, at a time when the Internet was better known for the harm it was doing than the good it could do, we launched Meet The Need and built the first collaborative Volunteer Management, Case Management, Event Management, and Drive Scheduling tools – rallying the body of Christ around families desperately in need of help and hope.

While the passion I felt in the car that day remains two decades later, there were discoveries and realizations along the way I never anticipated.  Yet our heavenly Father is never caught by surprise and can use all things for good.  As Meet The Need celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s worth taking inventory of lessons learned from our work with thousands of churches across the country.  Thinking back on my transition from for-profit business to non-profit ministry reminds me of all the preconceived, flawed notions I had about church, discipleship, and poverty.  However, the disillusionment that normally accompanies unmet, unrealistic expectations didn’t squelch my enthusiasm because it soon became clear the Lord had prepared us “for such a time as this”.

Church Reform

Meet The Need’s mission has always been, “To mobilize and equip the Church to lead millions more to Christ by following Jesus’ example of meeting those in need exactly where they are.”  Since we wrote that mission statement our ministry’s objectives have never changed, but our understanding of what a church is certainly has.

  1. I didn’t realize church is not a place – Like most Americans, I naively saw “church” primarily as a weekend activity where choirs sang and pastors preached.  I misspoke often, saying I’m “going to church” or “look at that church” when no one was in the building.  The Bible never referred to “church” in terms of events, experiences, staff, or structures, but Christians gathered anywhere for worship, teaching, fellowship, and discipleship.
  2. I didn’t realize churchgoers were “employees” – Businesses can’t require customers learn corporate manuals, make referrals, and conduct trainings.  However, church members are vastly underutilized because most pastors treat them as customers, not Kingdom workers, afraid to push them too hard to study, obey, witness, serve, and disciple.
  3. I didn’t realize pastors had assumed most responsibilities of members – Pastors are burning out in record numbers because “consumers” have largely outsourced the Great Commission to church staff.  To reach those who wouldn’t darken the door of a church, we should decentralize, empower and deploy members to serve as “pastors” of their neighborhoods and workplaces.
  4. I didn’t realize worship services were intended for believers – Church is a holy gathering of the faithful, not designed for (or around) those who don’t worship Jesus.  Members should be (re)assigned accountability for leading people to Christ and defer invitations to church until after they’ve become Christ-followers.
  5. I didn’t realize giving shouldn’t be spent just on the givers – Watchdogs rate charities based on the proportion of donations that reach those they serve.  Churches historically plowed 40%+ back into their communities, following Jesus’ example of demonstrating His love and seeing the “lost” as “customers”.  It’s no wonder per capita giving has declined to match the average church’s investment in serving those who don’t know the Lord (< 2%).

It wasn’t until recently that I understood Jesus concluded Scripture with revelations calling for church reform and repentance.  Once again, it’s time for reform to stem the decline of the Church in growth, impact, influence, and perception.  The issue is essentially a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) problem – churches have defined the wrong “customer”.  My years spent as a CRM consultant were not wasted, but all part of the Lord’s providential plan.

Discipleship Reform

Without church reform, outsourcing discipleship (to pastors) and compassion (to parachurch ministries) are likely to continue.  It took years of work with churches of all sizes across the nation to understand discipleship was the key to church growth – that multiplication is the Lord’s math.

  1. I didn’t realize what the Great Commission really meant and who it was commissioning – Making disciples who make disciples is the Church’s mission, and each of us is the personification of “church”, expected to carry out that objective all week long, not leaving it to “professionals” on Sundays.
  2. I didn’t realize most churches were doing addition – When churches are asked how they disciple, most reference small groups, which involve far less personal responsibility, commitment, and accountability than 1-on-1 or triads but don’t foster multiplication.
  3. I didn’t realize discipleship largely boils down to obedience – Walking in Jesus’ footsteps requires studying, internalizing and following His ways by the power of the Holy Spirit, but in many churches “tolerance” trumps obedience to appear welcoming and “accepting”.
  4. I didn’t realize how critical church discipline is to God – Discipleship connotes discipline, which is explicitly expected in Scripture but not practiced often in America’s churches.
  5. I didn’t realize most churches had stopped evangelism training – Few churchgoers are taught effective ways to share the Gospel and answers to typical questions.  That was evident during Covid when fields were ripe for harvest but church buildings were closed.

Not surprisingly, the root cause behind those dramatic shifts is also a CRM issue.  The commitment needed to become a disciple and to make disciples are both too time consuming to demand of believers conditioned to feel like “customers” and too presumptuous to propose to non-believers that pastors have asked members to invite to church.

Compassion Reform

When I asked my church in 1999 what I could do to serve the poor, I didn’t understand what poverty was or how to address it.  Nor did I have any idea of the inextricable connection between compassion and discipleship – it’s impossible to do one (well) without doing the other.

  1. I didn’t realize churches had played such a key role in compassion – It didn’t take much studying to discover that churches were where people traditionally looked first for help, whereas they now turn to government, parachurch ministries, and secular charities.
  2. I didn’t realize most poverty alleviation efforts perpetuate it – Transactional handouts and occasional events may make volunteers feel good but create dependence and shame.  Walking alongside families as they work through challenges involves more time and effort, but is far more dignifying and effective.
  3. I didn’t realize we are all in some form of povertyA lack of material goods does not define anyone.  Our goal should never be to make the “poor” like us when in God’s economy the (materially) poor are often (spiritually) wealthier than those who are rich.
  4. I didn’t realize how significant the challenges faced by the poor can beBroken relationships and destructive formative practices make it difficult to overcome generational cycles of poverty and complicate efforts to help (progress is rarely linear).
  5. I didn’t realize why the Church’s role in helping the poor was so critical – Government cannot provide what struggling families need most, a supportive community where Jesus and not politicians are positioned as Savior.

After leaving my final business consulting client to go full-time with Meet The Need, I was caught off guard in my first few meetings with churches.  It was hard to reconcile the limited resources most churches dedicated to poverty alleviation with the high priority Jesus placed on it, until I discovered that my consulting background in CRM largely explained that disconnect.

It’s Your Turn

Have you had other realizations or revelations from your experience with churches that could provide options and opportunities for reform at this critical time in the history of the Church?

How to Reclaim the Great Commission

Apr 21, 22
JMorgan
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2 comments

Indulge a hypothetical.  What would churches look like today, what would Christians be doing differently, if most hadn’t outsourced the Great Commission?  How much better would the perception of churches be and how much more impact would churches be having?

A recent Barna study found that 39% of Christians are not engaged at all in discipleship, with 37% of those reporting they didn’t feel equipped and another 46% expressing a lack of interest.  Even among those involved, the majority are in discipleship communities, but most small groups don’t provide enough intensity or accountability for effective disciple making.  Biblical discipleship, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”, is too large an ask of church consumers and cultural Christians.  So churches accommodate, replacing personal discipleship with lighter forms that foster fellowship and breed loyalty.

Pastors now bear the bulk of the load, simply asking members to invite friends and family to a weekend service.  If churchgoers reclaimed their rightful Great Commission responsibilities, it would free up church leadership to spearhead disciple multiplication (the Lord’s math) rather than pouring so much energy and resources into Sunday mornings (i.e. addition).  The chicken or egg dilemma is who will take the initiative first to reverse expectations based on the biblical definition of “church”, positioning members as Kingdom employees (expected to perform) rather than as “customers” (expecting pastors to perform).

