By Ted Cunningham
Recently I heard a pastor say, “I want to make a huge impact on the kingdom with the time I have left.” This pastor’s enthusiasm to reach his community and the world is contagious. It inspires me. And yet after a few days of meditating on his sermon, I started to wonder: “What exactly qualifies as huge impact?”
Sometimes our preaching takes on a tone of “do more, get bigger, reach more, expand and build.” While growing the church and kingdom is part of our church mission, I don’t think we should take on the Great Commission like a bunch of Lone Rangers.
Jesus gave the Great Commission to a group, not an individual. I take personal responsibility for sharing the Gospel with family, friends and strangers, but the weight of the world is not on my shoulders. It takes the entire church to make disciples, not just me:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20.
How do we take on such a monumental assignment? How do we make disciples, expand the kingdom and grow our ministries as a team? Here are four thoughts on reaching people without burning out.
Serve one person today. Pastor Andy Stanley taught us years ago to “Do for one what you can’t do for all.” I love hearing leaders around our church say this to each other. This one thought completely changed the way we do missions, benevolence, evangelism, and a whole host of ministries around our community. It also freed me up personally. I love striking up conversations with strangers, but now I don’t feel the pressure to engage every stranger I meet. My goal is to talk to somebody new every day and engage them in deep conversation.
Remind the congregation often that every member is a minister. It’s a teaching I received from Pastor Rick Warren that I have quoted hundreds of times. Years ago, a member of our church called the office to say they saw a homeless man on a street corner in town. The member said, “I just think we should do something as a church.” We encouraged that member to be the church and minister to this man on the spot instead of waiting for a meeting or a benevolence offering. The Body of Christ has the freedom to be the church 24/7.
Celebrate how God is using the church down the street. Rather than competing with the churches in town, rejoice that you are not the only church or pastor reaching people. It takes all kinds to reach all kinds. Refuse to compare your ministries, budgets, and numbers with the church down the street. God uniquely placed you where you are and wants you to reach people with the personality, giftedness, and passion he gave you.
Allow God to determine your growth. Pastor Joel Thomas recently said, “I am responsible for obedience. God will take care of the outcome.” When we focus on being the church, rather than growing the church, God takes care of the numbers. In Acts 2 we read about God’s response to the activity of the first church:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47.
The Lord added to their numbers. He determines our size. Rest your weary head on the pillow tonight knowing that God has the size of your ministry taken care of.
We are only a few short weeks away from 2015. I can’t believe it. What if we try something new next year? Instead of waking up each morning and asking, “What do I need to do to get bigger and better?” What if we ask, “How can I serve better today?” For me, that means less time on social media and more time enjoying my family. I want to have deeper fellowship with friends during the week rather than catching up on their latest post.
Reach people. Love people. Spend time with people. Work hard. Enjoy the ministry opportunities God places before you today. Here at Focus on the Family, we are cheering for you and your church!
Copyright © 2014 by Ted Cunningham.
Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church. He married Amy in 1996 and now live in Branson, MO with their two children, Corynn and Carson. Ted is the author of Fun Loving You, Trophy Child and Young and In Love and coauthor of four books with Dr. Gary Smalley. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.