Autor: John Boland
Category: Grupos Humanos No Alcanzados, Capacitación en Evangelismo, Ministerio en el Ámbito Laboral
Has the modern church and religious denominations left their membership behind? Should seminaries have a course on effectively church growth through the use the congregational resources (people in the pews). Let me re-phrase that question! Do seminaries even have classes that teach true biblical discipleship? I am convinced this is the heart of the problem of the “Sunday to Monday disconnect” which we find in modern church communities! Pastors, who have not been effectively discipled themselves, do not understand effective ways to utilize the committed Christians they find in their congregations in workplace evangelism. Developing new believers is not about witness training or continued upgrades in some thirteen week course hoping that someone catches the program’s vision. It’s about investing your time, energy and effort into another person’s life until that person matures into a lifestyle of ministry and passes that vision on to another. This process does not mean we will necessarily raise up another paid staff minister either! Just read about Jesus three year ministry on earth and you will understand the methodology (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). Here is what I find a little insulting both from the ministerial and the congregational point of view: many a church staff member has the belief that just because the membership is not “seminary” trained, they are not qualified to do anything without supervision or direct instructions. The other side of that is when the membership refuse to do anything they think is the pastor or staff’s job. I am an ordained Baptist and have held several church staff positions and I have been in membership off/on for years, so know a little about what I speak. How sad a day it has become that we fail to lead others to Christ, minister in Christ name, visit the sick or take care of the needy just because we either think that it is an assignment of some paid person, or we are not properly “trained or equipped”.
There are several questions that come to mind when I think of workplace evangelism and the role of the church staff: 1) What is the Biblical role of church leaders? 2) Who is responsible for promoting workplace evangelism? 3) How should staff relate to the working membership? 4) Who is responsible for church growth? 5) What is really the most important: overall church growth numbers, or growing & maturing disciples?
BIBLICAL CHURCH LEADERSHIP:
According to Scriptures the role of church leaders includes:
PROMOTING WORKPLACE EVANGELISM:
When preparing the membership for a workplace environment, it all starts with discipleship. Add to this the idea that no one can know what goes on in the workplace if they have not been there to experience it. Therefore, many a church staff has no real world experience, most only have an educational background (grade school, college, seminary, church), and very few (mainly rural churches with bi-vocational pastors) understand what goes on in the workplace environment. A vast majority truly cannot or do not have the time to help church members cope with real world problems! The neediest among us are the new believers, who have recently made life changing decisions but still live in the real world. They must be retooled on how to cope with old workplace conditions. The Church has to help them understand how to answer fellow employee questions about these changes that have taken place in their life, which we all know will inevitably come up. They need to know the difference between Christian and the worldly values, in other words: this is how you acted before Christ; this is what the Bible says a Christian should act; what do you think you should do now? Discipleship must take place through the church by anointed people of Godly character (whether staff or not) who can teach new believers, mentor maturing disciples, and encourage future teachers (2 Timothy 2:2). True discipleship then helps the new believer:
This means they must be learning several basic things about their faith, such as:
CHURCH STAFF AND THE WORKING MEMBERSHIP:
It is important for the church staff to relate to every member of the congregation and sustain that relationship over time. I think Alexander Strauch, a church elder and teacher from Colorado stated it best in his article[i] on church leadership. He said that leaders should seek to be humble and loving, not condescending. Listen to others patiently. Handle disagreements calmly. Confess sins and shortcomings quickly and openly. Appreciate the wisdom and perspective of others with whom you disagree, without criticism. Understand that ministry is not to dictate, but to direct. Seek to take on the love qualities of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Never manipulate any situation for any reason. I would add that church leaders and the membership should attempt to learn their Spiritual Gifts and then plug into that Gift appropriate ministry. This gives each member a sense of belonging, purpose and importance within the body and is important if the church is to see true Biblical growth.
RESPONSIBILITY AND CHURCH GROWTH:
Without reservation the Holy Spirit is solely responsible for leading each of us to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Now with that said and looking first at the early church, it grew because of the testimony and lifestyle of the Apostles (Acts 2:40) and the early church leaders (see Acts chapters 2, 5, 6, 9 and 16). However, the first century church continued to multiply due to other factors. People saw the signs and miracles (5:12) performed through the church leaders. New members united with the body of Christ and used their Spiritual Gifts as needed. As the new believers were educated (2:42) about Jesus and His ministry individual lifestyles changed. This change in conduct and character (2:42) was so noticeable (2:47) that other people within the community were drawn to believe in Christ. Believers were recognized for their positive outlook (2:46), manner of sharing (2:44), taking care of one another (2:45), warm fellowship (2:42), overall inner peace and personal contentment (9:31). The result of all this was that the church multiplied, many sought discipleship, scores of others became obedient to the faith.
