An atheist, a Christian author, and a cameraman walk into a megachurch. It sounds like the preamble of a joke, but it is actually the premise of a book, “Jim and Casper go to church.” In a now-famous scene, amidst the noise, smoke and lights, self-professed athiest Matt Casper asks a haunting question: “Is this what Jesus asked you guys to do?” Casper’s question was essentially, “Are you being faithful to your calling? Does your church reflect the instructions given to you by Jesus?”
Let’s Propose a Case Study: If you were planting a brand new church in your town this fall, what ministries would you launch? What would your Sunday gathering look like? What do you think God would want to do among you to reach your community? To summarize, what does a faithful expression of a Spirit-filled church look like in your locale? This question is where we need to live, listen, learn, and adapt as we define ministry health and embrace the opportunity of “life with COVID-19.”
“What does a faithful expression of a Spirit-filled church look like in your locale?”
First, we need to look upward: Let’s begin with “who we want to be” before “what we want to do.” This is the starting point for ministry health. Define “discipleship” in your context, and agree to move together as a body towards those qualities, skills, and disciplines of a disciple.
Here is a sobering truth: If we’re not intentional about this, people will be discipled by us instead of by Jesus. If they stay in community with us, in addition to our virtues, they will grow to take on all of our preferences, biases, idiosyncrasies, western cultural norms, and dysfunctions.
“If we’re not intentional about this, people will be discipled by us instead of by Jesus.”
But if we’re going to disciple people to Jesus, who are they going to grow to be? What relationships do we need to emphasize, strengthen, reconcile? How are we going to decide to treat each other? What qualities of Jesus do we need to know, value, and embody as a church? What accidental/cultural values do we need to resist and root out? What skills/disciplines of Jesus do we need to learn and grow in? So, let’s look upward.
Next, look around at the family God has given you to worship, fellowship, minister, and join in His mission. Look at them with Jesus’ eyes. This is the team God has called together to embody and extend the kingdom of God in your town.
With Jesus as the head, this is the body of Christ here. Appreciate their gifts, their fruit, their beautiful diversity, how loved they are in Christ, and your place among them. Then imagine that Jesus called this particular group of people together on purpose. What would he have you doing that best suits that mix of giftings, personalities, relationships, life stages, and interests? For more on spiritual gifts, check out our series here.
“Imagine that Jesus called this particular group of people together on purpose.”
Finally, look outward at the mission field that is your town. What gifts do we need to identify, encourage, and deploy in order for the community’s greatest need to meet our greatest passion?
How your church expresses the gospel organizationally/programmatically (e.g. children’s ministry, women’s ministry, Prime Time Ministry) should match how Christ is at work in you organically (as the body) as the Spirit is at work in your community. This is how we define ministry faithfulness. For case studies, see footnotes.
If you peruse Formission’s website, you’ll find that every phase of Formission involves a covenant. For these two years (2020-21), we are covenanting together for ministry health – faithfulness. This doesn’t imply a bare-minimum approach (e.g., we haven’t grown much, but we are faithful church attenders). Just the opposite: We are calling each other back to Casper’s poignant question. What is Jesus asking us to be and do? Maybe for that megachurch in a young, jaded, culturally avant-garde city, they were actually being a picture of ministry faithfulness.
“What gifts do we need to identify, encourage, and deploy in order for the community’s greatest need to meet our greatest passion?”
Maybe God has gifted your church with several addicts in recovery, and you’re one of them. Your church has identified freedom from hurts, hang-ups and habits as a primary discipleship quality, and your church is thinking of launching an addictions ministry. You’ve felt God’s call and His heart breaking for those suffering from addictions in your community. It’s going to be tough and messy, but it’s what Jesus is asking you to do.
Maybe God has gifted your church with mentors, parents and/or grandparents who love working with youth and kids, and you’re one of them. You’ve defined mentoring and teaching the next generation to pray, listen, study, serve and give as primary discipleship skills. You’ve felt God’s call and His heart breaking for the kids and parents in your town, who are like sheep without a shepherd. It’s going to be tiring, challenging and probably slow discipleship work, but it’s what Jesus is asking you to do.
Maybe God has gifted your church with people skilled in hospitality, prayer, compassion and care, and you’re one of them. You’ve identified invitation/hospitality as a primary discipleship quality and skill and central to your mission. He has placed you in a beautiful but aging community where there are no youth and kids, but you feel God’s call and heart for the grieving, lonely, poor, and seemingly purposeless people in your town. It’s going to be long hours for you and your retired band of kingdom-minded prayer warriors, but it’s what Jesus is asking you to do.