I’ve been around churches and church leaders long enough to know that this particular one can be very frustrating for everyone. The church leader realises all their time is taken up with church people, church people aren’t sharing their faith, no one is hearing the Gospel and before you know it your church is stagnating and on the verge of decline. So what do you do?
Mike’s solution is in the title of the chapter; everyone is a witness, leaders included. As Mike talks about the importance of keeeping the mission central in church life he makes, what I consider to be a very important observation as he reflects on the culture into which he was saved.
The whole drive of everything we did was to share the gospel with more and more people and see more and more people come to know the Lord. That was what I was saved into. That was the thing that made me have passion. I thought, “how do we share with more and more people?” p.63
He was born again into an environment where making disciples was what you did. the environment in which we first grow often shapes, if not outright determines, our subsequent discipleship. I find this very challenging because I’m not always sure this is the environment in our church. It is a part of the thing, but it’s not THE thing.
As Mike points out making disciples is the mission of the church and it is vitally important to keep that mission central in church life. He then shares three ways in which we can be witnesses to Christ: through words, works and wonders.
My guess is that most people would default to works as a way of sharing the gospel and hope that their generally being nice to people would be enough to demonstrate the radical blazing love of Christ. I’m a little sceptical. Usually it takes radical kindness and radical generosity and exceptional faithfulness to hurting people to begin to grab people’s attention. Most people are convinced they’re good people and it takes something extra to make them realise that just pottering around being a generally nice bloke doesn’t cut the mustard with God in the holiness stakes.
Mike is clear where the focus needs to be:
I would rather Relational Mission became known as passionate about reaching people and then planting churches rather than passionate about planting churches and sometimes reaching people. There is a difference. The church is the product of the mission; it isn’t the mission itself. We’ve got to get the horse and the cart the right way round.
I find being a witness a challenge. Some of my favourite activities are reading, writing and running – which are mostly solitary activities. I love people but talking to strangers is a challenge and as I work on my own from home – if I don’t break the ice with someone, well no one is going to hear. I tend to piggyback off others introductions.
I wonder then, and wonder frequently, whether I’m setting an example in this area of witness – and my guess is – partly. But it’s not a culture setting example. In other areas it is, the way we live is helping set the culture in hospitality, family, relationship, love for prayer and worship and all those things are great but the mission isn’t any of those things. Challenging, challenging, challenging.