As God’s providence often does [after the excellent exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 by Bro. Jason Sunday] I came across this post by Thom S. Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to this he was the Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He knows a few things about evangelism and churches that do it well.
The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches:
Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.
The ministries are only for the members. The budgetary funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. The times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members. Conflict takes place when members don’t get things their way.
Warning symptoms include:
There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, other church staff, and lay leaders in the church.
Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with resistance.
The past becomes the hero.
Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.
Combine that idea with what Dr. Russell Moore wrote about a few weeks ago:
I have a burden for the church of Jesus Christ to, as Jesus puts it, to “seek and to save that which was lost.” But if the Spirit starts moving with velocity in this country, our churches will see more people in our pews and in our pulpits with tattoos.
His point was not that we all need tattoos. His point was that if we are serious about “seeking and saving that which was lost”; and if we understand what Jesus meant when he said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”; we must understand many of the sick and the lost are not like us, and don’t fit the stereotype of “Christian” we may have in our minds and in our inward focused nice neat little Southern churches. It should not be us vs. them.
Of course there are many lost that are just like us. But do we focus more on the ones that are like us and avoid or shun the ones that are not?
Dr. Moore again:
Jesus will build his church, with us or without us. But if we are going to be faithful to him, we must share his mission. This means we don’t just talk about lost people, we talk to them. And we don’t talk to them as enlightened life-coaches promising an improved future but as crucified sinners offering a new birth.
If the Spirit starts breathing this burden into us with power, we’re going to see churches filled with people who never thought they fit the image of “Christian.” We’ll see that the markings on the flesh, whatever they were, count for nothing, but that what counts is a new creation (Gal. 6:15).
We’ve come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. We’ve come to call not just those who look like whatever Christians are assumed to look like, but the whole world. If the church is powered by the gospel, then sometimes the Body of Christ has tattoos.
If you were in church you know the context, now go live it:
I have become all things to all people, in order that by all means I may save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, in order that I may become a participant with it. 1 Cor. 9:22-23