Robin J Johnson
Do you remember the old saying? “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Well, there is certainly something sour and bitter tasting hitting the whole world and the ‘Church’ is certainly not exempt from its sting. From lockdowns and church services being suspended to the deaths of pastors and believers alike from the deadly virus impacting the nations.
So are we making lemonade or are we letting the bitter taste linger and unsettle us?
What can I do?
I recently heard Keith Urban (world famous and successful Australian Musician) make a comment about the pandemic. He talked about becoming saddened, depressed and not functioning due to not being able to travel and perform, etc. He mentioned talking to a friend and sharing how he was feeling. After listening for a few moments his friend stopped him and said, “Keith, all you have told me about are the things that you can’t do. What is it you can do?”
Keith Urban said that was the turning point for him. Yes, what a fabulous truth for all us to embrace. I am seriously annoyed about what I can’t do, but that is not going to stop me from doing all the things I can.
There is no doubt that we are in the grip of an unprecedented time in world history. Yes, there is a beast out there killing people, but do not let the enemy steal, kill and destroy your zest for life. This is not the time to capitulate or go into maintenance mode or just sit and wait for whatever this is to pass and for life to return to normal. This is absolutely the time to get ready. In fact we should have been doing so for a long time, though I fear many are asleep still. The future, and we are to have one, demands that we give it our full attention with decisive action now.
Every member ministry
With that said, I believe that the optimum function of the Church, the Body of Christ, must be intentionally and systematically equipping and releasing believers into their God given destinies, starting with the priority of witnessing for Jesus; each one reach one.
The whole world has been shaken and with it our immediate world too is being shaken. Nevertheless, we will come through and when life returns to some kind of normal we need to be ready to build and grow. We must also be prepared to do things differently if we are truly going to be effective in bringing in the great harvest around us. It is not simply going to walk through our front doors.
One thing we know, and I believe we have known it for sometime, is that the so called ‘professional ministry’ (church staff etc) is not able to complete the ‘work of ministry’ by themselves. The ‘church’ as the apostle Paul tells us on different occasions, is the Body of Christ, and it is this Body which must “do their own works of ministry.” (Ephesians 4:12 TPT)
A young doctor friend of mine was travelling with me one time and talked about his hospital training and specifically what happened during his surgical rotation. He said that the teaching surgeon addressed the student doctors while they observed an operation and shared this simple, but profound teaching principle. “Watch one, do one, teach one.”
It is imperative to instruct our congregations in personal evangelism, giving them simple skills to speak confidently to family and friends about Christ, His Kingdom and our glorious salvation. Each one reach one sounds simplistic, but it is efficient when we intentionally follow through.
Ministry or housekeeping
When it comes to church life we need to distinguish between what is ministry and what is simply good housekeeping. Is distributing the communion elements or welcoming or ushering etc, to name a few, ministry or housekeeping? Granted, jobs need to be done for the smooth running of a Sunday Service, but those tasks (though we are grateful for the people that serve in that manner) those functions ought not be confused with ‘ministry’. Almost every church, small or large, is always looking for more volunteers to aid the smooth running of their services. These are essential, but we should not confuse them with the ‘work of ministry’. Ministry is always about people, not tasks.
As important as it is in emphasising and encouraging church attendance, this cannot be our sole focus. (My views on church attendance are clearly stated in, The Exhorter June 2021 Church Gathered vs Church Online) It has always been necessary to systematically train believers in personal/lifestyle evangelism, but unfortunately this has not in most situations been the case especially over the last two decades. The only hope for this world is Jesus Christ! And if us as leaders are not training, equipping and encouraging the people to carry that message into their communities, then we are derelict in our duty.
We cannot afford to neglect the fact that Spirit filled believers, witnessing and introducing people to Jesus where they live, work and play, is the backbone of church growth. Then one step further is planting new churches. This topic will be addressed at another time.
If we are simply holding on, hoping not to lose anybody and only concentrating on getting people back to church when restrictions lift, then I believe we fall short of what we are called to do as leaders in the church of God. Most certainly we want to encourage and strengthen believers in their walk with the Lord; to stay strong in faith, focused on Jesus. However, we must at the same time clearly show the reason to be strong in faith and that is not simply having them return to ‘church’ pumped and ready to worship (which isn’t a bad thing), but equipped to be an effective witnesses of Jesus Christ. The church is an ambassador army; “We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) So let’s release the army, in Jesus name!
One particular Sunday morning, some years back, I was in our main church in Hanoi (a fast growing church) and noticed a number of people being identified during the greeting time. I asked my interpreter, “Are they visitors, here for the first time?”
The reply absolutely thrilled me. She said, “Oh no these are people who came to Christ during the past week and we are welcoming them to the church.” Yes, a real New Testament church, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) The book of Acts continues to be written all across the world.
