You’ve arrived at a new church and you notice that everything is geared for the insider. The language is all in-house and the conversation is all about “us”. What can you do to change that? How can the church be mission-orientated?Our theological underpinning for all we say is that God is the Sovereign Ruler of the world. He alone saves, but he gives us responsibility to take his good news all over the world.
PrayRather than moan, the first calling upon you is to pray; pray for your leaders; pray for lost people; pray for your involvement. Before Jesus sent out workers he said, Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers, Matt 9:38.
Make sure you have non-Christian friends and contacts. We set aside Friday evening for entertaining non-Christians to meals, BBQs etc. Between us, we went to local classes and groups, became a school governor, chaplain to the mayor, in order to meet non-Christians. It’s good to be selective in what you take on as some things can be very time-consuming.
If you are the Pastor or a Senior leader, talk openly with fellow church leaders about the fact that the church is not outward-looking. Show how the task of a church is to make disciples, Matt 28:19, and that means going to find those who are not yet Christians. Encourage people to pray for those on the outside.
Whatever you do, do it gently and without criticism, 1 Peter 3:15, and model it. It is so important to show people what can be done. Bring your friends, colleagues and neighbours along to church and other activities.
A great asset for someone who wants to change the church mind-set is passion. The idea of lost people going to a lost eternity is so agonising that you feel you must do all you can to see people come to trust Christ. But never enthuse out of anger, but always out of warm love, and always with a word of encouragement.
And if people are just a little hesitant, give them a nudge. Encourage them to take one small step outside their comfort zone. Get people to join you in your mission – even as a one-off or for a trial period – to see how they might be able to contribute. Constantly show how Jesus loved the outsider; how the talks in Acts are geared towards those who don’t know Christ personally – even if many are in synagogues.
Build a team
Run training courses to encourage Christians in the church to develop gospel conversations with their friends.
Gospel courses and 1-1s
If there are no courses being run for outsiders to investigate the faith, see if you can put one on. But you can’t do this alone; you need to involve a team to help you. Encourage people to read the Bible 1-1. There are resources to help even the least confident church member.
If people say they just cannot do “evangelism” (which is a rather frightening word, so use alternatives) explain that the whole church is involved in making Christ known to people in our community. Use some of the, “I’m not an evangelist” members to help you with practical tasks – publicity, preparing refreshments/meals/running video/audio.
I knew one really good recruiter who involved his unbelieving friend to video the talks and edit them – ‘cos his friend loved doing videos. It was a clever way of the friend hearing the gospel!
Events are a great way of provoking the church to evangelism and reaping where we have sown. The more preparation we can do beforehand to encourage people to make friends with non-believers and talk with them about Christ, the more likely the mission is to see results. If we have no contacts, no-one will come to the mission.
Accessible to all
A key to changing the outlook of the church to be more mission-minded is to ensure that everything done publicly is accessible to outsiders, like the language you use, or the explanations of religious words, or helping people find their way around a Bible (use Phone Apps, or page numbers if you all have the same Bible).
Build a team; make a plan; encourage lots of gospel conversations. Events are most successful when lots of background work in relationships with outsiders has been done. Don’t rely on the event, rely on the Lord.
Put on a prayer event to rejoice together. Share your various stories with one another – covering both your good gospel chats as well as when you blew it. As you trust God to open up conversations for him, he will do so more and more. Encourage one another to take all the opportunities God sends – make the most of every opportunity, Colossians 4:5-6.