If there is a highway to the Great Commission most people need training wheels to get there. If you are like me, as a leader you have a Holy burden to see the bride of Christ get after her calling of making disciples of Jesus. You long for them to have the same Spirit-led hunger and thirst for righteousness that is inside of you, that compels them to action and obedience. But reality sets in when the appetites of our flock are quenched by good coffee, agreeable music, and a heart-warming sermon.
If you just understood that paragraph than you’ve been in ministry in the USA for a while. Aside from the multiple uber-churchy references, you also understand that it takes work to get the individuals and families that comprise your congregation to see themselves as missionaries in their everyday lives. So, no doubt you’ve gotten to work to set a DNA of loving, serving, and reaching out in the neighborhood or across the globe.
These trends are visible across the country today. It’s common to find strategic partnerships with local community-oriented organizations, to create #loveyourcity initiatives, link arms with other churches to serve by meeting needs in the community, and the like. All these things are great and should be part of how we orient ourselves towards our neighbors, as one expression of being the “light of the world.” But if we are not careful, these styles of our outward face may become, if not already, dangerously new comfort zones for our people. Let me explain.
I’ve have been a part of leading in outward efforts like these for many years. They are helpful in some ways but fall short in others. By leading these centralized initiatives, I was giving folks a way to serve (good), while also creating a subtle dependency on me to take their own steps of faith (not so good). It’s kind of like a bicycle built for two. I was steering and pedaling – trying to aim where the Lord was leading, as volunteers hopped on for the ride. Sure, they got to turn the crank, maybe even breaking a sweat, but largely relied on church leadership to figure out how to break the ice with neighbors. They would be up for serving again when I would tell them where to go, what to bring, or how to make out their check.
But how much more would our friends grow if they were given permission and a way to follow the Spirit’s leading among their neighbors, without an event? What if we supplied them with training wheels to learn on their own how to steer into adventures in their everyday walks of life that God has prepared in advance for them, not just those we deem as critical? It’s likely that they would begin to exercise faith muscles that have either atrophied or have never been used yet. The result of this kind of workout is personal spiritual growth by taking Jesus seriously in His command to love our neighbors and experiencing the joy that follows obedience.
Perhaps it is time to reexamine if we are truly equipping and empowering the saints that have been entrusted to our care. We just might find that we’ve been sitting on a power keg of untapped potential.
Pastor Patrick Linnell is the author of Grace Bomb: The Surprising Impact of Loving Your Neighbors 2021, David C. Cook, and founder of Grace Bomb, a movement and ministry that equips churches around the country. Connect with Pat at www.gracebomb.org