Every church reaches a point where their future is determined by choices they make and the vision they have for the future. In Kingdom First, Jeff Christopherson says, “Sadly, when a church makes the unnatural choice of ecclesiastical birth control in order to preserve its accustomed lifestyle, the natural and exponential advance of the Kingdom of God ceases.” When you look at the New Testament church in the book of Acts it was multiplying and increasing in number daily. The reality is that all too often a church stops doing the very thing they were called to do…reaching the lost.
On what was the New Testament church focused? They were congregations who were seeking to provide every opportunity for every person to come face to face with the good news of Jesus Christ. The mission/vision shift occurs when we are no longer focused on new believers, new disciples, new disciple-makers, and new relationships. With quiet subtlety our full attention shifts to bank balances, critical mass, and buildings. Our entire methodology revolves around them finding us instead of us building roads into the harvest.
We begin hearing the concerns of the sheep that are already in the pen as they verbalize, “We need to take care of ourselves before we go out and try to save everybody else.” The tension is real as you strive to simultaneously care for the sheep biblically while also remaining passionate about your Kingdom assignment. The original driving force of the mission of God begins to diminish as the focus of the mission shifts. Jeff Christopherson says it shifts, “to preserving our accustomed lifestyles.” A deadly shift occurs when we begin focusing solely on maintenance.
InKingdom First, we are introduced to a church ministry that asks these two questions.
- “What percentage of your non-Christian friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors would go to a Bible study or church regularly if you asked?”
- “What’s your strategy for everyone else?”
Consider this challenging proclamation from Lesslie Newbigin, “ The truth is that we do not truly understand the Gospel if we spend all our time preaching it to Christians.” There are a few things to consider in making sure that a mission shift does not occur that causes us to drift away from the reason we exist.
- We must cultivate a heart for God. When we love Him as we should it causes us to love who and what He loves. Compassion produces passion.
- We must train our people to share their faith. Make sure your congregation knows how to present the Gospel properly and clearly. Consider some type of evangelism training that gives them confidence to share the plan of salvation.
- Develop a strategy of building bridges to people who are far from God. Make them aware of the circles of influence they already have in their lives. They need to think of family, friends, co-workers, school, hobbies, and others.
- You must have an understanding of the difficulty of convincing someone who is emotionally and financially stable but generationally unchurched of the need to attend a worship service or Bible study. You must realize that they are not interested in adding an event to their already busy lives especially when it’s not familiar territory.
- Love people the way Jesus loves people. What is the best way to get their attention? Even if you established and executed the best marketing campaign possible you are still very unlikely to arouse their curiosity.
- Realize that there is nothing wrong with being attractional but it is not enough. It is a great thing to do but it is an incomplete strategy. Our outreach and evangelism plan must not only be “come and see” but it must also be “go and love.”
- Be aware that organization, programs, and systems are good things when kept in the proper perspective. They are necessary or everything your church has done to build relational equity can evaporate quickly right before our eyes. The challenge is to simultaneously care for the flock while remaining passionate about pursuing those who are far from God.
The mission shift is when we drift from our Kingdom assignment, the Great Commission, and settle into becoming a nice comfortable church. Quoting Jeff again in speaking about church planting, he says, “All church plants, if they survive, become churches. But not all churches become Kingdom expanders.” This is not only true of church plants but can also plague existing churches. Remember, our ultimate goal is not a worship service (an event) but rather, planting the Gospel (a movement)! The event is a good thing but it is not the ultimate goal.
The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” describes what so often occurs in our churches. Consumers demand to be taken care of and we turn inward in a frantic frenzy to maintain what we have. We hear things like, “we need to be thankful for what God has already given us.” Please notice the focus of that statement is past tense. We are no longer moving forward, desiring to build new bridges, and develop new relationships with people who are far from God. In Luke 15:10 Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.”
Our example of a the New Testament church focused on its Kingdom assignment is clearly stated in:
Acts 9:31, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
One last thought on making sure we do not allow the mission to shift to the wrong focus is a quote from Peter Drucker. “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”