Yesterday, there was a preacher sitting at his desk trying to think up the next big thing. His web browser contained tabs labeled “Tools for Christ,” “Impact Millennials,” “Matte Finish Pamphlets” and “Door Knocking – Thing of the Past.” He is watching as the local congregation’s size dwindles due to the elderly dying off and because of the economy, people are moving away for work. The youth are no longer attending the youth classes.
He believes he has a plan that will help to bring more people into the doors of the local church of Christ. He has to do something and it has to be soon. The elders have been breathing down his neck about numbers. The contribution is down, and if attendance doesn’t pick up, he will either have to take on a second job or find another place to work.
This scenario is not uncommon. I have had opportunity to be on the other side of the phone or Skype call as preachers and elders labor over grandiose plans for evangelistic outreach. There is nothing wrong with having big ideas. There are over 7,400,000,000 people on this planet today. 78.5% of them do not at least claim to be Christians.
Big ideas and big plans are necessary if we want to reach the lost all around this world. The churches of Christ make up 0.0003% of the world’s population. If we play the numbers game, then we have a long way to go. I do not want to play the numbers game. “And have mercy on some who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” (Jude 22–23, NASB95)
I’m not a numbers guy. I want to be a mercy guy. So I’m not going to provide ideas for bringing in thousands of people tomorrow. I’m not going to give you the perfect Bible study material that works 100% of the time. Although, I think I have a pretty good one. What I can provide are practical ideas for reaching into the community and enhancing the possibility for personal
work. Above all, this article is about placing the mission of doing good unto all men at the forefront of ministry. Look to the words of James. “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27, NASB95)
James 1:27 is a response to verse 26. “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless”
(James 1:26). This person has looked in the mirror, forgotten what kind of person they are, and started talking a big game about all the good they have done. God says the best thing we can do is to make an effort to get into the lives of those in distress. If you’re going to talk a big game, then play in it!
I have sat in plenty of meetings where we plan a strategy for getting into the ghettos and then ultimately progress is halted because of fear of danger. We have to take the salt of the world to the most distasteful places in our communities if anything is ever going to change. The salt is not the word of God, but Christians carrying the word of God where it has not been spoken. We don’t need a planning party or a convoy to do so.
Wear Your Local Government Out
Your local DFCS (D-Fax) office is sure to know people who are in need. They can also assist in finding programs that already exist to help the needy. Preachers, this is not an opportunity for us to take it on all by ourselves. We have to present the Lord’s body in the local congregation with a scenario they can fit into and be productive.
This past week, the Lake Oconee church of Christ put together 50 “First Night Bags” for foster children entering a new home. When the child’s case worker leaves the office, she can pick up a bag filled with crayons, coloring books, a toy, and other essentials to help make his or her first night a little better. A card from the church is provided along with an open invitation without strings attached. People from the local community came out to help stuff bags as well. Everyone
wants to help! Provide opportunities to get the community involved with the Lord’s work. The first step into the building is often the hardest.
Your local clean-up and sanitation crew can be your best friends. I worked with a congregation a few years ago that understood the importance of the church’s footprint. One of the other ministers arranged for the congregation to clean up a few city blocks. We door knocked and handed out invitations to help beautify our streets. After the cleanup effort, we retired to the building for refreshments and a brief lesson. We had 20 people come out to help and 15 of them returned the following Sunday. Five of them became Christians.
Again, this is about putting the salt of the world into distasteful places, not about numbers. However, we can reap the benefits of doing good unto all men.
During a door knocking campaign with the students from the Bear Valley Bible Institute, I had the opportunity to show the students what a day in my life looks like. We visited the hospital where I am a volunteer Chaplain. We prayed with patients of all colors, ages, and backgrounds. We drove to businesses on both sides of town and handed out fliers. We went to the nursing homes and sat with the elderly, some of whom could only hold our hands.
On the last day of the campaign, I split up from the group and walked to the courthouse in downtown Greensboro, Georgia. I found a man who was in tears. He was heading into the chambers in order to finalize his divorce. To make a long story short, I was able to speak with him and his wife, halted the divorce, and was able to study with and baptize this man. Judges do not want to keep seeing the same people coming through their doors. They welcome ministers and churches to intervene in the affairs of those who seem to be trapped in the system.
Today, there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system. Meanwhile, there are 33,641,321 spare bedrooms in the United States. This is not an option for every family. However, if you are in a position to help a family get back on its feet by taking in one
of these 400,000 children, there is a definite need. In the state of Georgia, we are engaged in partnership parenting. This means offering spiritual and emotional care to families striving for the ideal, but having experienced challenges are no longer able to provide fully for their child. That’s where we step in to give the love of Christ to a family. There are no laws against inviting these people to church. Unless otherwise specified, you can take these children to church while in your care. It is a great opportunity to teach someone in your home who may have never heard the Gospel.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
By Eric Ramseur