The dearth of discipleship from lowering expectations of churchgoers opened the door to outsourcing compassion to governments and parachurch ministries.  Discipleship and compassion are inextricably linked by the Great Commandment – if you love God you will obey Him and love your neighbor.  Jesus’ parables about the sheep and goats and the rich man and poor beggar make it clear that it’s nearly impossible to be a Christ-follower and ignore the materially poor.  Jesus, the Lord incarnate, spoke the perfect words yet knew words were not enough.  He almost always healed and fed, demonstrating His love, before telling people who He is (i.e. the Gospel).  We can’t outpreach Jesus so we should follow His example.  It’s no surprise that when churches scale back discipleship they nearly always pull away from local missions, shifting focus from equipping and sending to attracting and retaining.

What if the opposite happened?  Imagine Christians and churches reclaiming ownership of the Great Commission and, out of an abundance of obedience, resuming their intended place on the front lines of compassion…

Reclaiming Discipleship

What did the early church do?

Cultural Christians and church consumers don’t exist where following Jesus could cost you your life.  Persecution creates rebel bands of revolutionaries who have to support and encourage one another through discipleship.  In times of peace and prosperity, it’s easy to be complacent and let “Christian” become a label more than a way of life.  Churches in America are free to publicly advertise and promote without fear of retribution from hostile governments or religious zealots.

What do most churches do at first?

When there was nothing to lose, few attenders and no buildings, there was little risk and plenty of incentive for church planters to practice biblical discipleship.  Pastors had to connect with the community, didn’t fear losing members, incurred minimal expenses, and singlehandedly needed to raise up other leaders to work toward a shared vision.

Why did that change? 

When the hard yards of disciple-making finally pay dividends for church planters, growth occurred and suddenly there was more at stake – bills, relationships, members, and reputations.  Demands on pastors became more significant while demands on lay leaders and members often diminished.  To keep the machine running, churches can lose their first love, tempted to cheapen grace by settling for belief and engagement without material life change.  It’s not unlike entrepreneurs whose early success stems from laser external focus, until growth causes mission to get clouded by management and money.  Like companies, churches should never lose sight of who they work for (Jesus) and who the customer is (those who don’t know Him).

How can a church return to its biblical roots?

The hypothetical, utopian picture of a church that has reclaimed ownership of the Great Commission is a repentant return to when it first planted:

  • Nowhere else to deflect or defer one’s discipleship responsibilities
  • All hands on deck mentality around evangelism and disciple-making
  • Supporting and serving one another without hierarchies or consumerism
  • Not able or trying to “compete” with other churches’ programs, music or facilities
  • Measuring health based on personal growth in Christ rather than numerical increase
  • Vision and investment in community transformation and Kingdom restoration
  • Unity and partnering with other churches and ministries in light of resource limitations
  • Little concern about “preaching the congregation down” by sharing inconvenient truths
  • All those who stick around are committed disciples with nowhere to hide in a crowd

Imagine the Kingdom impact of a church whose pews are filled with folks like that!  Being an established, larger church doesn’t excuse members offloading the Great Commission onto pastors, churches outsourcing biblical discipleship to external ministries, or congregations creating committees to abdicate responsibility for work everyone should be doing.  No church should grow or evolve out of personal ownership by all staff and members of the guiding principles (to make disciples that transform communities) adopted at its inception.

What are the barriers to reclaiming responsibility for the Great Commission?

A bleeding edge church courageous enough to flip expectations and treat attenders more like employees than customers will lose most “consumers”.  However, there’s value in finding out who’s who – those willing to endure the costs of discipleship and those going through the motions.  Churches, like people, become healthier when they lose excess weight.

Reclaiming Compassion

What did the early church do?

Despite risks of persecution and plagues, Christians served even their oppressors relentlessly and fearlessly, precipitating an explosion in church growth. The Roman emperor Julian wrote, “the impious Galileans, in addition to their own, support ours, and it is shameful that our poor should be wanting our aid.”  Walking in Jesus’ footsteps, the Church occupied the front lines of compassion for 1900 years, serving as the food bank and homeless shelter, founding hospitals and schools.  American churches traditionally plowed a significant portion of their budgets back into their communities, acting as the original social safety net where people turned to for help.

What do most churches do at first?

Church planters need to form connections, create visibility, and demonstrate an interest in seeking the welfare of the city.  Like Jesus, their approach is typically highly relational and often involves serving the materially poor, working with local leaders to make a tangible and lasting difference.  Pastors treat non-members as “customers”, not outsourcing compassion by referring families to government agencies or public charities.  Because poverty is a result of broken relationships, churches are best positioned to provide those who feel isolated with enduring connections to a loving Father and a caring support network.

Why did that change? 

As churches mature, hire staff, and undertake building projects the demands and expenses don’t leave enough time or funds to continue addressing local causes on an ongoing basis.  The average church reinvests less than 2% of giving back into the city where it planted.  The number of volunteers required to sustain an attraction and retention model also diverts requests from external to internal needs.  Church “chores” are limited and frequently vastly underutilize the skills and passions of members, particularly in this day and age when our culture is eager to make a difference in the world.  Poverty alleviation is left to other organizations, with churches “checking the box” through transactional service events that generally do more harm than good.

How can a church return to its biblical roots?

Again here, the hypothetical, utopian picture of a church that follows Jesus’ Prayer-Care-Share model is a repentant return to when it first planted:

  • Realize and teach that Jesus sees helping the poor as a non-negotiable for all believers
  • Train and equip members for evangelism opportunities that arise as they serve the poor
  • Research societal issues, assess member capabilities, and determine avenues for impact
  • Deploy congregants into existing ministries and support worthy initiatives they devise
  • Utilize the church building seven days a week for outreach rather than letting it sit idle
  • Understand why “outsiders” feel disenfranchised, seen as “prospects”, not “customers”
  • Never acquiesce or appeal to consumerism, promoting compassion as the alternative
  • Learn how to help without hurting, not turning away those who come asking for help
  • Become as generous as you expect members to be, giving the first 10%+ to local missions

If you think implementing these principles is impossible, consider that a church is also the 3rd largest charity in the U.S..  If your objection is that the early church separated caring for widows from preaching, consider that responsibility was still housed within the church.

What are the barriers to reclaiming responsibility for the Great Commission?

Churchgoers have grown accustomed to “church as we know it”, unlikely to adapt readily to surrendering the balance of power, relinquishing their status as the center of attention – suddenly morphing into “employees” expected to pursue the real “customer” (those who don’t know Jesus).  It’s not certain many would want to sit next to the materially poor they serve or to lose their parking spot as people flock to a church that practices what it preaches.  Not to mention nearly half of millennials believe sharing their faith is wrong, likely to turn compassion into the “social gospel” where words aren’t deemed necessary.  Most church leaders would also have a hard time reorienting budgets toward a biblical definition of the “customer”, although members would probably become more generous if churches would lead the way.

It’s Your Turn

Have you seen a church repent of outsourcing the Great Commission and return to its original mission and metrics – to make disciples and transform a city by the power of the Holy Spirit?

How Christians Outsourced the Great Commission

Apr 07, 22
JMorgan
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6 comments

Outsourcing is a term not typically associated with churches.  Businesses outsource functions deemed non-essential or that can be performed at a lower cost by other companies.  Back-office services like accounting and IT are often contracted out, whereas most corporations hesitate to outsource customer-facing activities like sales and marketing.  Scripture lists several core functions every church should carry out, including preaching, teaching, prayer, discipleship, missions, and compassion.  However, American church growth models have rationalized and justified outsourcing certain “customer-facing” activities by changing the definition of “church” and its intended “customer”.

