Methods, programs, events, and other stuff we do in the name of evangelism are like war horses. They carry us into battle and, if all goes well, bring us through the battle and back down Main Street in celebration of the faithfulness of God and transformed lives. A soldier loves and cares for his horse, but the battle is never about the horse. There is an old Dakota Indian tribal saying…
“If the horse is dead, the best strategy is to dismount.”
Allow me to amplify the idea just a bit.
If the horse is dead, meaning… not carrying the mission forward, not advancing the cause, no longer galloping into battle, no longer bringing its rider (the church) back from battle with the spoils of war, no longer carrying its’ own weight, no longer, with beating heart and thundering hooves, charging against hell, no longer living and breathing life into the mission, then with all due respect… it doesn’t matter what it looks like… how much we love it, or how long we’ve had it, get off it and over it. It’s dead. If it’s not doing any of the above, but not quite dead, kill it and put it out of its misery or at least put it out to pasture. Write books and songs about it if you want to. Build a museum, stuff it and set it up next to Trigger if you want to, but whatever you do, please don’t keep riding it, feeding it, propping it up, and pretend your waging war for the Kingdom.
A failure on the part of the church to reach unchurched people potentially equates to lost sheep never found, lost sons never returning home, lost coins forever out of circulation, and a lost body of Christ wandering aimlessly, but feeling rather comfortable about it. How can we spend millions of dollars of God’s money, see very few of his children redeemed, and somehow think it’s okay? How can the leadership of a church not know, with certainty, with clarity, how many people have been won to Christ in the last year as a result of their stewardship of His resources?
A failure of nerve on our part in this regard means there will be people we won’t reach. It means children will grow up in the abuse they woke up in this morning because the church never answered the call. It means young people will starve spiritually and senior citizens will slip into eternity without God. God wants to use us to answer the prayers of wives for their husbands, husbands for their wives, parents for their children, and children for their parents. God wants to use us as ambassadors of grace to bring reconciliation to the city and literal, practical, empowering help to the poor.
Our mission is not growth, it is transformation. However, radical positive life transformation is hard to keep a secret. Growth will follow. Our call is not to wage war against culture, but to blow culture up with the truth of the John 3:16. I get it, not all growth is measurable? My question is, is any of it measurable? Our call is to drop the bunker busting, unconditional, risky, dangerous love of God into our communities in a way that cannot be ignored. Our job is to love those who hate us so much that they give up hating us because it’s just too much work. I'm not talking about softening the Gospel, changing the Bible, or selling out Christ for the sake of a crowd. Please. The assumption that all growing, exploding churches are doing that is uninformed. I'm talking about organizing our church around the mission of Christ to "seek and save that which was lost." I am weary of church leaders who take Bill Hybels acknowledgment that Willow needed to do a much better job of discipleship as somehow a confession that everything they've been doing was wrong. That also is uninformed...and whiny. Willow has seen thousands come to Christ and challenged the Body in ways no other movement has. The fact that they readily acknowledged a major shortcoming and took steps to change it only exhibits their lack of ego and passion to get it right.
Our assignment is to prayerfully create, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by using the brains God gave us, an intentional environment of transforming grace. It’s God’s job to convict and cleanse, it seems to me that it’s our job to arrange the meeting. Heaven and hell hang in the balance and the local church must leverage its weight fully on mission or close down and give the resources to someone who will.