In my post last week, “In Search of Foolishness”, I discussed some concerns with some of the methods to which many churches are resorting to “draw a crowd”.
Let me say up front, there is nothing wrong with a crowd. The bigger they are, the better. These numbers represent an opportunity to present the Gospel of Christ. I don’t know of a pastor or a church in their right mind who does not desire a large crowd. If our desire in this is to present the Gospel to as many people as possible, then this is a good thing. If our desire is simply to stroke our ego and make us feel successful, then we have a problem. I am not here to pass judgment upon motives which I can’t see, so I will leave the task of self-examination up to each of my readers.
The problem lies in how do we determine our methods? There are some methods of reaching the populace that are specifically mentioned in Scripture and thus, I believe, will always be relevant. The first of these is personal evangelism. I am convinced that this is by far the most effective means of reaching the lost as it is intensely relational, thus bearing out the nature of the Gospel.
Another biblical method is that of ministry. It has rightly been said that it is difficult to share the Gospel to an empty stomach. Jesus was constantly performing acts of ministry that met the physical needs of others while at the same time giving Him opportunity to share His message. I would point out on this note, however, that our work is incomplete if we minister without sharing the message.
Now it is certain that there are methods not mentioned specifically in the Bible that are still in agreement with the purity of the message of deliverance. I believe that it is equally certain that there are methods that are not in agreement with such purity. How then do we know what makes evangelistic methods right? Is it merely the number of professions that we can report at the end of the endeavor? Is attendance in itself indicative of right practices?
Let me submit to you my thoughts on the subject. We live in a culture that is driven by success. Often (usually) that success is defined in numbers. Unfortunately, the church of our time seems to be buying into that definition. Many of us have heard pastors stand up at conferences and declare that if we are not growing exponentially and baptizing a certain number each year then we are failures.
If we make the mistake of accepting this definition of success, we will eventually fall into the trap of allowing the “crowd” to determine the methods we use to reach them. When this happens, we reach a point where we will do nearly anything to attract a crowd. We justify this philosophy by pointing to our numbers.
Numbers often do not tell the whole story. We should not make them our goal. God never called us to set numerical goals. In fact, God never called us to build a church. Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church’s function is to exalt Christ, He will build His church.
I would submit to you that we should let the message determine the method. Everything Jesus did was done strategically and purposefully to bring the gospel home to the person He was confronting. Every miracle He performed met a physical need that was symptomatic of the individual’s greater spiritual need.
Jesus did not go around with a dog and pony show. He didn’t promote wrestling matches. Can you believe that we don’t even find biblical indications that He ever even used music as an outreach?
Jesus came to save the lost. Every method He employed maintained integrity to His message. People were always informed that their greatest need was salvation and there was never any doubt as to who Jesus was.
God help us to develop our methods accordingly.