Thursday, January 21, 2010

Come to Church or Go to Hell??????????

Come to Church or Go to Hell?

Catchy title huh? Did it get your attention?

When you read the title what was the first thought that came to your mind? Oh no, not another one of those preachy emails. At this point, I welcome any kind of response; passion, anger, love, motivation, sarcasm, rebuttal, criticism, questions, answers, solutions, or something!

If you stop and think about it, we work really hard to get people to come to church, instead of simply taking Jesus where they are. I know our intentions are good. None of us desires that anyone experiences the eternal reality of hell. Most of our efforts, resources, and programming are aimed at trying to get those who are lost to come hear our message of hope. I am not saying we need to abandon this. I am saying we have got to get beyond this being the primary means to reach people. I am not saying we need to abandon corporate gatherings either because I believe they are equally important and significant. I am saying we should take the transforming presence of Christ beyond the walls to the marketplace and our neighborhoods. If we are unwilling to do this then in reality we are with our inaction saying to the people Christ died for, you don’t matter to us –in other words it’s ok for you to “Go to hell.” Some might say, It’s not my responsibility to reach the lost it’s the churches. Wrong answer! We are Christ’s ambassadors. Christ is making His appeal through us to a lost and dying world.

If all our efforts to create a place for people to hear good news are not producing the fruits of salvation and life transformation we need to ask the questions: why not, what could be done differently, how can we connect with and reach lost people? If we don’t understand the goal of our efforts we need to clarify it so we can achieve it. The goal is not to get people to church. The goal is to introduce people to Jesus and help them to grow in relationship with Him. While we do better than most when it comes to conversions we can not be satisfied with it. Normal or average is not a sufficient standard to live up to. We should seek to plunder hell and populate heaven. Individually and collectively we should live and represent Christ to our community in such a way that we make it hard to get to hell from Carteret County.

Are the communities that you and I live in closer to being transformed by the presence of Jesus through us or unaffected by the presence of Jesus in us? From an outreach and evangelism perspective my hope is to inspire us to live as a corporate body of believers in such a way that if the doors to our church closed tomorrow the County would have reason to mourn. This will not happen without you and me partnering with God to take Christ to the community instead of expecting the community to come to Christ within our four walls.

From a scriptural standpoint we could say people came to where Jesus was to hear Him speak and experience His wonder working power. The four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John support this claim. However, the people didn’t come to the temple or synagogue to receive from Jesus. Jesus, the Head of the body, the church, came to dwell among them. The church went to where the people were not the other way around. In all of Jesus exhortations to His disciples dealing with preaching and declaring the Kingdom of God he never told them to invite people to come, He instructed them to GO! In Luke 10:1-3 Jesus sends out His disciples out to gather the harvest. 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out two by two ahead of Him to every town and place that He was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” The harvest fields in our community are white and ripe unto harvest, but the laborers are few. I have prayed and asked the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers. Will you be the answer He uses to meet this need?

If you recall the parable of the Prodigal Son, the older brother—the good son—gets upset at his father for making such a big deal about the prodigal son—the black sheep of the family—returning home. If, as disciples, we are engaged in going out to the fields waiting to be harvested—made up of people all around us every day—and actually harvesting people we would have less time for arguing and pointing fingers, and more pleasure in celebrating lost people returning to the Father. We have to be careful not to develop an indifferent and apathetic attitude because more people aren’t coming to church and attendance isn’t growing. If we come under the subtle influence of that mindset we will justify ourselves and condemn others. We will say things like we are doing everything we can to possibly reach our community and we can’t help it if they don’t come. This excuse just will not do! We as believers must awaken to the fact that individually and collectively we are God’s method to reach and disciple others. People are dying to know Him and you are alive to introduce them to Him. How about this, invite your neighbors or a co-worker out for coffee or ice cream. Have them over for a meal. Go out on the boat. Go to the beach. Find ways to just be a good neighbor and love them where they are. Make it a priority to get to know them. Listen to them and find out what they are about and find natural connecting points to build a relationship with them. Before people care what, or who you know, they want to know that you genuinely care for them.

So what will it be? Will we continue to expect people to just show up at our services with the hopes of them coming to Christ? Or will we take Christ to the community? Will we use our small groups to take Christ to neighborhoods? Will we convert our homes and use them as ministry centers to reach our neighborhood? Will we use board rooms, restaurants and coffee house to take Christ into the marketplace?

How many ways can you think of to build bridges to the lost? Who are the people you want to reach? What are their names? If you get me the names of those you want to see come to Christ we will corporately pray over every one of them. If you bring pictures we will find ways to post them so people can pray in agreement with you.

We can do this! We can overcome every obstacle and excuse to be all God, our Father, created us to be and do! God has faith in us, if you can believe that! He entrusted His son Jesus to us! He has given us His spirit to empower us! Come on, believe again! Have faith! Let’s advance Christ’s mission with all that is within us and expect certain victory!

I can’t wait until the buzz around places you and I live is all about the incredible ways God is moving and transforming lives and our community. I long the church to once again be a shinning beacon of hope, healing, and restoration to all in need of a Savior. My heart will explode with joy when I start hearing comments; what is going on with the churches in our community? Something is going on out there and you have to tell us what it is. Or people saying, we are so thankful for the positive contribution your church family makes in our community. Or, I don’t know what we would have done with out your church’s help. If this fills my heart with joy can you imagine how it makes our Father feel. So, rather than having the Come to Church or Go to Hell debate let’s just adopt a beyond the walls mentality and take the message of Christ to every nook and cranny of our community.