This post first appeared in my blog BEING THE BEST CHURCH FOR THE COMMUNITY
by Steve Dunn
People often criticize the church planting initiative of their denominations by saying, :”We have too many churches now that are in trouble and need help. Why can’t we concentrate on helping them grow again instead of investing so much time in creating new congregations?” Unfortunately, such an attitude is often the front-edge of an inward-focused church more committed on maintaining the comfort of its existing members instead of making new disciples. It is too often a maintenance or survival attitude instead of missional one.
It is a little bit like the same attitude that is expressed when so much of the church’s emphasis, the leadership’s time, and the pastoral focus is spent on reaching new people for Christ. “We need to take care of the people will already have first before we try to get new people.” At heart it is an anti-evangelism attitude.
Both attitudes tend to reinforce an inward focus and a prioritizing of ministry that causes the church to have less and less impact on their community. “As long as we are satisfied that our needs are met” is the measure of faithfulness and fruitfulness.
When this is true–selfishness replaces servanthood as the character of the congregation.
And when that is true, Jesus goes in one direction and the church in another.
If you take the words of Jesus seriously, it is a no-brainer. “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:33
God does not bless a church that forsakes its first love–that makes evangelism/discipleship a competitor for its priorities instead its reason for being.
This means churches let go of what they often sinfully believe they need in order to pursue what God has called them to provide others. The measure of their fruitfulness is not self-satisfication or preserving your comfort. It is what they have given up or given away that is what God is looking for.
It means that churches begin to affirm that “lost people matter to God” and begin honestly asking, “what must we be prepared to give up in order to have the time and resources to help people outside the church become reconciled to God.
(C) 2013 by Stephen L. Dunn