Read: John 20:21-22
I was sitting at a table with an old friend who leads a large and thriving church. “We try to make everything easy for the members of our church,” he said to me. “We encourage them to get to know people in our community, whether in their neighborhood or office or anywhere else. Then all they have to do is invite those people to church. At church, those people will hear relevant, gifted communicators in a warm, attractive, and appealing environment where their children can be a part of top-of-the-line programs.”
He concluded, “If our members will just invite their friends to the environment we create, then we can take care of the rest.”
Then he asked me what we do at our church, Brook Hills.
Hesitantly I said, “We actually do the exact opposite.”
“Oh really,” he said. “What do you mean?”
“Well, when we gather as the church, our main focus is on the church. In other words, we organize our worship environment around believers, not unbelievers.”
He looked confused. “Why would you do that?” he asked.
“If your worship environment on a Sunday is not appealing to non-Christians, then how is your church going to intentionally lead unbelievers in Birmingham to Christ?”
“We’re going to equip our people every Sunday to lead unbelievers in Birmingham to Christ all week long,” I said.
“Your members are going to lead them to Christ?”
“That’s our plan.”
“Well,” he said, “once those unbelievers become believers, how are they going to grow in Christ?”
“Our people are going to be equipped to show new believers how to live as followers of Christ,” I said. “I want people in the church to be able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created without being dependent on gifted preachers, nice buildings, and great programs to do it for them.”
Looking puzzled, he said, “Well, that’s a new approach.”
Now, again, I am a young pastor, and I have a lot to learn, particularly from pastors like this one, whom I respect greatly. But I don’t think I’m coming up with something new here.
I believe in the people of God. Or more specifically, I believe in the work of God’s Spirit through God’s Word in God’s people. The last thing I want to do is rob Christians of the joy of making disciples by telling them that I or anyone or anything else can take care of that for them.
Someone might ask, “But if a church has a gifted communicator or a gifted leader, wouldn’t we want as many people as possible to hear that person?”
The answer is “not necessarily.” The goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all of God’s people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.
I also believe in the plan of God. In Jesus’ simple command to “make disciples,” he has invited every one of his followers to share the life of Christ with others in a sacrificial, intentional, global effort to multiply the gospel of Christ through others. He never intended to limit this invitation to the most effective communicators, the most brilliant organizers, or the most talented leaders and artists – all the allegedly right people that you and I are prone to exalt in the church. Instead, the Spirit of God has empowered every follower of Christ to accomplish the purpose of God for the glory of God in the world. This includes the so-called wrong people: those who are the least effective, least brilliant, or least talented in the church.
Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people.
Adapted from David Platt, Radical Together, p.55-57