Evangelism and spiritual harvesting are not for everyone calling themselves followers of Jesus. Fruitbearing is for the obedient. Believers aiming to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-10) should not miss one huge fact: No one not living as a faithful disciple himself can make someone else a disciple of Jesus Christ. Only disciples make disciples. Only the faithful can bear fruit. Put another way: No one can teach others to “obey all the things I have commanded you” who is not obeying those things himself.
The church which is rebellious or wayward or chronically immature or systemically sick has no business trying to convert outsiders to what they are doing and how they are living. (Note: “Systemically” is not “systematically.” When the sickness is throughout the body, we say it is “systemic.” The problem is not with one person or two, but throughout the body.)
The sick church should get well first and then it will be able to help others.
Here are several churches that have no business sending soul-winning/visitation teams into their community or hosting evangelistic crusades.
1. Until Clearview Church leaders and members stop fighting and learn to love one another, they need to cancel all outreach.
I saw Clearview Church run off a pastor and half its members. They then proceeded to call a new preacher who walked in, saw all those empty pews and announced, “We need an evangelism program around here.” They scheduled a meeting, brought in an evangelist, papered the town with posters, and held their gatherings. All to no avail. Even if the new preacher did not know the character of his congregation, the community did. They wanted none of what that bunch had to offer.
Jesus prayed, “I pray not for these (disciples) alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
The Savior who redeemed us and reigns now as Lord has laid down a fundamental law here: if we expect people to believe in Him, we must live in love and unity.
No wonder our efforts fall pitifully short.
Dr. Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church and Bible Brain Teasers: Fun Adventures through the Bible. He also serves as a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has a passion for helping the next generation discover a meaningful faith and become leaders in sharing that faith with others.
This series looks at the importance of bivocational ministry and bivocational ministers in today’s church. The previous articles in this series are:
Part 1: Bivocational Ministry is a Growing Method for Ministry.
Part 2: Lay People Are Willing to Help Pastors – But Only If They Are Trained.
Part 3: Rethinking Our Perception of Bivocational Ministry.
Part 4: Bivocational Ministry is Normal.
Part 5: Bivocational Ministry Is More Common Than Most People Realize.
Part 6: Bivocational Pastors Must Learn to Delegate.
Many small churches have become accustomed to a single-pastor model of church leadership. Though this model can be effective, it does limit the size of the church because one leader can only accomplish so much regardless of how great a leader that person may be. In larger churches this model may be modified somewhat because there may be a staff of pastors who serve under a senior pastor, but the basic concept is still that the senior pastor has a great deal of authority over the church.
This single-pastor model is especially evident in the preaching and pastoral care ministries of the church. In a small church the pastor is often expected to do almost all of the preaching and pastoral care. Since most pastors enjoy those ministries, they do not mind doing them. But in situations when the pastor is bivocational and has to work a second job, having all of the preaching and pastoral care duties can be challenging.
Not only can preaching and pastoral care be overwhelming for bivocational pastors; but if the pastor does all of these ministries on his own, it creates the impression that the pastor has more authority than the New Testament grants. Once the congregation perceives that the pastor has all the authority, it follows that the pastor also bears all the responsibility for getting everything done. This tension between authority and responsibility can be significant. Yet this is exactly what many bivocational pastors face in their churches. The church expects them to provide most of the leadership in the church as well as to accept most of the blame for any faults in the church. This is not how the church was led in the New Testament; and it often puts bivocational pastors in unrealistic situations.
The number one reason most church problems do so much damage is that the people in the know, those charged with leadership, have not anticipated these things and done the hard work necessary to head them off.
Good preparation will end most church problems before they arise.
Here are 10 rules–principles, suggestions, guideposts, lifelines, call them whatever you wish (except “laws”)–which, if implemented, can stop the next church split in its tracks and allow this healthy church to go chugging on down the tracks while the devil sits there scratching his head, wondering, “Wha’ happened?” (Old comic book image there).
1. Get your people serious about prayer.
Prayer is not brackets with which we open and close meetings. Prayer is not tipping our hat to the Almighty to let Him know we are aware He is eavesdropping the proceedings. Prayer is not a formality to be gotten out of the way so we can get on with the good part.
Prayer is calling on the Lord of Heaven and earth to help us, to guide us, to protect and fill and use us. Prayer is accessing Heaven’s power and God’s wisdom for earth’s work.
Once a war breaks out, it’s not too late to pray. But it almost is. It’s never too late to pray, but far better to have been earnest in our praying when matters were in hand and nothing ominous loomed on the horizon.
Prayer for believers is like weightlifting for athletes: you do it faithfully in the inner room so when you face the opponent you are strong and ready.
This is not a one-time act by a preacher to turn his church into a prayer/powerhouse. It will require many sermons, his example, changes in the order of worship, constant teaching and reminding, and creative plans and challenging reminders for his people.