Increasingly “church” is viewed as a place and pastors, not people in the pews.  Churchgoers expect excellent sermons and service, including programs that meet the spiritual and social needs of their families.  Pastors feel pressure to live up to those expectations, and not to ask too much of members when other churches just down the road provide so much and demand so little.  Those dynamics position Christ-followers as “customers”, not their rightful role as the embodiment of church.  The ekklesia (“assembly of called out ones”) are actually Kingdom employees, charged with pursuing the real “customer” – those in each member’s circle of influence who don’t know Jesus.  Since “insiders” have replaced “outsiders” as “customers”, church leaders feel more at liberty to outsource externally-focused functions (like disciple-making and compassion) that the Bible considers “customer-facing”.

The Danger of Outsourcing

As retail consumers, we can tell when companies we do business with have outsourced customer service.  It’s more difficult to communicate and get the answers we need from less informed and lower paid representatives who don’t work for the company.  Likewise, the unchurched across America have noticed that most churches have largely outsourced “customer-facing” activities like discipleship and local missions over the past few decades.  Non-believers also realize that churchgoers, who replaced them as the Church’s target “customer”, have essentially outsourced their responsibilities (to be the hands and feet of Jesus all week long) to pastors (on the weekends).  Even non-Christians appreciate what Jesus taught and did, but most don’t think Christians sound or act much like Him.  Jesus promised that His authentic followers will have enemies, but believers and churches are making far more enemies today than they should have because society is receiving such poor “customer service” now that discipleship and compassion have been outsourced.

If the “lost” in the community were still seen as the church’s primary “customer”, church leaders would not have cut back on those critical functions.  However, when contemporary church growth frameworks positioned members as “customers” and not “workers”, tithes became compensation to pastors for assuming ownership of the Great Commission.  Churchgoers’ roles were reduced to inviting those who don’t worship Jesus to a worship service, an oxymoron.  No longer would congregants have to endure the discomfort and awkwardness of sharing the Gospel, responding to tough questions, and making disciples.

Centralizing those functions placed an overwhelming burden on a few paid “professionals” to pull off spectacular weekend events.  Pastors continue to burn out today, some even leaving the ministry, from taking over members’ jobs while tending to their normal duties.  As a result, many succumbed to the temptation to outsource other biblical functions like poverty alleviation that they no longer saw as “customer-facing” (given the transition from an externally focused definition of the “customer”).  In other words, churches offloaded work they should be doing to cater to the demands of church consumers, which they shouldn’t be doing.

Biblical discipleship was outsourced to ministries who specialize in developing discipleship curriculum that they, ironically, then try to convince churches to adopt.  Front-line, perpetual engagement in compassion and causes, a central function of churches for roughly 1900 years, was outsourced to government, charities, and parachurch ministries.  However, none of those can offer what people need most – the teaching, worship and fellowship provided by churches.

The Delusion of Outsourcing

Besides lightening the workloads of church leaders, outsourcing compassion and discipleship to non-church entities ensured congregants didn’t have to bear that burden either.  Asking “customers” to perform the time-consuming, messy task of getting deeply involved in the lives of the (materially) poor and new believers would send many running to the exits.  Yet replacing discipleship and compassion with retention strategies like enhancing facilities and planning the perfect Sunday service (for those who shouldn’t be considered “customers”) didn’t stem the decline of churches in America in growth, impact, influence, and perception (by those who should have been considered “customers”).

Discipleship within most churches is now relegated to small group meetings rather than intensive and personalized formats that promote life change and accountability.  Outreach is generally transactional and self-serving, not alleviating poverty but perpetuating it through occasional events that “market” the church but produce dependence and shame, not ongoing solutions to real-world problems.

An interesting finding from our work with thousands of churches is that those who cut back on compassion activities (to reduce staff and member workload) also tend to ratchet back discipleship efforts (to reduce staff and member workload).  The two go hand-in-hand since fewer local missions activities means fewer opportunities for evangelism and discipleship – and consequently less need for training on how to share our faith and lead people closer to Jesus.

However, Jesus said serving the poor and the Great Commission are not expendable.  He repeatedly insinuated the irreconcilability of being His follower and ignoring poverty.  And Jesus’ parting words before His ascension was a call to discipleship.  No church’s assessment that (year-round) local missions and (intensive) disciple-making don’t align with its growth goals or customer definitions can diminish their importance to God.  No church should fail to perform or outsource the Lord’s non-negotiable mandates under any circumstances.  Not coincidentally, it’s the dearth of discipleship in America’s churches that led to the outsourcing of discipleship and poverty alleviation – because few believers understand how emphatically Jesus stressed every Christian’s obligation to participate in both.

The Disintegration of Outsourcing

Jesus modeled prayer, care and share – an integrated approach to seeking the Father’s will and demonstrating His love to open ears to hear the good news.  Outsourcing evangelism to pastors (and missionaries), discipleship to ministries, and compassion to non-church organizations creates a detrimental dichotomy between care and share.  The body of Christ was designed for seamless integration.  Scripture lays out a number of key roles that should be distributed among pastors and members based on skills and giftings, but those instructions do not advise or condone divesting entire areas of responsibility, entrusting them to those outside the Church.

Further, there are certain customer-facing activities like prayer, evangelism, discipleship, and serving the poor that all members are called to perform.  Unlike corporations where sales, marketing and customer service are conducted by different employees and departments, no Kingdom employee (i.e. Christian) is exempt from engagement in reaching out to the Church’s true “customer” – those desperately in need of help and the hope found only in Christ.

Within the local church, all hands should be on deck to perform those functions, yet we divide up the Great Commission, abdicating discipleship to “professionals” and leaving poverty alleviation to charitably-inclined Christians.  Christian business people (“kings”) departmentalize the sacred and secular, working all week in commerce to fund church operations (“priests”).  Churches plan weekend service projects (which often do more harm than good), recruiting retirees who have time to volunteer while not expecting young families to do much more than bring a shoebox to church for Operation Christmas Child.  If pastors championed discipleship, all members would understand that workplaces are mission fields and that families must do more than just take care of their own.  We should all be surrogate chaplains wherever we work and pastors of our neighborhoods.  No one has an inside track to the Father – we’re all children of God.  Even forming church committees or appointing groups is another form of outsourcing when the function being partitioned should be required of all church members.  Instead, church leaders should seek to instill a pervasive culture of evangelism, discipleship, and compassion.

Similarly, we fragment the body of Christ across those functions, bifurcating Church into local churches and parachurch ministries.  Segmenting care and share is a relatively new and ill-advised phenomenon, failing to convey the deep concern churches should have for the materially poor based on Jesus’ clear commands to care for them.  Society senses the detachment that fuels transactional, convenient compassion at most churches.  It costs so much to keep the machine running, investing in the amenities and programs demanded by consumers, that churches have no choice but to leave relational, needle-moving social work to others.  Some denominations even operate centralized, shared-services organizations that churches pay to perform “customer-facing” functions that each local church should own as part of its normal operations.

Recapping the Logic…

The outsourcing decisions of churchgoers and church leaders are closely related…

  • Members ARE the Church – Kingdom workers, not “customers”
  • All Christians are commanded to reach the Church’s biblical “customer”, those who don’t know Jesus
  • Churches unwittingly treat churchgoers like “customers” when expectations of members are lowered and expectations of staff are raised in hopes everyone will come back next Sunday
  • That power shift encourages and enables church shoppers (consumers) to outsource their “customer-facing” functions (like personal evangelism and discipleship) to church leaders
  • Pastors became extremely busy doing members’ jobs for them and trying to placate the wrong “customer” (through performance, program, and event-driven expressions of church)
  • Churches have little time left over for (and less interest in) “customer-facing” functions like discipleship and compassion that would have engaged the right “customers” in the right ways
  • Therefore, most churches have essentially outsourced those activities to other organizations

As a result, the intended “customers” feel ignored, fueling widespread cynicism about churches.

