Here are two of the future leaders of the church I serve, the Church of God of Landisville. Actually, at this moment they are present day leaders as they are leading our congregation in worship as part of a recent Children’s Sunday. In fact, they are sharing part of the morning message, carrying out the role I often fill on Sunday morning’s as the church’s Lead and Preaching Pastor.
They did a superb job. This serves two critical purposes for a church that seeks to be immeasurably more. First, it helps the adult part of the congregation understand that these young people have gifts, gifts that bless the Body and help us carry out our mission. Too often adults think of children only as the church of the future. Secondly, it is a training experience and an anchor as these two kids discover and exercise their gifts from God. Thom Rainer says that such experiences of significant ministry are critical to helping a young person discover that the church is essential in their lives. Allowing them to do so is an investment in the future, because such experiences make it more likely that they will not leave the church when they enter their late teens and young adulthood.
Raising up leaders for a new generation begins with the children.
“The business of the church is to make more and better disciples.” – Bob Logan Beyond Church Growth
The church is a supernatural organism with a missionary purpose. Jesus makes that very clear in his instructions to his disciples recorded in Matthew 28, “… go and make disciples of all nations.” We are commissioned by God and given the authority of God to make disciples of people everywhere at all times and in all circumstances. And how is a disciple made? By introducing people to the Risen Christ and inviting them to enter into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus and becoming a part of His servant community in the world.
Church growth advocates often see the ministry of the church in marketing terms. “We need to be gaining and retaining members.” Churches of a mission from God think in terms of evangelism and discipleship.
Disciples are members of the Church, the Body of Christ. Members, however, are not necessarily disciples. Actually, you cannot be a member of the Church (including its local manifestation, a congregation) without being a disciples. Only a Christian can be a member of the Church of God.
The purpose of the church is to make more disciples. Church growth and church membership drives are often about getting more of the existing disciples into a local congregation. Whenever that is the primary reason for a church’s invitation and recruitment you sow the seeds of disobedience to the Great Commission. The purpose of the Church is to make more disciples, to add new people to the Kingdom of God and to His church. To add new disciples.
Gaining is about evangelism. You cannot be faithful to your calling as the Church if you do not concentrate on evangelism. Gaining is not about quality programs well packaged and properly advertised. Gaining is not about recruiting more people to do the work of the Church and to pay its bills. Gaining is about making new disciples for Jesus Christ. Programs, advertising, invitational campaigns are tools of evangelism – important tools. But unless they are drawing people into committed relationships with Jesus Christ we have not carried out the biblical mandate for gaining.
Bill Gaither and friends provide a musical reminder of living immeasurably more for God.
We often think of vision in terms of something we will accomplish when God provides the resources or sends us the right people or we finally develop the best strategy. In fact, many churches delay engaging in ministry because they focus on what they lack.
Did you ever stop to think that one of the ways of identifying your vision is to see what God already has in place in your church? If you look around you and begin assessing what God has already placed within your church, you may discover some amazing resources.
For example, God has given you many persons with the gift of helps (service) but few with the gift of teaching. That may be telling you that a high-powered Sunday School is not a part of your current vision but a very practical community service outreach might be the focal point of your particular mission as a congregation. Maybe you have almost no young people, but you have many mature older adults who are active and who have a passion to serve others. A youth ministry may not be your emphasis, but a senior center might be. Or you only have a couple of people with the energy and passion to reach young people, but you have a number of adults who are natural born mentors and are willing to spend time with kids helping them in their walk with God. This could mean that a discipleship focus rather than high energy programming may be the best form to deliver youth ministry.
As you step faithfully into the stream of ministry using the resources God has already provided, you may well find that He adds more.