My son, Jeremy, is one of the ministers at the Westside church in Searcy, AR. He related an experience he had in a previous work asking his teen Bible class the following question. "If your house was on fire and you knew all your loved ones were safe outside the burning house and you only had time to grab one thing and get out safely, what would you grab?" Now, mind you, these are teens. What do you think they said as a group? I asked that question to my congregation one Sunday morning in a sermon and I could read the lips of several members mouthing, "Their cell phones!!" Yes, that was what I guessed, but, no, that is not what the teens said. They said if they only had time to grab one thing and get safely out of the burning house that they would grab their cell phone chargers--not their cell phones!
Go figure! Do any of you know why they would not grab their cell phones instead? You got it--their cell phones are, if you will, attached to their bodies! They are never without them!
We are living in a culture that is increasingly isolated in a world of "LOL's," "FYI's," and, ok, I'm over my head here being 68 years old yesterday!
Philip Langdon in his work, A Better Place to Live, wrote, "It occurs to me that this is not a neighborhood; it is only a collection of unconnected individuals." Michael Schulter and David Lee wrote a book entitled the R-Factor. They wrote, "In the West, we find ourselves scattered too far and moving too fast to maintain a strong base of encounter relationships. Relationship is less and less a matter of sharing the same patch of earth and the same block of air. We meet many people, but less frequently; we still have friends and families, but on the whole these relationships are fewer, more intermittent, less stable. Instead, (our lives are like) thin threads tying us into general and indirect relationships with people we will never touch or talk to, people who are individuals we know nothing about, nor ever will. And this has profound effect on the way we live. For it means that in the mega-community, we live among strangers."
Could it be in our lonely, isolated culture that we are presented as the people of God with a colossal opportunity! We are immersed in a sea of the lonely, isolated masses who still have a vacuum that only God can fill! Christians must take the initiative to get out of the loop of drive-by evangelism and built no-strings-attached relationships with our neighbors in our own "Jerusalems" as well as going into the uttermost parts! Why us? It must be us for God through His Spirit has gushed forth divine love inspired by His grace to us in Christ (Rm.5:5)!
Leonard Sweet wrote, "The church is trying to get out of what God is trying to get into--the world!" Research indicates that the majority of Christians have no significant relationship with people beyond their own church community.
A system thinking mantra is, "Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting." If we keep doing what we have been doing about our lost neighbors, why are we expecting different results? As the attractional model of church growth continues to insist, "Build it and they will come," Jesus is unchanging in His mandate, "Go, make disciples of the nations..." Disciples can never be mass produced, yet, Jesus proves that the world can be evangelized in one generation by employing that method. For more on discipleship, read Matthew, Mark. Luke, and John. Someone said that after Jesus gave the commission to "make disciples," imagine if Peter had turned to John and asked, "What does He mean, 'Make disciples?'" To this, John is featured as answering, "Probably what He has been doing with us for the last three-and-half years!"
How important is discipleship in terms of global evangelism? Someone said, "Plant a church and you may or may not get a disciple, but make a disciple and you always get a church!" A true disciple of Jesus possesses the spiritual DNA to reproduce themselves over and over again. In Implementation to Natural Development, Schwarz and Schalk wrote, "Imagine a water lily growing on a pond with a surface of 14,000 square feet. The leaf of this specie of water lily has a surface of 15.5 square inches (and able to reproduce itself once per week). At the beginning of the year, the water lily has exactly one leaf. After one week, there are two leaves; a week later there are four leaves; and, after sixteen weeks half the water surface is covered with leaves." Then the authors ask how long it will take until the second half of the pond will also be covered? Will it take another sixteen weeks? No, it will only take one more week! (Worked quoted in Cole, Church 3.0, 75). And, yet, we all know this scenario is predicated on the fact of the DNA of that specie of water lily able to replicate itself over and over.
The key to global evangelism is not more professional ministers (although they have a place—Ephesians 4:11-16). The ultimate key to global evangelism is that God’s people be disciples of Jesus replicating ourselves over and over again in more and more true disciples of Jesus who possess His DNA. When true disciples build meaningful relationships with the lost, they become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Frankly, I have forgotten who asked, “Have you ever seen a builder measure the nails to see if the lumber will fit them? No, they measure the lumber. You don’t measure a light switch and then plan the building around it. In construction, contractors have to measure the right things. The church is no different. Spending all our time measuring the outlying issues means will miss the core mission of God.” The central issue is not how many were at church last Sunday, but how many disciples are in the making.