Recently, I have had three pastors convey how unfruitful their church has been evangelistically. One was candid enough to admit that their 120 plus church had not reached even one person with the gospel—all year. The other two scenarios were not much better. When you see inclose what is actually happening (or not happening), the tale that I am about to tell may seem incredible. It is.
Like all good stories, it began with a dream and an obstacle. I had met with a pastor a couple times, who invited me to share before his church. I hoped his small groups would do my Launch Point book as a way to grow in their mission engagement. My time and talk went well. My truth telling wife affirming, yes! But when I followed up with him later, all the pastor determined to do was to have his people prayer walk some neighborhoods. Though I am all for intercessory prayer, I knew that if that was all they were going to do—his members would reach none that way (not that God can’t bypass our part, he just chooses to use human agents to do his Great Commission work). Needless to say, I was disappointed.
Yet, as God would have it, at the time one leader was saying “no” to the mission onramp, another group of about twelve Christians was saying “yes.” This group invited me to intro the book and set them off on their journey. I don’t know if I have ever done that inspirational pep talk without a degree of doubt on what will occur. Gospel mission is a lump-in-the-throat, gut check challenge for everyone! But what transpired over 9 extended sessions of training over a four month period was worth every ounce of nerve and courage. The group came together to show tangible love in their community, learned how to initiate dialogues with non-believing friends, and by the end of the LP course, five souls had come to Christ. Five! The stories were amazing. I have seen these dominos fall time and again. It’s like God is just waiting for us to step out . . . just waiting for us to move with his plan . . . and when we do he is ready to bless and confirm our feet.
As I mentally categorized their stories: a Muslim couple, a Mongols’ leader (biker group), a misunderstanding boyfriend, a racing subculture, a frightened cancer patient looking for hope—it struck me that none of this excitement occurred at the other church. They did walk neighborhoods and pray. But not only did these amazing gospel storyboards not unfold, the learning and missional development of their lives didn’t happen either. You should know, the fruit was not a wave of God’s wand, there was a learning curve within their actions.
Let me leave you with a truth that is represented by this account. Whether you are a church leader or member, it is something worthy of your contemplation of how to achieve Christ-like discipleship. Here it is: “You cannot become what you are not in the process of becoming.” That inviolable truth applies to everyone. If you want to be more like Christ, to emulate the heart and skills of the most mission-focused person to ever grace this planet, it will never happen by merely being in fellowship or listening to a sermon series. To the contrary, it requires your actual engagement. Hear this loud and clear. If you want to become like Jesus in his character and impact, you have to go to grow!