In this latest chapter of Thom Rainer’s book called, “I Will” he gets to the purpose of the church and the reason for its existence… I Will Go.
His opening story is about a church that declined in attendance from 450 during its growth peak to 360 over the time frame of 30 years. That is about one person per week for 30 years. That doesn’t seem like much, it was hardly noticeable. And there were still a good number of people gathering in the building each Sunday.
It was obvious that as the new community grew, the church grew. Members and leaders didn’t need any intentional outreach or evangelism; the doors were open and people from the neighborhood came. At least for a while.
Rainer mentions that the church in his book never developed the DNA of GOING. They didn’t need to reach out to the community and developed a “y’all come” attitude. Over the years, the members instead developed an inward focus. They focused on their own comforts and needs, and the decline was described as slow, steady, erosion.
He has seen this scenario all too many times. The church will eventually close its door unless something drastic is done to prevent it. Then Rainer cuts to the quick, and he says this is the story about us.
This story is not about a church, it’s about you and it’s about me. The church in his story was once filled with members who made the decision to let their church be about them. Few people invited others to church, and fewer shared the gospel with others in the community.
Churches that are in decline are there due to a collective result of individuals who have decided not to GO. Rainer says that churches like this have become a religious country club rather than an obedient Great Commission congregation.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is often cited as our marching orders, but we sometimes forget that the Great Commission is also found in Acts 1:8 – that we will be witnesses for Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. That’s right, we need to be all about our own community first.
When I was a candidate consultant with the International Mission Board’s Journeyman program, I would often challenge missionary wannabes that “going overseas will not turn them into a missionary.” If they are not witnessing in their Jerusalem, that will not be an effective witness to the ends of the earth. While we love international missions, and seeing people come to faith in Christ, our own community can be one of the most neglected parts of our mission field.
What is a significant reason for believers to NOT share their faith? Rainer tells us that many in the church don’t really believe others need the gospel. They reason that “people know about the gospel and choose to reject it” which may or may not be entirely true. Few people have had the gospel carefully explained to them by someone with whom they have a relationship. And there is so much false, Hollywood style Christianity out there.
The point is that many churches in America give only lip service to the doctrine of salvation, because we have no sense of urgency to go. I believe that we will never develop this urgency until we realize that there is salvation IN NO OTHER name than Jesus and his resurrection. When we believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, we change from an inward focus to an outward focus, with urgency.
In our local church terms, we begin to embrace this “on mission” lifestyle, moving from member, to minister, to living on mission and on purpose. Thom Rainer brings up several excuses that church members use for not witnessing, be sure to read those in Chapter 5.
In Acts 4:19-20, the early disciples were unable to stop speaking about the things they had seen and heard. Does that describe you?
So, in practical terms, pray for opportunities to put in a good word for Jesus. Invite neighbors and co-workers to church. Get prepared to speak when the Holy Spirit brings an opportunity.
The end of this chapter has a great statement, “Satan’s greatest tactic is to convince Christians they can be comfortably silent. It is a sin to be silent when we are commanded to speak.”
One person can make a difference. Will you discuss this topic with your small group? How can we encourage evangelism and practice it as a group? How can we get prepared to effective witnesses?
When a few people make the commitment and say, “I will go,” we can start a movement that will impact the lostness and the darkness all around us. Thank you for watching this video challenge and discussing these points in your small, group.