Christianity is struggling in Chicago. Evangelicalism has spent thousands of dollars on advertising, church planting, and evangelistic outreach with disappointing results. Although the gospel is powerful, I wonder if we are hindered by our method. Christianity continues to approach Chicago as it has always done with church planters and missionaries working as “Lone Rangers,” even though we have the example of Jesus building and ministering from a team. Training His men, Jesus used fishing as a picture for making disciples. We envision a lone person with a rod and reel, while in the first century, fishing was a group effort netting multiple fish. It was no accident that Jesus wanted fishermen on His team.
The Holy Spirit gives each person an ability that works in harmony with the other team members. In our own community Jeremy is the energy behind us serving one another. Ryan and Abbie remind us of the lost people around us while Dan keeps us authentic. Prayer is Maureen’s passion, Randall leads us to give, Leah keeps us in the word, and Rachel has a hug for everyone. It is living in community that we have learned how to work together and how to love a variety of personalities. Unity is a choice that requires humility and hard work to keep a sure grip on the net.
The basis for this team approach is found in the nature of God. God is made up of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They exist in harmony, and out of their relationship flows an infinite love to the world through the cross of Jesus. A discipling team is a picture of God to the world by their love for one another as John describes in 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” The team embodies our message.
Our mission is no more difficult than the Roman world of Jesus. As He faced the challenge by forming a team, so we also should form teams believing that our unity is the point of engagement with our culture. Our unity is how Chicago will be convinced that the Father has sent Jesus into the world. “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).
Good thoughts, and in your community you have some very talented people who are passionate about following Christ. What do you do with those dysfunctional and uncommitted that chose to sit and soak every week or with that unbeliever that connects with your community?
You say that Christianity is struggling in Chicago because a lot of money spent on advertising etc. has produced disappointing results. You appear to be personally frustrated by having been there for two years with only eight or so people really committed to what you are trying to do? Do not be frustrated. Eight committed people is more than most churches have. Recognize that the results are dependent on Godâ€™s dealing with people and on those peopleâ€™s response to His drawing them to Himself. Our experience has been that the people most likely to respond to the message of Jesus do not read ads, are not impressed by church buildings, and are not responsive to typical outreach programs. I agree that your team approach to ministry is how churches were started in the New Testament. Please accept a few observations and suggestions:
1. PRAY â€“ Your site does not reveal that prayer is a high priority with your group. Set aside a time when your group regularly gets together and prays for specific spiritual and physical issues in your lives and in the community that surrounds you, for other churches, believers, and people on mission in your area and elsewhere worldwide, and for your witness in Chicago. I Thessalonians 5:17
2. WITNESS â€“ Be a true / pure witness for Jesus. People must be told that they are accountable for their sins; in their natural condition they face the condemnation of a Holy God; because of Godâ€™s love and mercy, Jesusâ€™ sacrifice on the cross made full payment for them; they have only to believe and accept Him to have that forgiveness applied to them; and through that forgiveness they are made new and are given eternal life in Godâ€™s presence. We cannot minimize this message and be true to the mission that Jesus left for us. Neither can we press people into a decision. We must speak the truth and give God time to work in their hearts. John 3:16-21
3. SACRIFICE â€“ Though our eternity is secure because of our acceptance of Jesusâ€™ sacrifice, the value of our lives for Him is dependent on our commitment and obedience to Him and to the mission He has for us. Hebrews 6:1-8 makes it clear that one can be saved and still choose to return to the world. Romans 12:1-2 describes the alternate choice where sacrifice of oneself to God results in a transformation into what is good and acceptable and perfect. I think this is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 16:25. We cannot keep our lives for ourselves but must be submissive to God and seek His transforming power in our own lives. The transformation reinforces our separation from the world but also confirms our witness to the world.
4. TEACH â€“ This is the final part of the commission found in Matthew 28:19-20. The most important thing we can teach a new believer, who makes the commitment to discipleship, is that the Bible is truth and it can be understood through the teaching work of the Spirit of God who indwells every believer. John 14:26 and 16:12-13 There is no substitute for personal prayerful Bible study. Studying study guides or books about the Bible is not the same.
5. LEARN PATIENCE â€“ I know God has not abandoned Chicago or He would not have moved you there. He has a mission for you and the people who are with you. Fulfill that mission faithfully without preconceived notions about what God intends to accomplish through you. Do not be overwhelmed by the number who reject the message. Jesus watched several thousand folk walk away, leaving only 12. John 6:66-68 Rejoice in all who come to Jesus and hold them close till they make the choice to become true followers and begin to grow. Let God grow the work in His way and in His time.