Have you ever tried to coordinate this stuff?
If you have you’ll know that when it comes to evangelism and mission, everyone and I mean everyone has ideas. Where the fields are most ripe, who is in the most need, where the maximum fruit lies etc.
One of the top ten books that influenced me was a little 90-something page number by Steve Chalke called Change Agents; 25 hard learned lessons of leadership and the art of getting things done. It’s brilliant because it is written by someone who has a biblical, pastoral perspective who is also not scared to tell it like it is.
To narrow in a little, one of the most impacting lessons out of this book for me was:
The enemy of the best is not the bad, but the good.
Let’s just keep in mind that the dude writing this is, the leader of church.co.uk, one of the fastest growing and most influential Christian communities so far this century in an increasingly hyper-secular Britain. (Yes, leadership books that aren’t written by Americans do exist!)
Anyway, about the lesson. He theorises that we are all pretty good at recognising heresy/plain dumb ideas when we see it so thus when things like this come along, it is immediately diagnosed and thrown away. Therefore, what really hamstrings churches is the plethora of otherwise good things that people want to do, competing for our attention and focus to the stage where all of a sudden we wake up one day and realise that there is no coherent single focus to the church community and our resources are so depleted between competing visions that everything ends up stagnating.
This is why vision ‘leaks’.
The thing is though, just try telling someone who is excited about their own/new evangelism idea that the church is a) not going to take it on and b) not allow it to be implemented in the background of other ministries due to it’s subtraction from the singular focus. If you’ve had to have a conversation anything like this you’ll know that ‘hell hath no fury’ like a person with a bright idea encountering a cold reception! Get ready to be accused of something, probably of being dictatorial.
So, in this space how do explain yourself? Easy, use a gambling analogy!
Let’s be honest with ourselves, our motives are never 100% pure because we are not sinless. I have noticed over my 11 years of ministry so far that yes, people genuinely, individually want to see God glorified. But when we come together, sometimes it feels like we looking for a win. Looking for a story that we can tell.
That’s dangerous because when we’re looking for the win, we’ll tend to hedge our bets. Now you may be thinking, c’mon Peter, that’s rubbish. Really? then explain to me why so unbelievably few churches are willing to do the evangelism/mission equivalent of putting 100% of all their chips on ‘black 22’. (Assuming they’ve done the research and this is where the great community need is).
We know that what tends to happen is that we ‘spread the chips’ across as many squares as possible, and that is why we see so few ‘BIG’ wins. Like, ’17th century Cane ridge revival’ big. When it comes to gambling, putting all your chips on one square is just a gutsy move, but when it comes to Evangelism, assuming you’ve done your homework and prayer, it’s a faithy move.
I wonder sometimes if God is simply waiting for us to have the faith to respond to the most obvious need in the community. And that’s all. Because every yes, implies a no and sometimes it takes more faith to say no to things, or let things go than pick things up.
Let’s resist the urge to hedge the bets, because the parable of the talents tells me that God hasn’t got much time to people who want to play it safe and moreover it is revealed that God measures faithfulness not in investment protection but willingness to risk. Because God has another word for risk-taking:….