Out of the barn, into the field
I long and dream for this day, that in all the churches, every Sunday, we would be welcoming new believers into the church, those who had been introduced to Christ by a church member the previous week. If we rely solely on the Sunday service to be the primary place of harvest, sadly we will not see the rate of conversion or growth, ever take place, that which we all passionately pray for. In an edition of The Exhorter, written back in the late 80s talked about how we should stop harvesting in the barn. A farmer never harvests in the barn he goes into the field and so must we. “And the field is the world.” (Matthew 13:38) The Sunday service is, to all intents and purposes, the barn. It’s there the engines are tuned, the equipment cleaned and tools sharpened, to be effective for gathering in the harvest.
Sunday’s church must translate into Monday’s impact
But I promise you this—the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be filled with power. And you will be my messengers to Jerusalem, throughout Judea, the distant provinces —even to the remotest places on earth! Acts 1:8 (TPT)
As leaders in the Body of Christ we must understand that most of our congregation members are far more resolute and stronger than what we imagine them to be. Yes, there are folk who struggle, are weak in their faith and we must care for them. Nevertheless, there is a whole army, under-utilised, or if you like a term I haven’t heard for a while, the grass roots. It is time to release and deploy the army, activate the grass roots, enable the harvesters, whatever you want to name them, but we must empower and release the Spirit filled people of God, tell them we trust them, tell them, “You can do this,” and send them out in Jesus name.
Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. 1 Peter 3:15 (MSG)
Whether you have returned to normal services or are still subject to lockdowns and gathering restrictions, it is imperative that we prepare our people to be the harvesters in the season ahead. There are so many opportunities for the people God; family and friends, work mates, casual contacts or by joining an interest group, sports club or a service organisation. Evangelism must be the event over seven days of the week not just a Sunday affair. I haven’t even begun to talk about those who do not see evangelism as a priority, even on a Sunday. That is best left for another day.
Here is a true and amusing illustration revealing an attitude, of one pastor, which I truly hope is not widely held.
I was attending a pastor’s gathering and sharing with them, as spoken of above, that there are many opportunities for believers to be involved in their communities as a means of reaching people for Christ. Generally the discussion was positive. However, one pastor in the room reacted negatively. He had previously invited me to speak in his church for the following Sunday, as he was having a break for a few weeks. Looking very serious and speaking aggressively said, “There had better be some people left in my church when I get back or there will be trouble.”
We were all a little surprised by his overreaction and unsure why he would think that and fear losing people by their involvement in outreach. There is nothing to fear by encouraging your congregation to be actively involved in the their communities, the good seeds of the Kingdom of God in this world. (Matthew 13:38)
I have observed over the years that when the people of God get excited with and involved in evangelism, they also get excited about church; Sunday services and small group meetings. A new and vibrant dynamic takes hold, testimonies and stories abound, the church becomes alive and harvest is the result.
Deploy the Army
To all my pastor and leader friends, if you are not intentionally and actively teaching and preparing your congregations for harvest evangelism, you are missing out on a dynamic in the life of your church that cannot be sourced anywhere else. Tired of trying to stir them up, keeping them motivated to come back next week? Well, equip and teach them the joy and thrill to make gossiping the Gospel a part of their everyday routine.
There is no limit to the resources that are available today. There is no excuse, just do it. We can also serve you helping train your people. Plus – GOD USES ORDINARY PEOPLE – click here to order you FREE copy today. If you do not feel confident to teach and train your congregation for evangelism, I suggest another two things, actually three.
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher and equip you.
2. Find someone to help you who has a gift of evangelism.
3. You need to be involved in personal evangelism. You cannot just say to your church, “Do what I say.” You must also be able to say, “Do what I do.”
Keep the faith, stay strong and prepare
In a recent conversation with one of our network leaders in Cambodia, I was so excited to hear how they were managing with the closure of churches during lockdowns. He told me that they were encouraging each household to continue to worship the Lord, read the Bible and pray. Across the villages they do not have the privilege of online services, but still the believers remain faithful to the Lord.
He continued sharing, telling me that whoever is the strongest in the household (with regard to faith) that they would lead the family. He said that sometimes it is the father, but in other homes if the child is the strong one, they lead the family. With minimal contact with their pastor, the believers are learning not to lean on the pastor, but to stand on their own, holding on to the Lord.
He shared his concerns with me of not being able to train church planters under the present restrictions. I encouraged him saying that the believers in their homes and villages were being trained by the Lord and they will be the ones coming out strong in a position to lead their village to Christ.
Jesus said, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) Heaven is not in lockdown! The Kingdom has not diminished in power, the Holy Spirt is filling us with power to be a witness, here, there and everywhere.
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus(Matthew 4:19)
Are you following Jesus? Yes, well then, start fishing and train others to do the same, in Jesus name!