If we desire to build healthy churches with excited people worshipping God, loving each other and reaching out to the lost, we should know that the love of God has to flow down the aisles of our churches before it will flow down the streets of our cities.
The truth is that most churches have stagnated and are not growing. That should make us wonder if we haven’t missed something. Our message is solid. Our teachings are great. Our people are committed. But where is the fruit? If preaching and programs could have gotten the job done, we should already have experienced the breakthrough we all so desperately desire. We may have had it turned around all along. We have concentrated primarily on winning the lost but have not necessarily brought the church to the level of love and concern for each other first.
We have for too long concentrated primarily on increasing our church attendance by continually searching for new people, without ever paying attention to those we already have. We are instead driven continuously to get outside the church building and knock on every door in the community. And this is understandable because every pastor and church want to create the best opportunities to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ.
They should, however, couple this essential purpose of the church with genuine care for the people who are already part of our congregation.
The strength of a ministry is evaluated not by what happens in church on Sunday, but by what happens between Sundays. Unless we are deliberate in the way we provide care, it will not occur. If we do not take care of the people God has already given us, why should he send us any more?
A sick church cannot efficiently do evangelism, missions, outreaches, etc., as they should.
Paul urges the church in Galatia by saying, “Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10 NIV). This Scripture places emphasis on the importance of the family of believers. In today’s world, people are responding overwhelmingly to love, family and genuine acceptance. People crave this, both inside and outside the church.
The key to the effectiveness of our God-called mission lies within the healthy relationships and attitudes we display among each other as believers. It makes good sense to start first by cultivating an atmosphere of love and acceptance among the people of God before we attempt to reach out to people in the world. It is when we create an atmosphere of genuine God-kind-of-love that a healthy, safe, spiritual environment begins to develop.
Our strategy for growing safe and healthy churches should be based on our ability to balance between caring for the household of faith and reaching the lost. One is dependent upon the other. As pastors, we have tried for too long to do ministry to the exclusion of our church members. Believers have gifts for ministry and are often overlooked and not used.
People want to feel they are part of the team and want to serve in one way or another. Once they are embraced by the family of God, these disciples are developed to likewise love each other and then go out into the world to share his love. It’s in this sense of belonging that people feel secure and start thinking more about their fellow church members than their circumstances and willingly give their life away.
To provide continued care to all our people will take more than merely encouraging church members to be friendly toward guests on a Sunday or by purely shaking hands with each other during fellowship time. It will require us to invite and encourage each church member to rise to the challenge, be trained and be willing to take up their responsibility in loving and caring for other church members.
In this fresh move of the Spirit, we are seeing new energy released as more and more self-sacrificing pastors and church members are committed to shaping their churches after the simple and efficient ways of Jesus who commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We should never lose sight of the importance of what ministry is all about. It’s not about statistics, numbers or things; it’s about people. Always.
Adapted from The Care Revolution: A Proven New Paradigm for Pastoral Care by John Bosman