Several weeks ago, I wrote about “The Importance of Being Mentored.” We need people in our lives who exemplify a godly life of following Biblical principles. But have we overlooked being mentored by those in the Bible? We teach the Bible and study the writings of Paul and others, but do we seek to mimic their philosophies and methods today? There are cliches such as “the methods must change but the message stays the same” that have almost made us run from considering methods that are “old.” I want to challenge you to reconsider being mentored by Paul and evaluating his methods and philosophy of missions (specifically church-planting). To prime the pump, I would like to give you a some popular examples of philosophy or methods in missions today that are popular and then look at the example of Paul in the Scriptures.
Current Trend #1: The Importance of Getting the Lost to Come to Church
At first, this appears to be a good thing: working at getting lost people to come on Sunday. Many things are done to try and attract lost people and have visitors at church. This trend has resulted in other philosophies, like “location, location, location.” If you want your business to attract people and grow, you must have a good location. Not only must the location be central and well seen, it must also be attractive. This same marketing mentality is taught at Christian/Bible colleges, in church-planting books, and even by mission agencies. In a book I read on church planting, the author states that the success of a new church will depend on three things, one of those being visibility of the meeting location. I have been told by other missionaries before that visitors won’t come to a “church” if it doesn’t look like one. The underlying philosophy behind this current trend rests in the idea that the goal is to get lost people to come to us rather than us going to them. Much money is spent on a big sign outside or on special “church” architecture. I am not referring to thoughtful considerations for the believers (the church) in having a location that is accessible and practical for them. I am referring to the extra measures that are taken in order to build a church based on attracting the lost. This warped view of the church has led to a host of other problems. Worldly music, dress, drinks, etc. have crept into the church in order to attract and “reach the lost.”
If we are mentored by Christ or Paul, rather than evangelical marketing ideas, we will have a very different view of the church. The church (the body of Christ) is a group of saved and baptized believers (Acts 2:41; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). When the believers come together to meet, the goal is not to see how many unsaved people we can get to come but for believers to be perfected, prepared for the work of the ministry, edified, unified in the faith, not tossed to and fro with false doctrine, and be fitly joined together (Ephesians 4:12-16). The meeting of the church was focused on believers. We can rejoice and minister to the lost who come when the church meets, but that time is geared for the believers. Paul spent his time teaching the believers God’s Word when they met. Outside of the assembling of believers, Paul and the other believers went out to evangelize the lost and then bring them to the body of believers. Much of today’s mentoring tells us to invite the lost to church, but the Bible’s mentoring through Christ and Paul invites the church to go to the lost (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Romans 10:15). Yes, lost people can hear the Gospel when they meet with the church. Yes, the church can have special meetings that are evangelistic. The problem comes when our message, “Come to church,” replaces our call to go to the lost with the message, “Come to Christ.” The problem comes when the precious time when the believers come together to be grounded in doctrine and exhorted to righteousness is replaced with gimmicks to attract the lost.
Have we succumbed to pragmatic solutions rather than biblical ones? Let us seek to be mentored by Christ, by Paul, and the Bible in a world that diminishes the practicality of Word of God in our modern age.