“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b NIV)
As most of you know, our church, LakeView Church, is entering a season of transition as God has called us to a new way of being the church as opposed to doing church. While I would love to tease out the differences between being and doing church, that will have to be a separate post. In this post, I want to look at a question several people have asked about our shift in direction.
In a letter to the congregation on Feb 6, 2019, I talked about LakeView’s history following a church movement pioneered by Willow Creek Church, a massive 30,000-member church in Chicago, known as “seeker-sensitive.” I pointed out that our mission as a church is not to get more people attending our events, but to make disciples, and in order to do that we needed to become “sticky,” focusing our time, energy, and resources on helping people stick, rather than merely drawing them in to an event. (By the way, if you want to read a little more about the seeker-sensitive movement, and why many churches are abandoning it, read this article from The Gospel Coalition or this article from Got Questions.)
Several people have asked if this new focus means that LakeView is going to stop caring about reaching the lost, or if we’re going to stop caring about seekers. The answer is a resounding NO! Our mission as a church is to be disciples who make disciples for the glory of Christ and the common good. The first step in being a disciple is come to Jesus. That means someone who isn’t saved hears the gospel, believes, and chooses to turn from their sin and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. And, the third step of discipleship is share Jesus with others. That means evangelism and outreach are part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus–discipleship includes evangelism!
As we focus on being disciples who make disciples, our value on reaching the lost is actually higher than before. Now we see outreach as more than just an event or a program. It’s an integral part of our personal obedience to Jesus–it’s part of how we show our love for Christ, by sharing Him with others. Now everything we do is outreach, not just a few special events we plan each year.
Now outreach is not something planned and conducted by a committee. Sharing Jesus with others is something all of us do individually, in small groups, and collectively as the Body of Christ. We can no longer say, “I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’ll let the outreach team do that.” It’s your responsibility and mine as obedient disciples of Jesus.
Now the goal isn’t just to get a few hundred people to attend a great event. And, people aren’t projects we only care about because we’re trying to get them to pray the sinner’s prayer. Now the goal is to help people we know and love–our family members, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, and friends–discover the life-changing love of Jesus. We care more about building real relationships with people and loving them than we do about the next big “outreach” event.
Does that mean big events are of no value? Are we going to stop doing them? No. Special events have their place in the life of the church, and we have several fun things planned for the upcoming ministry year. But let’s not confuse “church” and “outreach” with “programs” and “events.” The church is a family of believers, not a building, a service, or a program. And outreach is part of our DNA, an essential step for all disciples following Jesus, not an event planned by a committee.
As we pursue a life of following Jesus, we will actually find that we are more “sensitive” to seekers, not less. And as we are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, we will actually see more people saved and encouraged in their walk with Jesus.