This question is frequently asked. It is really out of order on two accounts: (1) the pastor’s job isn’t to do ministry, but to equip God’s people to do the work of ministry—that which requires on-the-job training, like an apprentice. In that sense, the pastor does ministry but is always equipping another person. The ministry is the pastor’s secondary mission, while the primary mission is to equip another—Jesus called this discipling. His purpose for the church is to make disciples, not church members. (2) Equally important is the notion that we should primarily focus on “bringing” people into the church—meaning the building, the membership, etc. The Great Commission is 180 degrees different: we are commissioned (sent) to go to where people are, not to invite them to come where we are.
Focus on these issues:
- Chances are your mind (the way you think) is geared toward the idea that the church is the destination. Ask God to turn that concept 180 degrees. Look at your world as the destination for ministry.
- It’s quite likely you think most ministry is accomplished at the church. A few things go on there, but the majority of the ministry should happen in the world.
- Consider the church the launching pad where you get trained and equipped, taught and encouraged to do your work of ministry in the world.
- Whether you work in a factory, office building, or Wal-Mart, your primary place of ministry is not on a board or committee, as an usher or Sunday school teacher. It is where you work.
- It won’t matter what church services your church provides, what styles of music, what kind of programming: the majority of people who are hard-core, second generation secularists—perhaps the largest single block of people in America—will not come to your church. Your church will not reach them unless you go meet them where they are.
- Your primary mission is to develop relationships with those with whom you work, go to school, count as your friends, your relatives, or your neighbors. You are the key missionary to them, not the pastor, not an evangelism team, not some board or committee at church. Your pastor’s primary mission is to see that you’re trained.
- You must become equipped to know, through your conversations with these people, when they are in a receptive moment.
- When the receptive moment comes, when the soil is ripe, you should know how to plant the seed: share your faith. Your pastor’s primary mission is to see that you’re trained.
- What your co-workers, friends, and relatives want to hear from you is not a sermon or an invitation to church. What they want to know is if you’ve had a challenge in your life and if knowing God, reading the Bible, being around other Christian friends, and praying has made any positive difference.
This is the real outreach of the church in 21st century secular America. Every year I take people to England—a country more secularized than the U.S. We learn from a church that has learned to be outward-focused. It’s like a trip to the Book of Acts.
We must get God out of the church box. It’s the mission of every Christian and the strategic approach of every church. The Great Commission is not about “y’all come”—it begins with the word “go!”
How do you get God out of your church’s box? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.