OK, so let me apologize for the gratuitous cultural reference – but I hope it got your attention (after all, you’re reading this)!
Whether you agree with his policies or not, President Trump’s campaign slogan Make America Great Again! was brilliant because it insinuated that something was fundamentally wrong with America while inviting his would-be supporters to partner with him to affect change. I certainly don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with the Great Commission, but as I’ve travelled around the District meeting pastors who serve large churches, small churches, struggling churches and hopeful churches, I’ve seen a disturbing trend: pastors who appear concerned with preserving the status quo are doing so at the expense of pursuing the Great Commission.
I’ve been surprised that my challenge to reach more people with the Good News has been met with resistance. Of course, no one will say they don’t want to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Jesus] commanded”1, but it becomes apparent in their action (or inaction).
Churches that exist primarily for the comfort and benefit of those already attending have lost their Great Commission passion; churches (and leaders) who are more in love with their methods (order of service, songs, style, etc.) than the mission have been distracted from their purpose; churches that prioritize inner culture (vocabulary, dress, etc.) over lost people have misplaced their interests.
Before you quit reading, let me say: I recognize that the tendency of every church is to be inward focused. The needs and expectations of a congregation of any size are overwhelming and people are naturally self-interested. It’s both expected and easy for pastors to focus on those who are already sitting in the seats instead of those who aren’t there.
But the call of the Great Commission needs to be greater than the pull of the status quo. In fact, our passion to reach more people ought to inform our approach to church, ministry and leadership more than our caution to break away from what we already know. In the interest of keeping his church’s passion for evangelism in the forefront, Craig Groeschel, the Lead Pastor of Life.Church, puts it this way: “We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ.”2 And to punctuate the need to love the mission more than the method, he follows it with this statement: To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.”3
If you don’t like Groeschel’s approach, try this one: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”4
I am convinced that the church is not to be the defender of the status quo; and that we must be open to new methods to reach new people without compromising the message. Too many churches are in decline and too many lost people are going to Hell to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.5
If this article has rankled you, it might be because there is a kernel of truth here that you need to consider. Let me push just a little harder:
Are you leading your people to be outsider-focused or are you caving to the pressure of the constant cry of the insider?
Are there things you do in your church that marginalize or drive away lost people?
Are there new people at your services and do they stay?
Are people getting saved; and are saved people getting baptized?
Are people who have attended for less than 3 years ministry leaders and board members?
I could go on, but you get the point.
If your church is not declining but you realize that it’s not the Great Commission church you thought, you might need help refocusing your ministry efforts. If that’s you, I’d be glad to talk with you about how we can help you Make the Commission Great Again.
1 See Matthew 28:19-20, NIV
4 1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV
5 The idea has been attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Ben Franklin, but the original author is unknown