I suspect there are more than one. This post concerns the prospect of danger in church growth given the fact that we will double our space at 872 Maitland Ave. We will have a lot more room for a lot more people. That alone, coupled with finally gaining a physical presence within our community, along with the nature of our ministry by God’s grace, rightly causes me to expect us to grow in terms of our numbers.
What’s wrong with that? Where’s the danger? The danger lies in the nature of the growth. If the increase of numbers comes in the way of disenfranchised believers migratng from other churches alone, we have a problem. That’s dangerous. Because while we understand that such a thing happens (not always for good reasons I might add, but God does move His people around according to His purposes), we need to recognize that growing that way alone or predominantly does not reflect our mission to reach people outside the faith.
Those kind of folks, caught up in our hyper-modern, pluralistic culture, will likely not come to us just because we open a building. They likely could care less about us getting a home of our own. They’ve crossed Christianity off their list a long time ago. It’s no longer a spiritual come-and-see landscape where a Field of Dreams philosophy of ministry – if you build it, they will come – carries the day in the good old USA. Not on your life.
Tim Keller, in a blog post of his own entitled The Big Issues Facing the Western Church listed this concern among others:
The growing cultural remoteness of the gospel. The basic concepts of the gospel — sin, guilt and accountability before God, the sacrifice of the cross, human nature, afterlife — are becoming culturally strange in the west for the first time in 1500 years. As Lesslie Newbigin has written, it is time now to ‘think like a missionary’–to formulate ways of communicating the gospel that both confront and engage our increasingly non-Christian western culture. How do we make the gospel culturally accessible without compromising it? How can we communicate it and live it in a way that is comprehensible to people who lack the basic ‘mental furniture’ to even understand the essential truths of the Bible?
Good questions all. I commend them to us.
If we will avoid this danger inherent in having our own building, then we must think all the more like missionaries to our surrounding neighborhoods. Let me suggest some action steps to that end.
- Pray for outsiders regularly. Have you written a prayer card yet with key people you are asking God to save in 2012?
- Make time for outsiders in your schedule. Do you have times built into your schedule that put you in the vicinity of people who need Christ?
- Build bridges through acts of mercy when you see need. Are you on the look out for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ when circumstances open a door for such?
- Learn a gospel presentation or stock copies of the same. Do you have a supply of Two Ways to Live tracts to use, or some other favored resource, when someone expresses interest in the gospel?
- Invite outsider friends to Easter Sunday’s grand opening of our building on April 8. I promise to bring a message on the resurrection aimed in part to helping you share your faith. More people accept invitations to visit a church on Easter than any other time. It’s the one time the come-and-see strategy can work now a days, especially when coupled with a I-would-love-to-show-you-our-new-church appeal.
The rest of the time we must ask the Lord to give us gospel hearts that adopt and execute a go-and-tell-in-love strategy. Once the new building reaches capacity we will suffer the danger of thinking we have accomplished our mission when, in truth, there will still be a whole lot more people out there than there will be inside our four walls.
Lord, give us a heart of compassion and mercy for the outsider.