It’s Your Turn…

How can churchgoers reclaim their position as the personification of “church”, providing pastors with the bandwidth to reclaim the Church’s responsibility to lead the way in discipleship and compassion?

If Everyone Likes Your Church, There’s a Problem

Mar 24, 22
JMorgan
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Can a Christian be liked by everyone when Jesus said we’d be “hated by everyone”?  His prophecy was not “if” but “when you are persecuted”.  Jesus was hated and persecuted.  Our only escape from a similar fate in our world today is to be very little like Him.  Churches are charged with making disciples who understand and live out Jesus’ example.  However, most cherry pick aspects of Jesus’ teachings and life, knowing adopting the whole package would put churchgoers in harm’s way.  They emphasize His love and mercy, His forgiveness and sacrifice, knowing it was Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God that led to His death.  There’s no risk in being nice and kind, but proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God exposes Christians to hatred and persecution in many nations, including ours.  Jesus is the only hope for humanity, the cure for its terminal illness, but surrendering to a Savior flies in the face of all the world holds dear – power, control, wealth, tolerance (of sin), and self-righteousness.

The gates of hell will not prevail against” the Church, but cultural Christianity is no threat to Satan’s domain.  Churches that challenge members to diligently obey the Great Commission will make enemies not only of Satan, but of secular humanists and any religion based on mankind’s goodness, not God’s.  A church with no enemies is likely focused on building a congregation and not disciple-makers that transform their community.  If members and visitors love the sermons, music and programs with little turnover, proudly displaying “I love my church” bumper stickers on their cars, that may be a bad sign – that they’re not getting the whole story of what following Jesus entails.  Why would anyone turn down a free ticket to heaven with no expectation of sanctification?  On the other hand, if church consumers storm out in protest, that may be a good sign – that leaders are being forthright about the costs of discipleship.

Churches can have too many enemies or too many friends by making both in the wrong ways.  In fact, those paths can intersect – making enemies in trying to win friends (e.g. when members breed cynicism about a church by not living according to the beliefs they profess).

Making Enemies the Wrong Way

Contemporary American church growth models have shifted loyalties and priorities inward, toward attracting and retaining members rather than training and deploying disciples, alienating “outsiders” by instituting a…

  • New Definition of Church – Centralizing “church” around a place, pastors and a weekly event gives the unchurched the impression that the only path to God passes through the front door of a church, when all have direct access to the Father.  Reducing the “ask” of congregants (who are the embodiment of “church”) to inviting people to church services disenfranchises those not only authorized but commanded to play a key role in God’s redemptive plan.  Meanwhile, our culture is losing faith in institutions, particularly churches, putting their trust in self and a shrinking number of close relationships.  Directing non-believers to a church building or a leader was never the intended roadmap to the Father and doesn’t work well in post-Christian America.
  • New Definition of the “Customer” – In business, whoever pays is the customer.  Not so with churches.  Those paying the bills are the (unpaid) Kingdom employees who should be trained to pursue the real “customer” – those within their circles of influence who don’t know Jesus.  However, the discipleship required to execute that biblical model is too time-consuming to dare request of people churches hope will come back next Sunday.  Treating members and not the community as “customers” also explains why the Church has almost entirely outsourced the integral role it played for 1900 years on the front lines of compassion confronting issues (e.g. poverty) near and dear to Jesus’ heart.
  • New Approach to Sin – To make the experience more hospitable and comfortable, most churches address sin less frequently, directly, and aggressively today from the pulpit and within the congregation.  Marketing slogans like “no perfect people allowed” under the guise of humility fuel hypocrisy as churches adopt the world’s definition of “tolerance” and circumvent biblical commands to preserve the holiness of the body of Christ.
  • New View of Society – However, lowering moral standards internally hasn’t translated into lower expectations of those outside the 4 walls.  Even though it’s unreasonable to judge non-believers by rules of a God they don’t worship, pointing fingers is much easier than sharing the Gospel.  Judgmentalism is the logical consequence of retention and growth strategies that deemphasize personal discipleship, accountability, and evangelism.

Imagine the chaos if employees at a hospital swapped places with customers, demanding medical attention from patients.  Treating Kingdom employees sitting in America’s pews like customers, doing their jobs for them and trying to meet their expectations (rather than raising expectations of them) – all while largely ignoring the real “customer”, the “lost” in the community – explains the decline in church attendance, influence, impact and perception.  Having too few disciples (inside the church) creates too many enemies (outside the church).

Making Enemies the Right Way

Churches no longer have a prominent voice in America, the price for conforming to culture or fighting ill-advised battles against it.  For Christians, there are only a few hills worth dying on…

  • Jesus – The name of Jesus invokes both power and ire.  When I’ve given speeches in schools, His name is the only word I’ve been forbidden to say out loud.  The mere mention of it brings non-believers face to face with their (suppressed) need for His grace and forgiveness.  Ironically, most admire Jesus and His teachings but few churchgoers have the courage to speak His name, much less share about Him, where it’s not socially acceptable.
  • Truth – Most churches have reduced evangelism to a testimony and invitation to hear the Gospel (and get answers to tough questions) from a “professional”.  Yet if they do come to a church service, they may not hear the entire story – the good news (grace) without the bad news (sin).  Members are better positioned to build the relational equity through time, love and compassion required to open (closed) doors to confession that surfaces sin, sorrow that leads to repentance, and acceptance of God’s grace.
  • Holiness – Churches are sacred houses of worship, a gathering of the ekklesia or “called out ones”.  Congregants should be equipped and commissioned to lead friends and family to the foot of the cross, and then invite those new believers to join the kirk or “fellowship of those belonging to the Lord”.  All are welcome but not at the expense of the unity and integrity of the body.
  • Justice – Churches must not turn a blind eye to the powerless and defenseless like the unborn and the persecuted.  Venting anger at those who don’t live by God’s standards may make us feel better about ourselves, but anger is only righteous if it is on behalf of others, particularly those who can’t help themselves.  Yet taking a stand for preborn infants and persecuted Christians invites animosity from those who question their viability and value.

Jesus loves the Church – it’s His bride.  As John’s visions in Revelations reveal, Jesus expects a lot of His Church – evangelism, truth, holiness, and justice are among His non-negotiables.

Making Friends the Wrong Way

Some strategies churches use to make new friends and keep current ones aren’t biblical, like…

  • Convenience – Transactional, event-oriented worship, activities and compassion
  • Self – Emphasizing what Jesus does for “me”, not what we do with Him
  • Fun – Cutting back on Bible study for kids and ramping up games to attract parents
  • Catering – Giving people what they want (like businesses) rather than what they need
  • Conforming – Making the Word fit the world, avoiding controversial passages
  • Clinging – Not dealing with toxic members because it risks stunting growth or a split
  • Measuring – Counting nickels and noses rather than disciples and impact

Attempting to make a faith predicated on the sinfulness of human nature appealing by appealing to the sinfulness of human nature is clearly contrary to Scripture.

