The empty tomb, the defeat of death, and the hope of eternal life provides an appropriate ending to Jesus’ life story, but in many ways, it’s just the beginning. What is the benefit of Jesus’ death, and resurrection if no one hears of it? Matt 28:11-15 describes the efforts of the Jewish religious leaders to suppress this good news. In contrast, Matthew’s Gospel closes with v16-20 where Jesus’ commissions his disciples to Go. Disciple. Baptise. and Teach. Spread this Good News to every person everywhere on earth. From this point forward, Christianity will be a proselytizing missionary religion.
At Lawson Rd we acknowledge that our version of the Great Commission currently begins with “Come”, rather than “Go”. Of course, this is a problem. However, I believe that it’s a vital starting point.
For the past 12 months our Sunday attendance has frequently consisted of 25-33% of people who are not members. Some of these are regular attenders, but many are newcomers to the church. We praise God that he sees fit to bring people seeking Him through our doors.
The challenge for the congregation is to connect with these newcomers and welcome them into the piece of God’s kingdom at Lawson Rd. The commands to Disciple, Baptise, and Teach are best fulfilled within the context of a church. So the church must create an atmosphere conducive to this purpose. As I discussed this with a group last night we considered the question, “How would a guest at Sunday morning worship react if you offered to pray with them?” The group’s response was mixed.
In some ways this question is unusual. People may feel that we’re being nosy, or too personal for a first-time meeting. On the other hand, if we assume that people attend worship services for a reason then this question may provide them an opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives. It may encourage authenticity. I would hope that at a minimum it communicates sincere love and concern for the guest.
I am convinced that our “Go outside our comfort zone” will quickly evaporate if we already feel uncomfortable praying with someone who has come to a church seeking to worship God. Since I’ve visited many churches and never been personally asked for a prayer need this blog is not a commentary on Lawson Rd in particular. Why is it that when we come together as a church we feel more comfortable discussing, traffic, weather, football, kids, etc., than we do asking if we can pray for someone? Under what circumstances would we feel comfortable offering to pray for someone?
I recently came across an article by Mark Taylor, the pulpit minister at Memorial Rd Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. In it he suggested a simple process for developing evangelistic awareness and transitioning from a “Come” to a “Go” church. “Going” doesn’t necessarily mean going very far. Here’s four Great Commission things that everyone one of us can do:
- Reach Across the Pew
- Walk Across the Room
- Talk Across the Fence
- Pray Across our Town
Every single able-bodied member should be able to reach across the pew and introduce themselves to those they don’t know. Every single member should be able to notice someone in Bible class sitting alone and simply walk across the room and sit by them. Everyone can meet their neighbors and use conversational evangelism to mention what church they are a member of. And everyone can pray for God to bless our outreach efforts.
I think we’ll be discussing these concepts a lot more around Lawson Road in the coming months and years.
- How would you react if you attended a new church and someone asked you, “Is there anything I can pray with you about?” (or something like that.)
- Do you agree that established churches need to address “Come” as a precursor to “Go”?
- How can churches better facilitate spiritual conversations outside of formal meeting times?