OVERALL CHURCH GROWTH VS GROWING & MATURING DISCIPLES:
So it all comes down to what is really important? The numbers that we read about among the first century Christians comes out of a sincere desire to know the Lord Jesus, be of service to God and be a part of something larger than oneself. Yes, numbers were kept, growth of the church was observed and celebrated but not to the degree of importance which we hold numbers today(Acts 2:40, 46; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 9:31; 11:19; 12:24; 14:1; 16:5, 34; 17:4, 12, 34; 18:8). In that day and age, growing in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ was way more important to people who faced ridicule, opposition and persecution. The natural growth of the body of Christ back then out ran the idea of keeping track of numbers in order to elevate oneself, a ministry or a denomination.
Other questions came to mind related to workplace evangelism, as I further pondered the idea of church membership, such as:
THE PRICE OF CHURCH MEMBERSHIP:
From the Biblical concept of the first century church, members’ responsibilities to the body of Christ were high. They were expected to repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Then believers were to continue steadfastly in the teaching of doctrine and fellowship (2:42). They went on to put all things in common (2:44). They sold their possessions and goods for the common good as anyone had need (2:45). They learned to pray daily (quiet time), corporately (small & large groups) (4:31) and specifically (against illnesses, persecution, problems, etc. being thankful, praising God). Miracles that only God could accomplish occurred regularly. The power of the Holy Spirit shown mightily and Spiritual maturity among the membership was noticeable. In short the church grew at record numbers and non-believers took notice.
However not all was as it seemed! There was lying among members (Acts 5:1-11), disputes between ethnic groups (Acts 6:1), conflicts over religious tradition (Acts 15:1-5) and even divisions due to member conduct (Acts 15:36-41). Later generations of early Christians faced a bigger crisis of belief: debates, envying, wraths, strife, and backbiting (1 Corinthians 12:20); blaspheme (I Timothy 1:20), internal fighting (James 4:1); envy (James 4:5); and finally among other things, divisions and disputes (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:3; 11:18) and as we know a hierarchy developed. A definition found in most any dictionary is a tiered system of people place one above the other according to status or authority. The point is that the first century church wasn’t all that goody-goody, as we would like to think when we try to compare it to what is happening in the church today.
Way too many members in today’s churches hear preaching and teaching on Sunday, then forget its purpose, application, and power during the week. Even the prayer life of the modern church leaves much to be desired. God-sized miracles seem rare. The power of the Holy Spirit is limited from the lack of believers’ faith. It sometimes seems that members would rather be involved in criticizing each other and even enjoy the art of factionalism, than trying to cooperate for the common good which brings praise and glory of God. The Spiritual maturity level among a majority of church members is questionable too. We hear of church splits from internal disputes and arguments that are not handled very well either by church leaders or the membership. There are even stories of former church facilities being turned into business offices and condos. One recent study done by two religion professors reinforces this conclusion by stating that church attendance has decline between 1950 and 1990[ii]. A later Barna study reinforces this by concluding church attendance numbers are at only 47% of the total Christian population[iii]. No wonder a non-believing world has a hard time seeing any difference between life inside or outside the church. Unfortunately it seems the statistics show that many people do not want to pay the price of local church membership.
RESPONSIBILITY OF MEMBERSHIP:
Any question as to why we are not doing such a great job as Christ’s witnesses? I submit again, that the key is a lack of Biblical discipleship. The best explanation of this term comes from the Apostle Paul, he said “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”. (2 Timothy 2:2) He goes on in that letter to remind us not to chase after words that don’t profit Godly pursuits. He further warns us to conduct ourselves approved of God. He continues that disrespectful and ignorant talk only leads to further ungodliness. Then he cautions disciples to depart from all forms of wickedness, declaring that a true disciple follows Biblical principles, avoids foolish and ignorant disputes, because it only produces strife among the body. He further states that a true disciple does not quarrel but is gentle, able to teach, patient, humble, and corrects those who are in opposition without offense (2 Timothy 2:14-26). He adds to this discussion by telling us to be an example to the others in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). At one point in Paul’s line of reasoning he instructs Christians to be watchful of those who would walk away from the Lord. He calls on us to fulfill our God given ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).
MEMBERSHIP & MINISTRY:
God has called each of us to a life of ministry not just paid staff. It might seem that a fruitless ministry gives the appearance as if someone has a questionable religious foundation in Christ and is not committed to following the Scriptures as a lifestyle. We are warned that suffering will happen to Christ’s followers, but we are told to have patience (James 5:10). God loves the body of Christ and the work we do in His name (Philippians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 8, and 11). We are called:
How do members learn to minister in the workplace? Honestly, it is one of the hardest things in this life to do! It first means that one must stop thinking about oneself and start thinking about how one can serve God and others. It’s called:
For in Luke 14:11 it says that everyone who exalts himself or herself shall be humbled and whoever humbles themselves shall be exalted. Luke 6:47-49 says “Hear God’s Word and act accordingly”.