If your church and its functions were suddenly gone, how missed would you be?
I think this is a great diagnostic question for every pastor because any one of us can fall into the routine of doing church, and while church functions are valuable, what’s going to define our lives and ultimately the success that Jesus wants His body to have is really our fulfillment of the Great Commission. How good are we at that part – of not only gathering crowds but preaching a gospel that alters lives?
A good friend of mine, Gerald Brooks, said, “Don’t preach for more information; preach for conviction.” Moving people beyond their present circumstance requires more than just attending church; it requires a system that helps them to actually be the church, and outreach is a huge component of that. We are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Well, if the targets for us are “all and every,” then our strategy needs to match the mandate that is going to one day judge us.
I think every believer wants to affect change in the world around them. They know people have needs. They’re just not sure how to approach them. Sometimes care and love translate so much better than theological talking points when we’re sharing the gospel.
The Lord told me on the way back from the gym one day, “95% of the people you’ll pass on the way to the office have no idea what you consider to be normal,” that is, a victorious life full of joy, full of Jesus and freedom and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. “If they knew what you had, it would changed their lives.” We have to be salt and light. We have to actually get out there and care for folks.
With that in mind, I began to develop a church-wide strategy. My goal was to help our people better engage those they meet through the process of caring, passing out food and participating in prayer evangelism on the streets. These kinds of things are significant to the people that sit in our church services weekly.
It may be hard for your church members to step outside the walls and feel comfortable talking about the gospel. Remind them that the message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is not just the Lord of the church: He’s the Lord of everything! Jesus is comfortable in whatever room He walks into, and we as believers can be too. I think it’s important for all of us to understand that the Kingdom is not represented in just a church service. We are the Kingdom, and where we go, we bring the government of God with us.
I’ve always tried to hold services that don’t shoot me in the foot and come across as weird. God called us to be spirit-filled not spirit-weird. It’s important for us to be able to communicate in a way that actually connects with people, that makes them want to bring their friends and loved ones into service, knowing they’re not going to be embarrassed afterward. I think that’s extremely important. Once they’re in the room, we as pastors must do the best we can to create the kind of dialogue that makes sense to both the churched and the unchurched. That’s quite a challenge! And that’s why our mission has to be extremely clear.
If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us that people don’t care what you know unless they are convinced that you legitimately and authentically care about them. I’ve always had an evangelistic edge to my ministry because I lived a great portion of my young life without anyone ever sharing the gospel with me. I didn’t get church and I didn’t get religion. But when a hippie named Mike Warnke led me to Jesus in a very unorthodox way, it was life-changing for me!
Our church started doing evangelistic outreaches in Dayton, Ohio, and we saw the lost begin to open up and come to Jesus. But we quickly became discontent. We didn’t like the fact that we would lead so many people to Jesus, but we would never see them in church. It was a 13-mile trip and many people didn’t have access to transportation. We had to ask, “What is the sustainable answer to this?” Winning souls but not discipling them wasn’t a viable method of outreach to us.
Years ago the Lord placed a dream center idea on my heart. I didn’t call it “dream center” back in 1991, but I heard the name from Pastor Tommy Barnett and asked him if we could use it. He said yes, and we began to pursue the dream of reaching into places in our community where the people were scattered like sheep having no shepherd. The Dream Center was born, and we have been able to not only win souls but disciple many lives on an ongoing basis as a result!
I believe we should all have a mindset that says, “By the time I’m done with this event, I’m going to invite people to join the family,” not just inviting them to Jesus but inviting them into relationship with the body of Christ, with us personally. That’s a paradigm shift for many ministers!
Let’s choose to live as salt and light to the world. Let’s commit ourselves to fulfilling the Great Commission – not just inviting people to Jesus, but inviting them to become part of us. That’s what we need to advance the Kingdom and build the body of Christ.