One of the books on my shelf that I find myself referencing back to fairly often is Robert E. Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism . The quote below is one of my favorites from the book.
Here is where we must begin like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. We must decide where we want our ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for. (The Master Plan of Evangelism, p.38)
My fear is that too many churches and Christians have made that big ministry decision without the next generation in mind, choosing instead the momentary satisfaction of recognition and applause. And in one sense, I get it, I really do. Making disciples is hard work. It involves one imperfect person trying to help another imperfect person learn how to completely surrender their lives to Christ. It is filled with frustrations, failures, and fatigue. And even when things are going fairly well, it is an extremely slow process. (Let me say here that I realize there are churches out there who are devoted to the gospel and to disciple making. But there are way to many who aren’t.)
So I get why churches end up abandoning this process or never give it a chance at all. It is not likely to rapidly grow your church or get you invited to speak at the latest and greatest conferences. Pastors from around the country won’t seek you out to learn your secrets to success. So I get it……
Except I don’t get it at all. This is the mission Jesus Christ has called us to fulfill. This is the Great Commission. This is the reason we are still here on this Earth. We have been called to pour out our lives in pursuit of this call. So you will understand, perhaps, if I am not impressed with your fancy signs, your slick website, your state-of-the art facility, and your edgy worship. Or if your relevant messages don’t ring true to me. I understand why you do these things. I know you want to entice the lost into your facility and you think this is the way to do it.
But you are wrong. The best way to entice non-believers into your church is to make disciples that love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and then unleash them back into their homes, communities, workplaces, and schools. Let those Christians be the ambassadors for Christ they are called to be. Our job as pastors and teachers is to equip them to do the work of spreading the gospel (Ephesians 4:11-12). I know this is the best way because this is what Jesus calls us to do. This is what the Bible teaches.
So stop reading all the latest books on how to be a great leader. Stop spending so much time worrying about achieving just the right environment k for the next Sunday morning “experience”.
Preach the whole council of God to your people.
Equip them to be ministers of reconciliation.
Please, go make disciples.