How’s your church going? How would you test it? What measurement would you use? Who would you ask? What about the individuals? How’s that person going; with godliness, prayerfulness, living out of grace not law, being generous?
But, what happens as you test for those things? What happens when you ask people how they’re going with bible reading? What happens when you ask people about their gospel motivations?
It affects them… it brings an area of their relationship with God to the fore and causes them to dwell on it. And you can never really know where they were at… in fact, they can’t really tell you where they were at with those things – because they weren’t thinking about them.
This is why good churches try to build a culture of people asking each other how they’re going. Those very questions change the results.
*Yes, you might call it “The Observer Effect Church” – but “Heisenberg’s Church” sounds so much cooler… We’ve just got to work out what the complementary properties of a church are… any ideas?
Jesus is sovereign over everything.
Imagine a Christian working in sales. They meet a potential buyer, they make a call, they arrange a meeting, the do a sales pitch. They really want to make a sale. They’re honest and godly as they do it. They even pray about it – don’t they?
Would you encourage someone to ask for God’s help to “make a sale”? Why not? Isn’t God just as involved in the buyer’s decision to purchase an appliance as he is in a sinner’s decision to come to a gospel event?
A robust sense of God’s sovereignty means that God’s involved in everything. Every decision that every person makes. God’s in it. Its part of God’s plan. Nothing happens without his appointment.
So what’s the point?
Maybe we’d see how much the corporate or non-christian world has to offer us in thinking about reaching people, if we reflected on how much God is involved in that world?
If there are two types of reasons “why” you might do something (see previous post) can you focus on one of those types of “why” too much?
If you focus too heavily on the “functional why” (because we want this result, because we hope this will happen, because this will help that, because they will be able to…), what might happen then? Some might tell you that you’re just a short step from simple pragmatism – doing whatever works – the end justifies the means. That’s a pretty catastrophic conclusion to make. Remember, this isn’t abandoning “whys of purpose”, we’re just talking about having a focus on one over the other.
What is more likely to happen is that you’ll drift into traditionalism. You’ll do what worked once before, and you’ll just keep doing that, because it worked. You’ll be reluctant to alter the methods – methods that really were built on solid theological reasoning and good intentions. But methods that don’t work any more because you’re not willing to re-think the principles.
What about the other way?
If you focus too heavily on the “causal why” (because God is like this and that, because the gospel gives us this heart, because this is our identity in Christ…), what might happen then? Some might say you’ll be out of touch with reality… that you’ll just preach the truth and not care about tailoring it to the people who’re listening. Again, that’s pretty catastrophic. More likely, (if it’s simply an over-focus) you’ll take risks and try things out, without being so hung up about whether they work perfectly or not. You’ll try things out and watch them fail a few times before you land on something that does work.
There’s good reason to lean in that direction, heh?
(This is a series of reflections on Horstman’s Laws)
If you’re in gospel ministry, it’s easy to get into a way of thinking that the way you do things is the right way… the only way. And when someone comes up and suggests that there’s another way, and its worked for them in the past, we fall back on our “higher-wisdom” and declare they can’t know how it really is…
The funny thing is, much of the time, they’re thinking exactly the same thing… that you way is silly and they have the greater wisdom because they’ve seen it work somewhere else…
The practice of how you do things is important, but it’s really not that important. We like to think it is, but if the way we did things was really that important, God would have given us more clear guidance on the matter.
So, open your mind, lower you defences, and hear them out.
Both worlds are connected, both worlds influence each other. God is sovereign over both, and he created both. But even so, be careful not to confuse these worlds or imagine links between them that aren’t there. I’m talking about the Spiritual world and the Fallen world. God is over both, but they are different worlds, and have different “rules”.
Stressed? Sick? Be very, very careful suggesting that is anything more than the effect of living in the fallen world. In fact, without a direct and specific word from God, I’d consider it downright dangerous to suggest they are Spiritual attacks.
Event or Ministry didn’t go well? Ok, there’s going to be elements of the fallen world in that, and elements of the Spiritual world in that. Don’t lump it all in either one or the other. Maybe you just didn’t plan or execute very well, or maybe Satan is hindering people coming along. Work on what you can work on, pray for it all. And then pray for everything you can’t influence.
The challenge is to keep all the options on the table and at the same time keep the spiritual things and the fallen things in separate piles.
If you’re going to run an evangelistic course, don’t wait until you have enough participants. Why would you? If you’ve got two people who are willing to hear the gospel, do it as planned. Just smaller to suit the numbers.
There’s an important principle here; interested people are more valuable* than uninterested people. Basically, if person A signs-up, but then you decide not to run the event, you’re telling person A that person X (who didn’t sign-up) is more important. It’s like you’re saying, “Yeah, thanks for signing up, but people who we REALY wanted can’t come, so we’re going to wait for them.”
Schedule the event, tell people that it’s going to be on, and run it for whoever comes.
If you’re putting on an event for non-Christians, I think the most loving goal is “get a second date”. Make the big aim that they come back again. Make the big purpose that they don’t walk out thinking, “Well I’m not coming back to this next week!”.
If they tap out after one night, it becomes 100 times harder to ever get them back again. They think they’ve looked at it “enough”, they think they’ve given Christianity “a go”. But if they come back, even just one more time, that second date is when they really start listening. That’s when they begin to invest in relationships. That’s when begin to evaluate. Its really rare that ever happens on an evangelistic “first date”.
1. The strategy doesn’t change, just the goal. The strategy should always be “preach the gospel”. Having the second date as the goal will affect HOW you preach the gospel. Just like if you were preaching on the sinking Titanic, it would change HOW you preach the gospel.
2. Don’t let yourself think that God can’t convert people on night one. Of course he can! Pray that people would move from never even hearing about Jesus to trusting him fully in the space of 90mins!
I heard this line recently and its so true.
No matter what strategy you put in place; lets take welcoming as an example… if there’s not a culture of loving the new people, getting to know them and engage them in conversation, your strategy will fail.
So if culture eats strategy for breakfast, it really focuses the goal of your strategy… how are you going to change your culture?