Last night as we were finishing a Bible study from the book of Mark I asked if anyone had questions or insights about what we had been covering. One of the members raised her hand and in frustration told me about a friend she had repeatedly invited to Church, but always refused to do so. “How do I get her to come to Church?” she asked.
This Believer was speaking towards one of the greatest struggles in missions. There can be no doubt that the local Church is God’s tool to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ through the preaching of Scripture, evangelism, and discipleship of Believers. However many people are either not interested in attending a Church, or already attend one that doesn’t preach the Gospel.
To be honest I had been struggling with the question she asked myself (how do I get people to come to Church?) for a while. No matter how hard I tried it every attempt at an answer seemed to fail, and it wasn’t till recently I understood why.
Almost every answer had to do with a program
Basically my attempt to bring people in was creating programs at the Church and excitedly telling people “come to see us”! The Lord truly uses this ministry philosophy, but my friend and myself (along with you) have learned there are individuals who won’t come to any program
The temptation in situations like this is to launch new programs thinking “this is the one that will work!” But this is like screaming “come to see us” as loud as we can to someone who is deaf.
Recently the Lord helped me realize 90% of my ministry was program-driven through the local Church (screaming come to see us). The problem with this is I’m ministering in a very religious mission field where the vast majority of people attend Church somewhere, so an invitation to a ministry is met with “oh I go to __________.”
My first response was to begin thinking of new programs that could be held at my house instead of Church, but in the midst of that the Lord helped me understand I was still screaming “come see us” and though that may reach a few, the majority of Barrouallie would still refuse to come.
The answer to our struggle isn’t screaming louder but changing the statement. Instead of saying “come to us” we should confidently say “I’ll come to you.” This involves interacting with people where they are in relationship development, finding where they are spiritually, sharing the gospel, explaining the truths of God’s Word, and maybe even starting a Bible study. One of the largest differences is this takes eyes that are open to the opportunities God brings.
Yesterday during my afternoon walk I carried a small book with Bible pictures in my back pocket, and a New Testament instead of my phone in the front pocket. Eventually I came by a boy named Jaymarie who was playing football (that’s soccer for Americans) with his friends, he had asked me to tell him a Bible story a few days ago (couldn’t attend Bible club) so we sat down on his steps and I asked him to pick out a story.
He ended up choosing a picture of an Israelite sacrificing a lamb for his sins in the tabernacle so we talked for a while about why God wanted that lamb to die, and how those sacrifices were a picture of Jesus. “Jaymarie” I asked, “if you died today where would you go?” he was able to tell me Heaven, but couldn’t give a reason why God would let him in.
Slowly I opened to Romans 10:9-10 and explained the only way to enter Heaven is by confessing our sins and believing in Jesus. “Have you ever done that?” I asked and Jaymarie shook his head no. Because it would be easy to force him into a decision at that point I told Jaymarie we would talk about it more later…Lord willing I’ll be able to share more today.
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 20:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation
A program at Church may have brought more people but I seriously doubt it would have offered the opportunity to share the Gospel one on one with Jaymarie.
The local Church will always be God’s chosen tool for fulfilling the Great Commission, however the Lord is helping me understand sometimes the answer isn’t screaming louder, but quietly listening for His voice.