At a recent church planting conference, I heard a most challenging presentations made by a new friend, Alan Hirsch. Alan is the founding Director of Forge Mission Training Network, noted author and an incredibly strategic thinker in the area of missiology and the impacting church.
Alan began by “layering” several concepts to illustrate the effectiveness of the church’s impact on the world. Introducing the first concept, a “cultural matrix” crafted by the late Dr. Ralph Winters , Hirsch reworked Dr. Winters original evangelism scales (E1 to E3) to illustrate that maximum missional impact (M0) occurs when there the least amount of cultural differences are evident and the mission of the church is presented in a culturally familiar venue and format. As one moves to the right of the scale (M1 to M4), the more cultural barriers within a community, the more difficult it is to establish a missional presence.
The second “layer” summarized a study completed in Australia and identifying people’s “feelings” toward God, Jesus Christ, spirituality and the church. The “feeling scale” was positive, neutral or negative. The “feeling” toward God, Jesus Christ and spirituality were all very positive. The attitude toward the church was very negative. Hirsch’s analysis was framed in a marketing perspective . . . we have a great product, but a lacking delivery system.
Alan was right . . . and it was ringing true in my head and heart . . . as it was with others in the audience. Heads were shaking in agreement and thousands of church planters were looking at each other stunned at the reality that the church has not been able to deliver our God and His Son, Jesus to the world.
Many were questioning the church’s effectiveness . . . and, this was the third “layer” that Hirsch introduced. Simply stated, the best we, as a church are doing is reaching 40% to 50% percent of the population. We reach them because we share many of the same values and background (M0 to M1). . . the only difference is that we have a faith base and they do not. So, we “waddle in the pool” of sameness and impact those who are like us.
The questions were raised, what about the other 50% to 60%? Who is reaching them? How do we reach them?
To be candid with you, I was stuck on the ineffectiveness of our delivery system (the church) with the greatest product (God, Jesus Christ and spirituality). Now, please don’t think that I am minimizing or de-glorifying our God and our Savior. Not in the least . . . but if we are only reaching less than half of our communities with the Gospel, something is broken. The early disciples turned the world upside down with the impact of Christ’s teaching.
Why can’t we? What’s the difference?
As Alan was finishing up, my mind was trying to figure out why the churches we were building were not accomplishing the goal. Don’t get me wrong . . . I think we have some outstanding and innovative churches. But, how can we have more of an impact?
Then my mind went to a passage of scripture that began hammering me and challenging my thoughts on church planting.
Matthew 16 is an incredible account where Jesus is inquiring as to what the general public was saying about Him. As Jesus questioned the disciples, He eventually became very specific and asked the question, “But, what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Without hesitation, Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus blessed Peter and then made an eternally impacting statement. He said, “ . . . on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.”
We understand that Jesus was not stating that He would build His Church on Peter . . . but on Peter’s supernaturally revealed confession.
So what does Peter’s confession say? If Jesus blessed Peter for confidently stating what had been revealed, how does that impact us? And, if Peter’s confession was revealed by the Father in heaven, what type of priority should we be giving it?
Please allow me to propose three concepts that, I believe, Jesus identified from Peter’s confession and is longing for us to grasp and accept in building His church.
“Thou are the Christ” – As Jesus begins to build His church through us, He rests on the foundation that the Church will be built on the Christ – Our Redemption. The Christ, Greek for Anointed One . . . Messiah . . . the Redeemer. Part of the mission of His church is that we are engaged in the practice of redemption. Through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, he has purchased us and redeemed us as His own. Do we want to reach the world for Christ? Then we need to be embracing the work of redemption.
“The Son” – Jesus builds His church on redeemed saints who then are introduced to the family of God and of other believers . . . and they have A Relationship with Jesus, and the Father. Throughout scripture, Jesus talked of His dependence on the Father. His intimacy with His Father illustrated the love that a new relationship can bring. All are longing for redemption . . . and all are longing for the reality of a relationship with their Creator, their Father, and their God.
“Of the living God” – Hirsch made a statement that the most practical approach to evangelism today is not identifying the sins that a person commits . . . to the unredeemed, these are irrelevant. Instead, Hirsch commented, present the need to worship and have a relationship with a true and living God, as opposed to the idols we worship, today. God is a living God . . . and He evidenced His life through The Resurrection. There is a vast difference between those “idols” we worship today . . . pleasure, possession, position and power (I John 2:15-17) and the power of a living God. He speaks . . . idols do not. He leads . . . idols do not. He cares . . . idols do not. He is alive . . . and idols are made of paper, metal, stone, jewels, or even flesh. They will pass away . . . He will live forever. Paul identifies this church as His church . . . “the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of truth.”
It’s time to re-embrace the builder of our churches – It’s Jesus. He said, “ . . . and on this rock I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, and the gates of hell will never overcome it.
He builds . . . and He builds on redemption, on a relationship with the Father and on the resurrection power of our living God.
Plant . . . Build . . . Capture . . . Advance!