There are opposite foci that tend to not work in launching a new church. One is to aim strictly at not-yet Believers. I will deal with that challenge in a later blog entry. The greater failure—one I count as a sin—is to start a church that is aimed strictly at Believers.
This is my greatest disappointment in the church planting movement. The myth circulates through the Evangelical world that church planting is the most effective means for significant evangelism to take place. My wife Janie and I bought into the task of church planting some 30 years ago with this understanding in mind. In that time we have moved to various places, we have paid a significant personal price to do this time and again with the promise that many would come to Jesus as a result of our efforts. I now see we weren’t entirely wrong, just partially squirrely in our thinking. My concern today is that many great-hearted people are following in our steps who believe the same wrong headed theory. Let me set the record straight.
1. Most churches – including most new ones – are not all that winsome toward non-Believers.
This is simply a fact. Unless you are the rare exception you are not all that welcoming to not-yet Believers. Change can happen but it’s something that takes place at a deeper level than new name tags and bolstered greeting teams. Start with humble, broken, prayer born out of the conviction that this is God’s heart. Prayer of this sort starts from the top down, not the bottom up pastors. Once we gain a conviction we can begin to notice how to make changes.
2. Churches tend to be just as evangelistic as their lead pastors.
Like it or not, the local church pastor sets the standard for evangelism. As he wins others to Jesus his people will follow suit. If he sees evangelism as something that goes on at Easter as a token matter, forget it. It is much wiser to be honest and hopefully broken than to fake it as if evangelism is going on when it is flatly not.
3. Theoretically churches can change, but they tend not to, apart from a major breakthrough by the Holy Spirit.
The sort of change that is needed here is so amazing it requires God himself to show up. If you are satisfied with your current situation, ask him to make you hungry for him. He is eager to do something amazing with you and your church. Humble yourselves. Tell him you can’t go forward unless he gives you a breakthrough. He will.