-7 Missed Opportunities and Overlooked Treasures - I find it interesting that the church often says one thing, and does another.
Quite a few years ago John Wimber discovered that evangelical churches claimed that bringing folks to salvation in Jesus was there main mission. He then asked the question, how's business?
The truth was that most churches claiming to be evangelical were in fact, not seeing regular salvations!
When John looked closely at what churches were spending time and money doing, salvation was often near the bottom of the list. For a church to be effective, it needs godly vision, solid priorities and dedicated leaders. Too often the church can get so filled up with programs that it can easily miss what God wants to do.
Every church needs to be part of the local community. Churches are not meant to cloister the saints in some sort of secret society. Every community has needs. Within those needs are opportunities for the church to make an impact for the Kingdom.
First let me say that salvation certainly comes at the moment of conversion. The road to salvation can be a long one for some folks. Along that road I think there are many missed opportunities. If we focus on getting people closer to the goal, instead of getting to the starting line, we have many more chances for advancing the Kingdom.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. My town has a small state college. In New England rolling onto campus and holding some sort of revival is very unlikely. But when we think about the road to salvation, we can see that college students have lots of needs. They need rides, laundry done, or a home cooked meal. Some students need to have a place to stay for short vacations such as Thanksgiving and Memorial Day because going home is too expensive, or too much trouble. Those are opportunities a church can take advantage of.
One church I belonged to would get "day old" bread from a supermarket. At first they put it on a table in the lobby for families in need. On many occasions it was still there after the entire congregation had left the Sunday morning service. Finally one gal decided that she would take a small team to the projects in the vicinity. In pairs, they simply knocked on doors, and gave away bread - all of it - hundreds of loaves each week. At first folks seemed put off by the team just knocking on doors, but after a month or two, people would meet them at the mailbox building twice a week. Needless to say, many received prayer, food, encouragement, a dozen or so got saved.
Church, we need to look for opportunities, and find a way to love people with the hands of Jesus.
How about going to the local nursing home every Wednesday instead of having another boring book study? Maybe you could have a dinner for the poor, families of those serving overseas, or foster children instead of a pot-luck with 10 trays of baked macaroni that no one else wants? How about putting a sandwich board out for movie night inviting the whole community? Hey, it might not be too late to rake the lawns for widows, or shovel snow for the elderly every time it snows. Maybe the church could buy a snowplow and do lots of driveways, or a limo to pick kids up for youth group? Maybe?
More Treasures within our Midst
Our churches are filled with gifted people, that, given the right training, encouragement, and opportunity, could be a treasure in the Kingdom of God. Too often leadership gets caught up in personal visions, program planning, or a denominational way of doing business, overlooking many that would be successful ministers.
Some of the obstacles to finding these treasures are:
- Leadership trying to clone itself and not staffing for weaknesses
- Training that is too general or too rigid
- A rigid set of programs
- Doing it because it was successful somewhere else
- A program "punch list" of leaders and helpers - filling jobs, not finding callings and gifting
- A condensed gospel as opposed to a full gospel
- The "we never did that before" mentality
- Well it worked at [fill in the name of your favorite mega-church]!
- Lack of understanding of what a "body" is
When leadership is focused on "church" and not on individuals, many members will be overlooked. I also find that churches do not always have a defined track for getting people up and running - or one that is so arduous only the over-achievers can measure up. Why does someone need to be in a church a year to park cars, or a divinity degree to clean toilets?
Where are our mentors?!? If you are not training someone to take your job in the church's ministry, you are not discipling!
If we look at the gifts and roles within the church (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4), we'll find that the body of Christ has many, and diverse individual opportunities. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have a program that will work well for missionaries, home-group leaders and prophetic people. There is no pastor alive that can fill all the roles that a healthy church requires to advance the Kingdom, and produce committed and gifted disciples.
Church, we need to teach believers what the needs of the community are, get people trained in the spiritual gifts, the basics of faith, the laying on of hands and kick them out of the nest!
Leaders need to entertain all ministry ideas and weigh them against what God is doing. Worried about character, wait for #10!
I the mean time, dare you to pray, "Lord send me someone with the gift of helps, one with prophesy, one with the word of faith, an apostle, an evangelist and a those with healing gifts! Lord let me see their gifting as an opportunity to advance your Send them Lord, and let me release them. Amen.