Making Friends the Right Way

The alternative to, and complete opposite of, growing a church by exploiting self-interest is…

  • Prayer – Seeking personal and community transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Dying to Self – Risking hatred and persecution for the sake of the “lost” who we love
  • Confession – Admitting we’ve made church and our faith too self (internally) focused
  • Repentance – Turning from therapeutic religion that exploits consumer-driven interests
  • Humility – Elevating Jesus, not our church, realizing humility is at the core of Christianity
  • Dependence – Childlike trust in God’s goodness, not our own, to combat the world’s independence
  • Compassion – Relational hands up, not transactional “hand-outs” that perpetuate poverty

These strategies are too passive and counterintuitive for most Type A, business-minded Americans.  Parting ways with those not aligned with Jesus’ vision for His Church hurts growth in the short term, but losing weight always makes us healthier in the end.

It’s Your Turn

Has your church made enemies by holding its ground for what is truly biblical or made too many “friends” by doing what is expedient?

Why America Hits the Snooze Button on God’s Alarm Clock

Feb 24, 22
JMorgan
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2 comments

The greatest testament to God’s goodness is Jesus’ payment of a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.  The next exhibit God offers as proof of His love for humanity is the vast number of wake-up calls He makes, no matter how many times we hit the snooze button.  Just as the Lord demonstrated throughout Scripture how much He cared by awakening Israel to the errors of its ways, He continues to try to get our attention today through challenges and blessings.  Those who never answer will one day have to endure the shock and regret of finding out just how many times the Lord called and knocked on their door.

It’s not just non-believers who need wake-up calls.  God is kind enough to intervene in the affairs of Christians, churches and even entire nations to offer 2nd (and often 1,000th) chances for repentance.  Regardless of the recipient, each has the choice to accept or reject the call.  For those who don’t know Jesus, ignoring His repeated attempts to reach them exchanges eternity with a good God for the hopelessness of life without Him.  For believers, failure to recognize the signs means continuing to walk in disobedience.  In any and every case, God’s generous admonitions carry with them accountability for understanding and responding to what He’s trying to convey.

Christ-followers bear the additional responsibility of serving as interpreters for those most likely to miss the intended messages.  Like Pharoah who needed Joseph to explain his dream, only Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to warn non-believers that events in their lives could be urgent wake-up calls.  Yes, the invitation to faith is between that person and God, but He can use us to awaken those who would otherwise sleep through the alarm.  Like the story of the flood victim trapped on the roof praying for help, we can be the rescuers that God sends.  We don’t want to miss that opportunity, even though we’re not responsible for the outcome.  The story of course ends with the man turning away the boat and helicopter that arrive, saying “No thanks, God is going to save me”.  Then after his demise he angrily asks God why He didn’t answer those prayers, only to hear, “I sent a boat and a helicopter”.

Ideally, wake-up calls produce happier results such as Redemption (of individuals), Revitalization (of churches) and Revival (of nations), but they’re often ignored or dismissed unless someone brings to their attention the possibility that God is telling them something…

Personal Awakening – Redemption

It’s not only trials and difficulties like the Great Recession, 9-11, a pandemic, natural disasters, and illness that force people off the hamster wheel of life.  Yes, disasters and diseases make us think more about mortality and less about immorality.  But so should the beauty of creation, “chance” encounters, deliverance from catastrophe, and “God-winks” that most attribute to coincidence or karma.

Answering Personal Wake-up Calls

When someone recognizes those events for what they truly are, the response should be…

  1. Recognition (of our identity) – discovering that who we are is not our gender, race or sexuality but our status as children of a Father who cares about us enough to wake us up
  2. Repentance (of our sins) – witnessing God’s holiness should awaken us to our sinfulness and show He is willing to forgive “prodigals” who accept His invitation to come home
  3. Realization (of our purpose) – understanding that answering the Lord’s wake-up call means heading in a new direction and taking on a new mission no matter what the cost

Those transformations apply not only to “Nones” but also to “Christians” in name only (cultural, passive, pensive, private, or perpetually sinful) who God is gracious enough to warn to repent.

Why People Hit the Snooze Button

People ignore wake-up calls for any one of the 7 reasons listed in the last blog post – disappointment, rules, guilt, myopia, “logic”, hypocrisy, or control.  At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, even non-believers found themselves praying when death appeared imminent but praised mankind when it was over, not giving credit to Jesus for sending the rescue boat and helicopter.  As many times as the “science” was incorrect, placing faith in people rather than God permits unhindered pursuit of personal preferences and pleasures.

How to Awaken Deep Sleepers

Christians should be the wake-up call “first responders” in our neighborhoods and workplaces but aren’t being equipped adequately by churches to step into Joseph’s role as interpreters.  During the pandemic, when churches’ doors were closed, we should have been prepared to be the personification of “church”, showing and sharing how God can use all things (regardless of their origin, from Him or our sin) for our good and His glory.  We could have served as “pastors” within our circles of influence, but most weren’t discipled, evangelistic, or courageous enough to choose self-sacrifice over self-preservation.

Church Awakening – Revitalization

America’s prevailing church growth model (Invite, Involve, Invest) set the alarm that’s ringing now – its declining attendance, influence, impact, public perception and trust in this Post-Christian culture.

Answering the Church’s Wake-up Call

Churches responding appropriately to those alarming statistics will…

  1. Reimagine Church – reject the common definition of church as a place and members as customers, reverting to the biblical perspective that members are the embodiment of church commissioned to pursue the “lost” in the community
  2. Reimagine Discipleship – abandon attraction and retention (addition) in favor of equipping and sending (multiplication) disciples who can reach those who wouldn’t consider stepping through the doors of a church building
  3. Reimagine Compassion – stop trying to out-preach Jesus, who rarely revealed who He was without first demonstrating His love and power to open ears to hear the Gospel

Why Churches Hit the Snooze Button

Why would churches be so anxious to get back to (a prepandemic) normal that wasn’t working – a return to Egypt?  Continuing the status quo would leave us in a similar position during the next wake-up call, unwilling or unable to help unchurched friends and family recognize and respond to another Kingdom-building opportunity.  Yet Church as We Know It (CAWKI) is all that most church leaders and consultants have ever been taught and known.  Reorientation toward decentralized, empowerment-based models investing time, energy, and money into disciple-making and not buildings, programs and staff would be like learning a foreign language.

How to Awaken Deep Sleepers

The Bible provides the strongest argument and impetus for establishing a new normal among churches in America.  The ekklesia or “assembly of called out ones” provides a vivid image of a church characterized by traits not valued or practiced enough today – united, holy, accountable, surrendered, evangelistic, discipling, Spirit-filled, repentant, and boldly sharing truth (with grace).  Society is watching closely for anything supernatural or miraculous, evidence we truly know God, but instead sees institutions more influenced by culture than they’ve influenced it.

America’s Awakening – Revival

Government, education, media and activists have conspired to eradicate Christian influence from our nation.  Their efforts have been tremendously successful – only 28% of Millennials believe the Bible is the Word of God, 4% hold a biblical world view, 74% think all faiths have equal value, and 31% are now Nones (Barna).  The result among those same Millennials and Gen Z are unprecedented rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicides.

Answering America’s Wake-up Call

An awakening to the futility of life apart from Jesus given those statistics would involve…

  1. Faith – reclaiming the identity, purpose, values, hope and humility that comes with accepting the reality that human nature is sinful and our forgiving Father is good
  2. Family – restoring the foundational unit of society that leaders of the 7 Mountains have worked so hard to destroy to eliminate any resistance to their authority over our lives
  3. Fellowship – rebuilding a spirit of unity and justice around Christian principles, like the inherent worth of all human beings, whereas today we see only division that devalues

Why America Hits the Snooze Button

Our culture wants nothing to do with Christianity because we worship another God besides government and don’t bow to idols that fuel our consumer-driven economy.  The road to political control and corporate profits begins by detaching citizens and customers from the Savior by elevating self, vilifying believers, and defaming our nation’s heritage.  Then when a self-centered, divided, individualistic, standard-free, lust-filled, hopeless, and crime-ridden society inevitably breaks down, they will swoop in as “saviors” to rescue us from ourselves.

