If Most of Our People Never Share their Faith, How Can a Church be Considered Healthy?

Monday Discussion

Jesus’ expectation, Paul’s expectation was that disciples, followers of Christ would all, without exception, be workers for the kingdom which means healers and heralds of the kingdom. Today however, much of what we do in our churches is wait for people to come to us, or we invite them to come to our facility where a few highly gifted and engaged people try to put on worship services and programs that will present the story of the gospel and win people to Christ.

But Christ didn’t commission his disciples to be inviters to programs and facilities but to be fishers of men (Matt. 4:19). We are not fish processors but fishers of men. Fisherman on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch™ don’t call the fish processors back at Dutch Harbor, fisherman. A fisherman has to go to the fish. He has to leave the dock. He doesn’t wait for fish to come to, or be brought to him.  We need churches filled with missional/incarnational people who understand this distinction. We need believers to get out of their buildings and into the communities in which God has placed them. We need people to live among and with our communities and stop expecting them to come into our world and our churches to hear the gospel.

Further, we need to take the gospel to the streets not just in words, but into the hearts and lives of our neighbors in tangible, practical ways that demonstrate the love of Christ. Words must be coupled with action. Action must be coupled with words.

As Hugh Halter and Matt Smay write in their book The Tangible Kingdomthe primary function of any church “is to actively move into the culture to embody and enflesh the good news into every nook and cranny of this world. The function of the church is to be God’s missionary hands to a world that is looking for something tangible to grab onto.[1]

Question: 

Can a church be considered healthy, if the majority of its regular attenders never share their faith, never talk to non-Christians about the supremacy of Christ, never leave the dock to fish for men?

[1] Hugh Halter, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community. (San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, 2008), 108.

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5 comments on “If Most of Our People Never Share their Faith, How Can a Church be Considered Healthy?

  1. I am guilty of all of the above. I have sat and not reached out, I have waited for people to come to me, and I have actively reached out to share my faith with non-believers. Here are my convictions. I do believe it is the Holy Spirit who does the work and as I discipline myself to ask God to show me who He wants to love through me, who he wants to say a word to through me, it gets the focus where it needs to be…on God. Something that Rebecca Pipert experiences and shares (author and spiritually gifted in evangelism) is that as the Holy Spirit works in the non-believer’s heart they will in fact ask questions and give us the opportunity to give an answer.

    So often we, “the church” are not ready or looking for those opportunities. A question I have had to ask myself many times is why is no one asking me for an answer? That has brought me to repentance and to see sin in my life and dependence on myself rather than Jesus. If we are filled with the supernatural love of Jesus, the world will see and experience something supernatural when they are with us, and that will create a desire to know more. The nonbeliever will ask us for an answer.

    The questions that make sharing my faith more applicable to me is “when God has brought someone to a point of needing an answer will I be willing to be distracted from my schedule”? ” Will I be willing to love who the world says is unlovable”? “Will I be willing to speak even if it may mean I will be excluded from a social group”? “And finally am I ready to give an answer”? If not then, I know there is a spiritual health issue!!

    Marty, I so appreciate you and Steph! Thankful for your encouragement in my life. Praying for you!

  2. Donita, thanks for visiting, tell your man we said hello.

    We are all guilty aren’t we? The American Church has gone through a a 50 year (our lifetime) backslide into passivity on this issue. We wait when she be moving. We are silent when we ought to be speaking. We have shut down the Holy Spirit’s prodding of our spirits and we live in a cowering fear of rejection.

    Pipert is right on so much but I have to challenge placing all or even most of the problem on our failure to live such transformed lives that people ask us questions about the source of our joy and hope. Yes, we need to live this way but we are also commanded to season our speech with salt so that we may know how to respond. We are also called, commanded to fish for men, and preach the gospel. These are issues of obedience whether or not people ask us questions that give us opportunity to share the gospel. All of which, is why your third paragraph is right on target.

  3. “Jesus’ expectation, Paul’s expectation was that disciples, followers of Christ would all, without exception, be workers for the kingdom which means healers and heralds of the kingdom.”

    Marty, can you point to scriptures addressed to the Church and not specifically to the Apostles that support this? 1 Pet 3:15 comes to mind but in the context of verse 14 this is not evangelism but perseverance in the face of persecution.

    In 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul tells Timothy, the pastor, to “do the work of an evangelist” which seems to indicate that there was a role of “evangelist” and the church at Ephesis lacked one so Timothy must do that work. It is noteworthy that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to get the church engaged in evangelism but instead instructs Timothy to fill that role.

    There has been some historical work done on the Great Commission that indicates that the church saw it as something assigned to the Apostles and completed by them. If i remember correctly, that view didn’t change till the Modern Missions Movement. Doesn’t make it right, just an interesting observation.

    In the letters to the churches in Revelation 1-3 none are commended or reproved for either zeal in or a lack of evangelism.

    Matthew 4:19, cited above, is Jesus calling Peter and Andrew and is not addressed to all the Apostles, let alone to the Church. Also, you said “We are not fish processors but fishers of men” but isn’t it possible that Jesus command to “make disciples” could involve not just fishing but processing the catch? Different people in different roles.

    I’m not saying I disagree with you, I just want to be careful that the burden we lay on people is one God has laid on them and not one born out of the Great Awakening or something.

    • Tim,
      It’s a good and fair question. My response would be that I see little need to interpret the verses you cite (1 Peter 3:15 etc.) in too narrow a sense and that the Church, for much of it 3rd to 16th century expression, got the Great Commission wrong.

      I would contend that the Matthew 2816-20 iteration of the Great Commission in particular lays out a clear disciple-making mission for all Christians not just the disciples and that Paul’s word to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2;2 is Paul simply working out what the Great Commission looks like by way of a process, i.e. believers finding faithful men (or women) teaching them in such a way that they are enabled to teach others also.

      This doesn’t mean that all believers will be equally effective or even that they will have equal opportunities but that all believers have equal responsibility to take the gospel to others and use the air they breathe to make disciples of the nations.

      Further, I think part of the problem is that we are too quick to divide the process of making disciples into parts, (evangelism/discipleship). Biblically, I think it is better to see them as a continuum of a process. I have written of this elsewhere and you might want to check out some of those links to see some of my rational.

      two words for one biblical term (http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/two-words-for-one-biblical-term-how-dissection-obscures-understanding-2/)

      and here is the original post and a significant comment thread

      http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/two-words-for-one-biblical-term-how-dissection-obscures-understanding/

      Trust you are doing well.

      marty

  4. I didn’t mean to cite 1Pet and other passages to support the idea that the Great Commission was fulfilled. I was making the observation that historically, the Church by and large understood it to have been completed. I’ll have to see if I can find that article again some time. Thought it may be historical, it may also be wrong.

    “all believers have equal responsibility to take the gospel to others and use the air they breathe to make disciples of the nations.” That’s what I’m asking for Biblical support for. The Great Commission may be it and really, all it would take is one command, right? :) But are there others?

    I absolutely agree that “making disciples” is too often thought of as something we do *after* evangelism. I think a better way to understand it is that evangelism is a call to discipleship and “discipling” someone is continuing that process to spiritual maturity. Honestly, I’m becoming skeptical of some of these terms as I think their meanings are shaded by too much very recent church history.

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