You have probably experienced riding along in your automobile, making good time, visions of your destination dancing in your head, when you begin to see the ominous red glare of tail lights, and traffic soon rolls to a stop. You inch forward, hoping for a breakout, but none comes. So, you sit, and steam, and grow frustrated, until in desperation, you begin to look for an available exit. This is not what you anticipated. It’s not what you planned for when you turned those ignition keys and began your journey.
Such experiences on our highways might be a necessary nuisance, but similar scenarios in our churches can become unnecessary tragedies. Sadly, many churches suffer from people gridlock. God is calling people to a high-octane adventure, a journey of spiritual growth, service, and mission. Yet, far too many are stymied by ecclesiastical bottlenecks leading to spiritual stagnation. Believers find themselves sitting, steaming, and frustrated. Consequently, they are taking exit ramps in alarming numbers, traveling alternate routes that lead into spiritual cul de sacs.
Most churches, unwittingly, are structured to hinder, rather than harness the power of God’s people. Instead of systems and strategies to help people discover and deploy their God-giftedness and purpose, church structures have become strictures that tether people to the church building, and Sunday/Wednesday activities. Their “mission” is to serve as vendors for the consumers who show up to partake of the programs offered. Worse, they may be relegated to the role of consumer themselves, tuned in to that popular station w.i.i.f.m. (what’s in it for me).
God may be saying to His church, as he did to Pharoah, “Let My People Go!” Pastors chronically lament a worker shortage, and that 20% of the membership does 80% of the work. But, that could be good news. Maybe doing “church” as is only requires 20% of the workforce. That leaves 80% to be released into God’s harvest field to be the church.
What process does your church have to transform its membership into missionaries? Is there an intentional equipping of people to study the word for themselves, pray effectively, share their faith, and utilize their giftedness and skill sets? Let God’s people go to where they live, work, play, and go to schoo,l to demonstrate the love of God. Encourage them to be the church wherever they go, to be good news to whoever they meet, and to engage their world in ways that makes God smile, and makes a world of difference.
Obedience to Christ mandates every believer fleshing out the great commission with their God-given gifts and resources. Reaching our neighborhoods and the next towns will remain forever elusive unless the church releases the ordinary Christians God is calling to do the extraordinary task of loving their neighbors to Christ.