Recently, I attended some training on sharing the Gospel from an organization that does full-time evangelism. Some of the comments the trainer made really rocked me and my wife and caused us to examine not only our lives but how we spend time in ministry. In Matthew 28, we are commanded to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" The command is quite clear, if you are a Christian, you should be sharing the good news with others. God doesn't say this is only a command for full-time paid ministry staff, but for all Christians.
One of the first comments that struck a chord with us was this:
"Most Christians spend a lot of time, money, and energy making their churches wonderful with the belief that if their church is great, the lost will stop by one day and find Christ. The reality is that most people that need to hear the Gospel will never set foot in your church. You need to bring the Gospel to them."
We can make this argument all day long, do people come to a church and get saved, absolutely. But is this the main purpose of a church? Not really. The church (building) exists as a place for people to gather, worship God and fellowship with other believers. It should also teach, train, and equip believers to become disciples who then "Go and make other disciples."
If you are reading this, you are probably the type of person who is open to attending church but the reality is...most people are not. In our experience planting churches, my wife and I have literally invited hundreds of people to come to church on Sunday and despite people saying they are Christians, only about 10% actually show up on Sunday. We've found that people are much more open to attending a small group gathering or social event than coming to the dreaded "Sunday Event."
Research polls shows that less than 20% of the US population attends church on Sunday and this number is expected to fall to 15.6% by 2020. However, this number is deceiving as many people are open to faith and even consider themselves Christian but they just don't attend church on Sunday. What this tells me is that people don't have an issue with God or Christianity but with the Modern Church. I've written quite extensively over the years on why people feel this way to include: hypocritical believers, not accepting of outsiders, poor vision from leaders, not engaging the lost and hurting, too political, etc. The bottom line is that many people believe the modern church is not an accurate reflection of Christ and his teachings and therefore don't want to attend.
However, this does not mean that they are not open to the Gospel. This means that ordinary Christians need to bring the Gospel to them.
We each have a missionary field - our neighborhood, our community, our social sphere, people we see everyday at the coffee shop - all these people are in our missionary field.
My wife recently shared a video message on Facebook talking about all the wonderful blessings and prayers answered this past year and two of the most unlikely people contacted her and asked her how they could have faith and joy like that in their lives.
This leads me to the second comment that struck a chord with us, me specifically:
"Speak the truth in love but don't waste your time debating people."
Part of my personal faith journey was spending a lot of time studying Apologetics and being able to defend my faith with science, logic, facts, and reason. I can defend the New Testament and give you dozens of reason for the authenticity and accuracy of the Gospel.
However, when I talked with the trainer in private, I asked this question:
"I don't run into people who have never heard the Gospel, most people have grown up in church or have heard of Jesus. I run into people who were once a part of a church but no longer want anything to do with it or atheists and agnostics who want to debate every detail incessantly."
His answer - "I don't waste my time arguing or debating people, there are too many hurting and receptive people out there that it's just a waste of time to debate."
This may seem callous and you may want to quote him the parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke but his point was that he did not spend hours trying to debate someone either in person or online to accept the Gospel. Speak the truth in love but don't waste your time or breath on people who are not ready.
"until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather,speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:13-16
He followed the "Red Apple Evangelism" philosophy. This philosophy states that there are Red Apples who are ripe for the Gospel right now and Green Apples who need to be loved on but are not ready for the Gospel. The key is to spend 95% of your outreach time on Red Apples.
This statement made me realize how much time I've wasted trying to debate or convince people of my faith, beliefs, opinions, or even accepting Christ. Part of this is my personality, I believed that if I could just say the right thing, give the right evidence or facts to win the debate - somehow that person would see that they are wrong and believe. This rarely happens however.
It's even harder and more personal when that person is a family member or someone close to us.
Ultimately, this training made me change my view on ministry and outreach. I no longer spend any time engaging in debates or even answering social media comments that may end up in a debate. People send me messages all the time and now, I just politely tell them that I no longer have the time to engage in debates.
This also made me rethink how I spend my time on ministry. I've spent countless hours on planning, vision meetings, and even writing on this website. Ultimately, I could say that this was all "tending the flock" type ministry but am I really doing what God has asked?
No offense to my pastors out there but I'm no longer interested in building a bigger church, making praise and worship better or finding the best small group curriculum. I'm interested in going, reaching people, and making disciples of all nations.