Alan Hirsch shares some important thoughts on how the church approaches disciple-making.
From the archives of Steve Bowen’s blog NEXT WAVE:
Why does the church Exist?
The Church is God’s great idea. It is a place where people can discover a new life living a new way. The people of the early church were “the called out ones”, “disciples”, and followers of the “Way”. In the early church there was an atmosphere which included a sense of awe, togetherness, unselfishness, unity, power, community, and a strong sense of mission. The resulting fruit?… The Lord added to the church day by day those being saved…and the church found favor with all the people.
Our mission and focus is all important. It defines why we exist and why we are here. Emil Bruner in his book God’s Forgetful Pilgrims, Recalling the Church To Its Reason For Being states,’The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers Ministry in the U.K. once said, ‘When we lose sight of the great commission we lose sight of our great prophetic purpose in life.’ Both statements are extremely important. When any church focuses upon any thing less than the Great Commission as it’s primary purpose for existence it will eventually loose it’s purposeful mission. That church will quickly forget why it is blessed in the first place.
Many people need to recover their sense of mission. Disillusioned Charismatics in particular, who were seeking the great dream of a painless, prosperous Christianity have realized the dream was merely a vapor without substance. In their pursuit to find fulfillment through the accumulation of things, and seeking to become successful they have become inward and blessing focused.
God wants to get the attention of the church. His purpose… that the church might seek Him and discover His passion for our dismembered world.
It is interesting to view church movements from a distance. While some seek Him for personal blessing, others seek Him for the lost. They are mission/value-driven. Some of the fastest-growing churches in the USA are in this category. They are doing all they can to reach everyone they can. They are focused upon the main thing. Everything else follows.
For example Pastor Rick Warren… with the 15,000 member Saddleback Church… author of the 1,000,000 best seller The Purpose Driven Church… He encourages leaders to recapture their purpose, by defining their mission…A church committed to the great commandment and to the great commission will grow a great church.
80% of his church growth is by first-time believers. As one man stated, “We cannot continue to be a traditional church and expect non-believers to want to be a part of it. They won’t. They don’t want our religion. They want to experience the reality of life-changing answers for life’s problems and the God of that reality.”
The questions Warren asks in his book provoke thought…What drives your church? What is it’s purpose in life? What is it’s mission? Does your church have a sense of mission? Or is it a church adrift?
Sometimes getting back to our foundations defines our business. As Christians and church leaders we need to continually ask ourselves, what business are we in? and how is business? Sometimes it is facing the hard questions. We need to discover our present reality in order to move forward.
One year during a losing season Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi gathered the team together and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This is getting back to basics. I think our great Coach would like to gather His team together, point to our world and say, ‘Church this is your mission.’ It really does matter where you focus your aim. It will set the course of your life.
Where are you aiming? Inward or outward? What is your purpose? Why do you exist?
“In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached, he recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”
—- Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 48.
With so many people in churches living pretentiously and so much of the world in need of the real church, the gathering of authentic disciples who are the Body of Christ … this is the kind of church that will be immeasurably more.