Reclaiming Christ's Followers
- Christ's Followers
Rev. John Rodgers
November 26, 2017
Understanding How to Reach the Next Disciples
Here is where the trouble begins, it seems obvious that many church have failed, at least to some extent, in their evangelistic responsibility. Moreover, it would appear that this relative ineffectiveness to communicate the Gospel relevantly to a rapidly changing world is a growing problem, evidenced by the boycott of the institutionalized church by a growing segment of society. The church’s reluctance to change, update itself, and speak relevantly to our day constitutes a serious problem for more churches than one.
Every generation has the right to hear the Good News in a framework that addresses itself to them in their present environment. The truth of the Gospel never changes, just our presentation needs to change or people lose confidence in the church’s claim to speak relevantly to their lives and they continue to do what is right or wrong in their own eyes rather than through the eyes of Jesus. We must be sure that the message is expressed in a way that people can understand and that leads them to grasp Jesus’ validity. Our work will never be successful until we declare the Truth of Christ in a way that is relevant.
The challenge for all Christians (Disciples of Jesus) centers in the giving ourselves to the lost, just as Jesus did. Love wins most arguments. Communicating effectively with people requires sensitivity in which one identifies with their secrets, fears, suffering, sorrows, disappointments, hopes, and faults. To reach those outside the church, we must become genuinely concerned for them as people whom God loves. Before people can hear the Gospel, they must know that we love them and accept them as people God uniquely created them to be and for whom Christ died.
One of the successful solutions to today’s issues is a revival of the people following Christ, having a relationship with Christ, and feels the full impact of God’s love in their lives. When speaking to the next Disciples we must speak in a language and use words they will understand from their cultural background. Often we use theological or Biblical, or religious terms they don’t understand or grasp. The first century Church looked for a response from their hearers. They presented the Gospel in a way that their audience understood, and we must do the same today if we are going to reach people. But we must always remember that the heart of the Gospel never ever changes.
Evangelism is simply sharing Christ and what God has done in our lives. All Christians are called to be evangelism/witnesses. The message of the Good News is not a cold, conceptualized theology or dogma or philosophy or spiritual formation; it is a person proclaiming the Good News in a personal way. As we seek to proclaim the Gospel, we must never forget that people relate in depth only with people. Relational evangelism established a personal relationship with one another and presents a convincing apologetic story is the most important thing in bringing people to know Christ.
Once people have come to know Christ, then we must mentor, lead, and teach them the ways of Christ. It is through this transforming power that people then become the uniquely created person God created them to be. Reconciliation to God is restoring the essential and vital relationship with Christ, God, and others, which today’s people are zealously seeking.
Jesus unreservedly gave of himself. Jesus confronted people with the great issues. Jesus never compromised on asking and commissioning his church to proclaim the Gospel and make Disciple like he did. Jesus presented the Truth uncompromisingly and challenge people to decide. Jesus above all was compassionate and ministered to the whole person. Jesus saw prayer as the one indispensable exercise in His mission. If we are truly to be called is Disciples/followers can we do no less. As a Disciple we not only learn from the master, but we act like the master, and we want everyone to have the same experiences and know about our master.
Today the urbanized church is not talking to people in the community like in the past. We instead wait for people to come to us instead of going to where they are. Unless the church gains a listening ear and speaks to people in the community, then not only with these individuals remain in desperate need of Christ, but the future of the church is in trouble. The church must overhaul, sometimes radically overhaul, many of its approaches to ministries and missions. Churches have become social clubs, instead of taking the teachings of Christ into the world.
Church member need to be trained to establish truly deep personal relationships with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and people in the community so they can then learn how to share their faith and Christ. That means the church cannot rely on what is done within the four walls of its buildings. The church must help Disciples of Christ to establish personal relationships to make Disciples of Christ. It is a sad fact the over 90% of those who go to church and call themselves Christians today have never once in their lifetime shared their faith and reasons for Christ. Many say they just don’t have the time or don’t know how. The church must and needs to revitalize the purpose and role of Christ’s Church and keep it before the people all the time.
We need to be continually seeking to find people just where they are and whatever they need may be – social, physical, mental, or spiritual – in the name of Christ the church must step into the world to meet that immediate need, before people will be willing to come to know Christ. Many church members seem all but totally apathetic to this challenge. Churches need to be teaching an understanding of the New Testament and how to read it, basic prayer, and the necessity of witnessing and service, bringing people to know Christ, teaching the ways of Christ and making Disciples of Christ. Churches need to be training Deacons/Mentors/Shepherd to be assigned to newcomers of Christ to assist them in becoming a Disciple.
It must be stated straight out that unless the church recaptures and implements the first century church’s scriptural principle of a lay-centered ministry, little hope exists for fulfilling what Jesus asked and commissioned His Church to do in today’s world. The ministry of the early Christians was a happy ‘unselfconscious effort.’ They went about quite naturally sharing their faith and the Good News. Today we have a spectator mentality, it’s a church in which a building looks like a church; a clergyperson dressed appropriately, worship service that is entertaining not challenging, and to be left alone, don’t ask me to do anything. This isn’t what Jesus demanded of his disciples.
Person-to-person encounter constitutes the key to reaching people with Christ and thus demands a commitment from every single person in the whole church. The first fact to realize center in the concept that the laity are the Disciples of Christ as a whole and the clergy have received the privilege to shepherding (preaching and teaching) which equips the entire body for carrying out the Great Commission. Clergy must help people grow in relationship with God and Christ, develop trustful and responsible relationships with others and not just in the church. Present the teachings of Jesus in a real-life setting, so others can follow and to present God’s message in a way that speaks to contemporary people.
People are what matters to God, not programs, and helping people to fulfill God’s intention for their lives happens when the church focuses on the Great Commission and makes it the church’s standard upon which all ministry and mission grow out of. Christ’s Disciples must depend on the Holy Spirit to lead them, be ready to stir it up and not neglect one’s gifts, make disciples and teach them, be faithful, love people and have a real concern for them, sensitive in personal relationships, ability to deal with people’s problems, and have an optimistic spirit to inspire hope.
The image of the church in any community relates directly to the effectiveness of it reaching out in Christ to everyone.
We wish to thank the Next Generation Alliance, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association for their efforts in gathering the data and information for the above content.