How to Awaken Deep Sleepers

Ultimately, revival can only come by a move of God so prayer is the best way for Christians to set an alarm for America.  At the same time, we most remove any impediments to faith and excuses for disbelief, many of which we constructed.  For example, our love can conquer legalism, our confession can diffuse hypocrisy, and our compassion can overcome (perceived or actual) “intolerance”.

It’s Your Turn

How could you be in a better position to help your friends, family, church and nation hear, understand and respond to the frequent calls our loving Father makes to wake them up?

America’s Collective Conscience Coma

Nov 11, 21
JMorgan
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one comments

The Lord’s signposts directing traffic to Himself are found on all of life’s roads.  The beauty of creation, the “coincidence” of God-incidents, the emptiness of worldliness, the desperation of disasters, and the inevitability of death all point toward the Father.  Even more compelling, yet perhaps most often ignored, is the GPS of a conscience God was gracious enough to provide us when we wandered off in the Garden of Eden.

Nowhere in life are we more distant from the Father, less likely to find our way home, than when we no longer acknowledge mankind’s sinful human nature and successfully snuff out our consciences.  Without those flashing signals, a key component of the Father’s guidance system, we risk running off into a ditch when temptations and distractions come our way.  Jesus came to heal those who knew they were sick, not the self-righteous without any sense of their own depravity.  Christians and non-believers alike can lose touch with their need for Jesus, gradually quelling their consciences, convinced by conscienceless voices that they’re pretty good people.

A Fully Functioning Conscience

It is possible to have a conscience that is untainted by worldly influences, but only through faithful obedience to God’s Word.  Paul declared on many occasions that his conscience was “clear”.  Martin Luther boldly proclaimed at the Diet of Worms in 1521, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe.  God help me.  Here I stand, I can do no other.”

A Christian’s conscience becomes defiled when it is diluted by beliefs and morality contrary to Scripture.  Many churches today teach that personal transformation and sanctification are not necessary, substituting dutiful compliance with religious obligations – the same myth Paul and Martin Luther spent their lives debunking.  On the other extreme, a hyperactive conscience can push believers away from their faith, forgetting the power of God’s grace, allowing the guilt of sin to convince them they are no longer welcome in His family.  Our Father’s love trumps shame but also demands obedience.

For non-Christians, receptivity to the Gospel hinges largely on whether they are still clinging to conscience or if it can be awakened within them.  Repeating sin for long enough eventually represses remorse, self-justifying until good is called evil and evil good.  Yet I find hope in the fact that many professed atheists attend “church” each week on this blog’s Facebook page, repeating trite arguments presumably to allay their own consciences or possibly hoping to be persuaded to believe.  If any vestige of a conscience does still exist, it can be revived by life-altering challenges, undeniable miracles, unconditional compassion, and humble confession – all powerful demonstrations of God’s holiness, exposing suppressed sinfulness (by comparison).  In contrast, latent consciences retrench further when Christians pit Team Jesus against Team World, as if being forgiven makes us “better” when we are in just as much need of grace.

The air war many churches conduct, dropping verbal bombs on those breaking laws of a God they don’t worship, advances the mission of powerful forces that are successfully convincing our culture that their consciences should be clear, obviating any need for forgiveness…

  • Tolerance (of sin) is the highest virtue
  • Pursuit of happiness is justification for practically anything
  • Traditional values are outdated and irrelevant
  • Religion is about oppression and control
  • Christian leaders throughout our nation’s history were immoral
  • Science and intellect can solve all our problems
  • Secondary educators know better than parents how to raise their kids
  • College students must be taught not just how to think, but what to think
  • Government can be trusted for (financial) provision and (physical) healing
  • Activism for a (socially acceptable) cause is the meaning of life

Overcoming conscience typically requires an outside force applying pressure or reassurance that, “It’s ok, everybody’s doing it.”  The objective behind wiping consciences clean, selling the lie that human nature is good, is to engender faith in politicians, institutions and corporations who live by an enlightened society’s principles.  Securing that trust translates into profits, power, and the opportunity to one day turn the tables on an unsuspecting populace.

The Church’s Conscience

America is increasingly building its collective conscience on the sinking sand of its own righteousness and not God’s.  Our culture is influencing churches more than churches are influencing culture.  Many spiritual orphans miss out on the love of our Father because churches haven’t practiced what they’ve preached when it comes to conscience…

  • Rarely addressing the topic of sin boldly from the pulpit
  • For those who do speak of sin, few confront it directly within their congregations
  • Gossiping about sin behind backs rather than discussing face-to-face
  • Never following Matthew 18 fully, sharing a member’s unrepentant sin with the whole body
  • Some teaching that it is alright to live bad because God’s grace is so good
  • Violating a new believer’s conscience, leading them to assume certain sin is acceptable
  • Feeling better about ourselves as we spend more time with churchgoers who “don’t drink, smoke, chew, or go with girls who do”

As Christians quell their consciences, desensitized to God’s hatred of sin for which Christ suffered so greatly, they more closely resemble the rest of the world.  Studies reveal most believers don’t stand out from the crowd.  Yet authentic disciples should act and sound completely different, called to…

  • die to self while humanity celebrates self
  • live for eternity while “lost sheep” live for the here and now
  • love and serve unconditionally while the worldly demand reciprocity
  • be children of a loving Father while the fatherless search for identity

When the house of cards of Selfism crumbles, and it will, consciences will be awakened.  We pray the consciences of believers will also be awakened by then so we’ll be recognizable, appear approachable to repentant prodigals, and be ready to give account for the hope within us.

Culture’s Conscience

The most compelling arguments our media, universities and secular leaders use to extinguish consciences is that God is bad and so are His followers.  Discrediting the Creator is just as effective as claiming He doesn’t exist in eliminating any responsibility for obeying Him (or any guilt over disobedience).  To sear consciences, mankind’s measuring stick for morality only needs to be higher than what they paint God’s to be.  Avowed atheists ironically spend a good deal of time pointing out the “sins” of a God they profess not to believe in, while confessing no sins of their own.

  • Claiming God is bad because He…
    • Allows and/or causes terrible things to happen to “good” people
    • Made human nature bad and then eternally tortures anyone who slips up
    • Tempts mankind to violate His rules so He can punish them
    • Slaughtered “innocent” women and children in the Old Testament
  • Claiming Christians are bad because they…
    • Think everyone else is going to Hell
    • Pretend to be good but hate those different than them
    • Discount “virtues” of those who haven’t chosen their narrow path
    • Oppressed “innocent” victims throughout history

They then ask, “What kind of heartless psychopaths must Christians be to believe in a God like that?”  To avoid those mischaracterizations of God and Christ-followers, many pastors have stopped teaching from the Old Testament or reinterpret Scripture to adapt to cultural norms, lowering standards for member morality.  But playing defense ignores the underlying motive behind society’s assertion that its moral code is superior to Christianity’s – the goal and challenge of repressing their consciences.  Sustaining their delusion requires keeping the truth of human nature and their need for Jesus as far away as possible – as well as consumption of a steady diet of people-positive messaging.  While living the American dream of freedom from restraint and remorse, guilt and shame are always nipping at their heels.  Being anywhere near God’s holiness threatens to turn on a light they would rather remain extinguished.

