Whenever we talk about church growth, the first thing that comes to mind is attendance. How many people are showing up on a typical Sunday? And along with today’s digital age, how many are engaging online?
Tracking new visitors, plugging people into small groups, outreaches into the local community and personal discipleship are other measurable markers that can indicate the health of a local congregation.
But one metric that few talk about is:
How many has your church sent out?
I’m not talking about outreaches, campuses, or missions the church supervises or funds, I’m talking about people who feel so inspired, motivated, and called, they answer that calling to launch their own full or part-time ministry.
In the Early Church, those people popped up everywhere. While leaders like Peter and Paul were doing the heavy lifting of preaching, teaching, and writing down the doctrinal foundations of the Church, there were also people like Stephen, Apollos, Timothy, Titus, Luke, Phoebe, Lydia, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, and many more.
Some followed the apostle’s example and became evangelists, some planted new churches, while others assisted, delivered Paul’s letters, or ministered in their local community.
The point is, in far too many churches today, our strategy is to tend, rather than send. We spend enormous resources helping maintain the people in the congregation or local community, but the question is – how many men and women are we raising up to take the gospel to the far corners of the earth?
A few years ago, when I produced our documentary film “Inexplicable,” about the unexpected rise of Christianity in Asia, I researched the great Victorian-era missionary movement in England. That period was filled with stories of local churches who raised up and sent missionaries to India, China, Africa, and other parts of the world. They dedicated their lives to the task and knew they would probably never return home.
And there are plenty of opportunities in America as well – including our local communities.
But today, we spend more time and effort training volunteers for parking lot ministry than challenging church members to launch out on their own to reach the lost.
How focused is your church on planting a vision in people’s hearts, providing training, and inspiring them to go and change the world? How many people in your church have launched out in either full-time ministry, or are doing serious ministry outside their normal day job?
It’s time we took world evangelism off the list of jobs for paid ministry professionals, and started raising up church members to complete the task.
It was a strategy that helped the Early Church change the world, and we could use a little of that today.