I recently visited a congregation that over the years had declined from 1,000 people in worship on a weekend to 100. However, the congregation is again flourishing in that there are now over 400 people present each weekend. In fact, many are becoming new disciples for Jesus Christ and the church is looking at becoming a multi-site congregation. What is most intriguing is that this is occurring in one of the most difficult regions of our nation to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Obviously, God’s blessing is on this church. It is also clear that the pastor and many of his key staff members are leaders. However, there was another factor that came through loudly and clearly as I spoke to him.
This pastor and those on the staff I interacted with saw themselves as missionaries. They understood that the local body of believers does not exist primarily to serve the believers. Rather the Church is God’s missional arm to be leveraged to reach lost people. Therefore, it was important to learn and understand the micro-culture in which the church exists in order to develop strategies God might bless to communicate the Good News of life in Jesus Christ.
The pastor and the elders understood that all traditions must be placed on the altar of mission to be sacrificed if such traditions are hampering our Lord’s commission to His Church to go and make disciples. Some of those traditions are its structure, its budget, its name and other related issues that often hinder congregations from becoming truly missional. A number of key sacrifices have been made and the result is a growing church in an area where most churches do not grow.
The pastor believed God had called him to this most difficult mission field in our nation in order to make a difference. He and his staff members are not there to fulfill the traditional roles of pastor and pastoral staff caring for the demands of consumer believers. Rather they are developing leaders and leveraging the gifts of the Body to help the lost become new disciples of Jesus Christ.
We must remember that shepherds lead sheep, not for the sake of the sheep, but for the sake of the shepherd. The Church of Jesus Christ is the incarnate body of Christ today carrying out the same mission Jesus Christ carried out over 2,000 years ago. That mission is to seek and to save those who are lost. We are called to lead sheep to serve the Shepherd, not the sheep.