It’s Your Turn…

In the next post, we’ll discuss a biblical plan for restoring one of God’s greatest gifts – a moral compass within each of us pointing directly to Jesus.  How would coming out of our collective conscience coma spark revival within our churches and our nation?

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Oct 28, 21
JMorgan
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5 comments

In God’s grace, He’s littered life’s highways with street signs pointing back to Him.  It takes a tremendous amount of distraction and cognitive dissonance to ignore creation, conscience, the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts, and our impending demise.  Rather than follow the signs, non-believers put on blinders, speeding down the road, rarely looking too far ahead.  To obscure the “bridge out” warning off in the distance, our relativistic culture discredits Christianity based on the exclusivity of our claim that Jesus built the only bridge to the Father.

No matter how hard they try to ignore the flashing signals, something is not quite right…

  • as spiritual “orphans”, not children of our Father, they search for identity in political, social, occupational, or sexual preferences
  • the dysphoria of being “fatherless” leads to what we observe among America’s youth today – depression, escapism, promiscuity, addiction, and suicide
  • despite appearances, the fields are ripe for harvest because deep down few believe “my authentic self” is genuine or “my own truth” is viable

Our caution signs are going unnoticed because most Christians don’t understand the core assumption behind unbelief – their premise that human nature is inherently good.  Any strategy for reaching the “fatherless” (no identity) and “faithless” (no purpose) must account for the key to Satan’s roadmap – the lie that mankind is “flawless” (no sin).

The Football Field

Media portrays Christians as self-righteous (feeling superior), ignorant (rejecting science) and unkind (lacking compassion).  Meanwhile, Christians tend to view the world as evil (less moral), uneducated (academically), and misguided (malleable).  Both assessments contain elements of truth but miss the underlying reality behind our division – the fundamental disagreement over who is good and who is bad…humans or God.  That dividing line is what separates us, tearing our nation apart.

As long as Christians misinterpret the basis for the direction society is heading, flawed assumptions will continue to generate bad strategies for reaching it.  Imagine the chaos of a football game where neither team, on both sides of the ball, knows the playbook.  The field of play is the debate over whether or not humanity needs a Savior.  The division is so pronounced that it’s formed two teams competing head-to-head, trying to advance the ball down the field in a game they don’t fully understand.  No Christian would be surprised by the actions and behaviors of contemporary society if we realized they are attempts to conceal the traffic signals by elevating mankind to the point of eliminating our reliance on God for grace and forgiveness…

  • Position government and science as savior, the ultimate sources of funding and healing
  • Defer to society’s values, not those taught by our fathers or our Father in heaven
  • Break down “traditional” families by conflating genders and discounting biblical marriage
  • Surrender to the authority and ideals of political parties and professors, not Scripture
  • Subscribe to characterizations of historical Christian leaders as bad and today’s enlightened leaders as good
  • Trust in the goodness of people to do the “right” thing:
    • Individuals know their actual gender better than Obstetricians (or God)
    • The Taliban won’t slaughter innocent people
    • The unintentionally pregnant will do what’s best with “their” bodies (presuming the secular notion that we “own” our bodies)
    • Crime won’t increase if police are removed
    • Drugs and trafficking won’t cross an open border
    • Criminals won’t commit more crimes if they are freed
    • Everyone will make good decisions on how to spend government handouts
    • Canceling the “intolerant” or feigning offense will demonstrate our “goodness”

Framing human nature as good “frees” wide receivers to run whatever routes make them happy, unaware they’re hurting themselves and their teammates, dragging them further from their Creator and toward dependence on those who don’t have their best interests at heart.

The Teams

This is certainly not a game, it’s not a competition, and it’s not about beating anyone else.  Christians want to see all come to an intimate knowledge of our Father.  Humanity’s universal fallen state should have put all players on the same team, looking in the mirror, not lining up to tackle individuals and groups with whom they disagree.  But we’ve engaged in the game of defining who is good and who is bad.  By labeling and vilifying the other “team”, both sides strap on helmets for a winner-take-all contest.

By appearing to think we’re “better” than “them”, a “Team World” has formed, sensing the self-righteousness and condemnation of “Team Jesus”.  Over time, Christians and churches turned the ball over, making non-believers feel morally superior.  Secularism is now on offense and Christians are back on their heels, watching “Team World” rapidly advance its agenda toward the endzone.  Unfortunately, we’ve had the wrong offensive strategy for decades, following a playbook designed by offensive coordinators who didn’t recognize the common ground all humans share – our sinful nature.  We made players on “Team World” feel judged, flagging them for committing penalties when they didn’t know our rules.

Ironically, Jesus was frequently accused of fraternizing with players (“sinners”) on the opposing team, showing compassion because he knew no one was truly “good”.  Our head coach wasn’t about winning or losing, but sorrow and service to help “lost sheep” find their way to the Father.  Yet many churches hold pep rallies, emphasizing “victory” and reassuring followers they “win” in the end.  As a result, players run out on the field feeling pride and comfort in being on “Team Jesus”.  Or recognizing we’re playing defense now, Christians became defensive.  There’s no need to defend our faith – God is perfectly capable.  Jesus turned the other cheek rather than defending Himself.  The best defense is always a good offense, but we’ve been giving out directions to our churches, not to the Father.

Instead of making disciples and showing compassion, we threw into double coverage by reducing evangelism to pitching non-believers on our team’s way of life, rules or church (inviting friends and family to the “game” next Sunday morning).  The COVID-19 pandemic exposed that churchgoers didn’t know the playbook.  When the assistant coaches (pastors) weren’t there, the players didn’t know what to do.  Choosing defense over offense, we defaulted to self-preservation instead of self-sacrifice, not serving as pastors of our neighborhoods, ready to give account for the hope that is in us.

The Playbook

Watching a football game, we believe we understand the coach’s strategies.  On the surface it seems our team is going nowhere handing the ball off, refusing to open up the passing game.  But frustrated fans don’t realize the patient, “ground and pound” approach is going to pay off in the 4th quarter.  America and possibly mankind is in the 4th quarter and the world’s defense would be wearing down by now if Christians and churches had stuck with the running game of disciple-making and compassion, demonstrating the Father’s unconditional love.  A “ground attack” engaging millions in loving acts of service would have weakened defenses by eliminating the anger Christians display toward non-believers and disarming those who revile Christians.

Our “air attack” has been overthrowing (verbal) bombs receivers could never catch.  Christians often appear as though they only see non-believers as sinful, positioning “Team Jesus” as superior to “Team World”.  We wouldn’t be responding with anger or surprise if we associated their behaviors with a distorted view of human nature.  We would feel sorry for them and share the Gospel, realizing their actions are a byproduct of an identity crisis resulting from their detachment from our Father.  So today non-believers find more acceptance and (a cheap imitation of) “love” by aligning with those who judge no one (because they don’t want to be judged).  They don’t feel welcome on “Team Jesus” because we aren’t following the strategy of our head coach, demonstrating the Father’s love and humbly confessing our own depravity.

As long as Christians aren’t being discipled in churches, thoroughly studying their playbook – the Bible – we’ll continue making silly plays.  Jesus’ strategy was not designed to “win” against “Team World” but to win “lost sheep” to Himself.  But centering the practice of faith around buildings, weekend services and “church chores” encourages lining up on the other side of the ball from those unwilling to join our team.  Conventional methods for steering non-believers toward the Father, like invitations to a Sunday service, are challenging in a culture increasingly distrustful of “Team Jesus” and institutions in general, including churches.  The Great Commission in post-Christian America requires preparing individual believers to build intentional relationships and provide clear directions to our heavenly Father, not our church’s address.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we should work to get everyone on the same team by confessing our sinful nature, helping unchurched players buy into their own sinfulness.

