Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible
So many of the rules of the church have been loosened because we want to seem welcoming to an ever growing segment of society that doesn’t see the need in physically coming to church. While I understand that we need different methods in a different world, there are some things about the church that should be non-negotiable.
I once preached a sermon entitled “When Jesus Is Your Draw”, taken from Luke 5:1-10. In the text, Jesus goes out into the boat with Peter to catch fish. Peter had gone out the night before, as he explained to Jesus, and had caught no fish.
However, even after explaining to Jesus that the fish weren’t biting, Peter says to Jesus, “Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net”. Once Peter followed Jesus’ instructions, he caught so many fish that his boat couldn’t hold them. There were so many fish that the text says his net broke and he had to call another ship over to take in the overflow of fish.
The text also states that there were so many fish that both boats begin to sink. However, what I always noticed in the text was what didn’t happen. While the net was broken and the boats began to sink, nowhere in the text does it say that any fish got away. Peter had gone back to the same place that he had gone the night before to catch fish, but to no avail. The difference was that Jesus was now in the boat. After this, Jesus told Peter, “From henceforth, thou shalt catch men”.
This text is a great lesson in what we as disciples need to draw people. All we need is Jesus. We’re in a day and time where we’re “marketing” the church in an effort to reach a new generation. I have no qualms about this as this generation responds differently than generations past. You have to reach them through their phones, either by text or social media, and you must do so in ways that grabs their attention.
I’m very active on social media platforms and I use them to promote books, ministry events, and I even post a live video feed from the studio during my radio broadcast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with different methods to draw people to church.
Where I have a problem is when Jesus comes up missing in the marketing plans. Where I have a problem is when we’re promoting services, but we aren’t promoting the Savior. Jesus is the center of the church, so how do we expect to make disciples of Christ, without promoting Christ?
When what you used to do doesn’t work anymore, you have to come up with a new strategy. Yes, believe it or not, there is a strategy to discipleship. When Jesus sent His disciples out in the 10th Chapter of Matthew, He didn’t do so without giving them instructions. He told them what to do, how to do it, and He even told them what their demeanor should be as they did it. Yes, God is intentional!
However, in the midst of new strategies and new approaches, we can’t water down the Word of God or Jesus in the process. No matter what our approach is, it must be centered on The Word. No matter what we’re doing to grab people’s attention, we must always make Jesus the center of attention. We can think outside the box, but we should never think outside The Bible. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what we’re doing is in vain.
The world has convinced us that crowds matter when we’re putting on a program. Where we used to believe in “where two or three are gathered”, we now don’t believe it’s worth it unless there are two or three hundred. We’ve been convinced that the flyer can’t be too churchy, or the wording can’t be too Christian. We have buzz words like “fire”, “anointing”, and “breakthrough” that causes people to run to our churches.
We make sure that we have the praise team or the preacher of the moment. In the name of creativity, we do all that we can to draw people to our flame. However, when you’re doing something for The Lord, the who and the why are always more important than the number of people that show up.
No matter what program we put on in church, there ought to be three objectives:
- Glorifying God
- Getting someone saved
- Keeping someone connected to God
I know we like to fill the room, but our main objective should be filling the people up with Jesus. Again, this isn’t to disparage anyone that’s looking for creative ways to fill up the church. In fact, I encourage every church to have some sort of marketing plan that targets the people that are current members (we can’t be so concerned with the fish we don’t have that we neglect the ones that we do), as well as the people that you’d like to see at the church. The point here is that Jesus must still be the main reason we do any of it.
As we see in that Luke 5:1-10 text, when we take Jesus into the world, even in places where we were once unsuccessful, He draws where we once failed. And He’s so powerful, that even when we fill up our churches and people begin to overflow, because He’s the draw and He’s what people came for, no one will get away.
When we make Jesus the center of any program that we’re putting on, we are fulfilling our purpose as the church. When we draw people to Jesus with Jesus, they will stay because of Jesus.
Whatever we do in the church must begin with The Bible. When we come up with ideas, we should ask:
- Is this Biblical? – Are there any Scriptures that supports what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it?
- Who’s getting the glory? – Is what we’re doing lifting up the name of Jesus or our particular ministry, our cause (if the cause isn’t Christ), or even our invited guests?
- Is there an opportunity for someone to be saved? – This is beyond simply opening the doors of the church. Is what we’re doing actually being done to draw people out of the world and to Christ?
- Does it point to discipleship? – For those that are in attendance that are already saved, will it cause them to go out and witness to someone else about Christ or just witness about the event?
I know this may seem a little stuffy to some people, and maybe we’ve gotten to a point where we believe we don’t have to mention the name of Jesus every time we invite someone to our church. But if you don’t want to mention the foundation of the church in what you’re doing in the church, supposedly for the church, then one has to wonder if any of it is really about the church. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what are we really doing?
If we really want to fill the church, there are some tried and true methods that we can use that will ensure that the people that are coming are there for the right reason. Evangelism still works. Witnessing still works. The testimony of your personal life when you’re in the world still works. But no matter what the method, we should all be doing as Peter did. We need to get Jesus in the boat, or in the case of our discussion, in the marketing plan.
Then, we need to develop a nevertheless spirit. Maybe we tried some things the old way and didn’t get the response that we wanted, so then we have to ask ourselves, did we drop the net on our word or on the word of Jesus?
By simply obeying what Jesus said and when He said it, Peter did what he always did when fishing. But when he did it at the command of Jesus, the outcome was completely different. If we’d only follow His Word, we’d catch more fish than we could hold.
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