The future is often stuck in a perpetual replay of the past. The events and attitudes of yesterday mold and shape tomorrow. Studying history can be incredibly prophetic in understanding the landscape of the 21st century.
One of the books I am reading for seminary is called The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch. Before you close out of my blog and assume that this has no relevance in your context since it is academic, STOP! Hatch gives a vivid view of how the Revolution influenced Christianity in the early republic… and it has DIRECT relevance for churches today!
Don’t believe me? Consider this reflection by Nathan Hatch:
“With the rise of fierce religious competition, movements that employed more aggressive measures prospered. Churches reluctant to compete on the same terms declined.”
The churches which were most effective in reaching lost people with the Gospel were those which employed radical means to make disciples. These aggressive churches were criticized by the established churches as being too progressive and radical in their outreach… sound familiar?
Churches in the 21st century MUST embrace change. Don’t get me wrong. I believe the message needs to continually come directly from Scripture and exalt the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our message CANNOT change… but these THREE things should!
1. We need to harness the power of media!
One of the revolutionary things these radical churches did was utilize the power of mass media. The established churches refused to distribute pamphlets and speak in a “common” language… hence they did not reach the average American!
This is still true in the western world. Churches need to harness the incredible power of media – ESPECIALLY social media! 78% of Americans have a social media account. In light of this statistic, there are MANY churches who refuse to establish a presence on social media. There is an audience waiting to connect with your church and you NEED to learn the basics of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the sake of the Gospel!
2. We need to strive for excellence in preaching!
The pastors which excelled in reaching the lost in the early Republic were those that displayed passion in their preaching! Far too many pastors are content with delivering a dry lecture with no emotion when they enter into the pulpit.
Pastor, eternity literally hangs in the balance every time you open the Scriptures before your people.
I do not understand how many pastors put people to sleep when sharing the INCREDIBLE story of God’s love for people! DO NOT get in the pulpit if you aren’t willing to be passionate about Jesus Christ. Dry lectures and intellectual language does not change people… the simple message of the Gospel does!
3. We need to empower the church for ministry!
One of the criticisms lobbied at these aggressive churches was against the abundance of “common” people involved in the ministry. READ EPHESIANS 4:12. Pastors are given to the church to EQUIP people for the work of ministry! If the people in your church are content with sitting in a pew while paid “professionals” do the work of the ministry, your church will die!
God has gifted your church with incredible men, women, and children called to the ministry! Each Christian in your church is part of the Body of Christ and the entire Body needs to work together in order to advance the Gospel. You need to train the people in your church to see themselves as ministers… not religious consumers!
What are some other ways the church needs to change in order to reach lost people? Let me know by leaving a comment!