Imagine being part of a church that grew from 120 to over 3000 people in a few weeks? It sounds thrilling and exciting. Until you begin to realize you now have a lot of discipleship, care, baptizing, and teaching to do.
What I just described was the early church in the book of Acts. They went from a small band of disciples and apostles to a growing movement of people that would turn the world upside down with the gospel.
The question for us today is if something like this were to happen in our churches would we be ready? Are our churches and ministries structured for this kind of growth? Are our churches structured for mission so that we are reaching new people with the gospel? Are our churches structured so that we are able to love our neighbors in and outside of our communities of faith?
While many leaders, pastors, and churches desire to reach out- I find that their structures do not allow this to happen.
An important question for us to ask: “Is my church structured for mission?”
Martin Luther wrote that when someone comes to saving faith in Jesus they should have a conversion of head, heart, and wallet. His point was that when we put off the old man and put on the new man in Christ there is an entire change of direction, desires, purpose, and trajectory where Jesus is Lord of all of our life.
Jonathon Dodson in his book “Gospel Centered Discipleship” picks up on this theme by saying that for true discipleship to be happening in the life of a believer there must be a conversion to Christ (gospel), community (church), and mission (Great Commission).
Every person that walks through your doors and connects with your church will need conversion in all three of these areas. If they are a non-Christian they need conversion to Christ and his gospel. If they are Christians they need continual conversion to the gospel- but also conversion to the community of faith and her mission.
I have found that most people that connect with our church are not fully converted (and they never will be on this side of heaven) to all three areas of discipleship.
Some people need to be converted to the church. They need to walk with other Christians in community and mission understanding they need one another for growth. The church is not a dispenser of religious goods and services. It is the body of Christ called out with good news to share with the world and each other.
Some people will need to be converted to mission. They need to see themselves as “priests” and “reconcilers” (1 Peter 2:9-10 and 2 Cor. 5:16-21) called out to make Christ known in the world. The mission of God is for all who belong to Jesus and his church. This missionary work is not regulated to a handful of professionals, pastors, and churchmen. It is a responsibility of all Christians in all times and places until Christ returns.
Structuring for Mission
Now that we know all people will need conversion to these three key areas (gospel, community, mission) we must structure the church to help move people in this direction. Below I will simply ask some diagnostic questions for you to think through as you structure your church for mission:
- Does the pastor, elders, and deacons see their primary work to help people grow in their identity in Christ, grow in community, and to grow in mission? Why or why not?
- Does the pastor see one of his main jobs to be an equipper for mission (Eph. 4:11)?
- Do the programs and processes for assimilating new people into the church include helping them grow in the gospel, community, and mission? Or do we assume people understand the gospel, understand involvement in a local church, and understand their role in the mission of God?
- Do your programs, resources, and leaders exist to keep your existing congregation happy- or to reach new people and communities with the gospel?
- Is your church more concerned with building their kingdom or God’s kingdom?
What changes have you made to your structures to keep your church on mission?