It’s Your Turn…

How would our nation be different if everyone had a shared, accurate understanding of human nature?  How would your church’s response to our culture change if the entire congregation knew the real reason America is heading in the wrong direction?

Giving Wrong Directions to Lost People

Oct 14, 21
JMorgan
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7 comments

What is life like without a dad in the home?  One fourth of America’s children know that reality all too well.  They are at four times greater risk of poverty and twice as likely to drop out of high school.  Prisons and addiction recovery programs are filled with the fatherless.  A child’s social, emotional, behavioral and academic development hinge largely on the support and guidance of a dad.

Jesus characterized those who do not know His Father similarly – harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Sheep lack direction – they don’t have a lion’s defenses against predators or a salmon’s GPS to find their way home.  Without a Father to serve as Shepherd, we should not be surprised when non-believers fall into the world’s traps, following the prevailing voices in our culture celebrating the pursuit of personal happiness and fulfillment.  In the (presumed) absence of God, there’s no one to warn them about secularism’s empty, self-centered philosophies and pursuits.  Looking for acceptance, youth gravitate to whatever group is most welcoming, which is often those likewise devoid of a moral compass imbued by the Father.  The fatherless are also easy prey for politicians, corporations and activists who feign concern but do not have their best interests at heart, seeking profit and power.

What they miss out on is a Father who looks on spiritual orphans compassionately, not opportunistically.  They trade in the unconditional love of a perfect Dad for the deceptive lures of temptations that always hide a hook, like the invitation to invent personal “truths” that aren’t actually true.  Moral relativism is the expected outcome of an identity crisis associated with lacking a sense of direction, purpose, and belonging.  Freedom from “house” rules isn’t worth separation from the Father and His family.  Christ-followers have the firm foundation of identity rooted in knowing nothing can separate us from the Father’s love.  True freedom doesn’t come from setting our own standards, but in the security of being children of a King and therefore heirs of His household, not disowned when we violate His rules and endure His punishment.

Jesus provided detailed directions to the Father.  In that same passage about lost sheep, He provided explicit instructions to “workers” to lead the fatherless toward the Lord.  Yet, many Christians in America today do not believe giving out directions is in their job description and many churches fail to equip members with accurate roadmaps.  In fact, many mistakenly feel the appropriate response to lost sheep is anger rather than Jesus’ attitude of compassion.  Of course sheep separated from the identity of their flock and the guidance of a Shepherd will run toward the most enticing voice, soon ensnared and hopeless.  They need help, not judgment.

What Directions Did God Provide?

A common excuse for rejecting God is that He condemns anyone to Hell.  Yet ironically rejection of the Father is that individual’s choice of Hell – voluntary separation from God in this life and the next.  Non-believers opt out, not wanting Him to be their Father or to be part of the family.  Unlike the prodigal son, they have no intention of coming home or leaving the life or fate they have willingly chosen.  Therefore, leading them toward Jesus is no small endeavor, possible only through the tools, resources and incentives the Father has provided:

  • Prayer – “…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
  • Holy Spirit – ”…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
  • Emptiness – “He has also set eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
  • Human Nature – “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
  • Conscience – “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation…” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
  • Death – “…free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15)

To combat those powerful forces, Satan mobilizes his army to remove the word “sin” from mankind’s vernacular, just as he attempted in the Garden of Eden.  He then redefines the word “love” to mean “tolerance” of sin rather than the Agape love of our Father.  Christ died for sins and God is love so it is a brilliant strategy to twist truth to paint humans as good and Jesus as unnecessary.  As a result, people who buy Satan’s lies wander aimlessly, processing nearly every decision incorrectly through a filter based on the flawed perception of self-sufficiency as an “adult” rather than humility as a child.

What Directions are Christians Giving Out?

Because relationship with the Father is due north, shepherding lost people toward other destinations is spiritual malpractice.  It’s also a dereliction of discipleship duties to conceal the path to the Father from those we see wandering in the wilderness.

Christians today tend to interpret the “workers” Jesus said were few in Matthew 9:37-38 as pastors and missionaries.  Jesus asks us to pray for more “workers” because there simply aren’t enough pastors and missionaries to reach so many lost sheep.  All churchgoers should be considered (Kingdom) “employees”, trained to disseminate directions to the Father.  However, the high costs associated with Western church growth models incent and enable those “paying” to abdicate shepherding responsibilities to the “paid”.  As long as “church” revolves around buildings, leaders and weekly events, members will feel more like “customers” to attract and retain rather than “workers” to equip and send.  In other words, paying consumers will expect excellent service from paid professionals.  Yet Jesus expects unpaid” churchgoers to be among those active in sharing the Gospel with the fatherless in their neighborhoods and workplaces.

“Church as we know it” in America also influences the messages and methods Christians use to reach lost sheep in their circles of influence.  Rather than discipling “workers” to provide directions straight to the Father, most churches instruct members to steer sheep toward…

  • Religion – Through Jesus the veil was torn and all have access to the Father, but countless “Dones” (with church) say the hierarchy and hypocrisy of religion impeded relationship
  • Spiritual “Fathers” – The primary ask of churchgoers is to invite friends to hear from pastors or youth group leaders, who often disappoint compared to other “role models”
  • Buildings – To simplify evangelism for church consumers, they’re told to share their testimony and give out the physical address of the church for next Sunday’s service
  • Experiences – Church should be a holy gathering of those united in worshipping Jesus, but many entertain and cater to non-believers to compensate for their failure to disciple
  • Morality – Christians are rightfully accused of expecting the fatherless to obey rules of a household they don’t belong to rather than first leading them toward the Father
  • Conformity – The unchurched believe Christianity means conformity to a way of life they don’t envy, not seeing love but division and condemnation of those who don’t live like us
  • Fellowship – We emphasize joining a church family more than becoming a child of a loving Father yet they’re already connected to others they find more “accepting” (i.e. with no rules)

The Great Commission is not optional, reserved for paid “workers”.  It’s a mandate for every believer, empowered with the tools and resources the Father gives to all His children to lead harassed and helpless sheep toward His flock (eternally), not necessarily ours (temporarily).

Wanted: More Workers Giving Good Directions

Our culture is losing faith in institutions, particularly churches, putting their trust in self and a shrinking number of close relationships.  Directing non-believers to a church building or a leader was never the intended roadmap to the Father and doesn’t work well in post-Christian America.  Also, decades ago the average American believed in absolute truth, God and Christian values, but now the fatherless know little and want little to do with what they think they know.  That environment requires all hands on deck, calling every Christ-follower to assume responsibility for forming intentional relationships and gently refuting society’s disinformation campaign leading sheep away from the Father.

Equipping churchgoers to give personalized guided tours directly to a loving Father and not just to a local church will require a level discipleship found in few congregations today.  It would redefine “church”, “workers” and “customers” in such a way as to disrupt the lives of millions of comfortable Christians.  It would mean adopting an entirely new approach to fighting the culture war, compelling a ground war of compassion instead of an air war of dropping verbal bombs on fatherless sheep living in a self-centered house of cards.  It would involve a depth of relationships reflecting how much the Good Shepherd loves them, not running away when threats and difficult times come.  It would entail stepping into the darkest crevices of people’s lives and responding to their most challenging questions in order to shine the light of Christ.

It’s Your Turn…

Are there additional guideposts or mile markers missing from the directions Christians are providing, causing a growing number of fatherless sheep to stray further from Jesus?