Many say it’s been a tough decade for us mainline denomination. The media say that Christianity is in great decline. We hear that most young adults dropped out of mainline churches and that many have become disillusioned with the whole idea of church. Recently, Dr. H. Eddie Fox identified several areas are troublesome for the mainline denomination. This is a summary of his comments: (1) Unclear Message (2) Unclear Mission (3) Lost Passion for Souls and (4) Lost desire for soul winning. For sure, I believe these are challenging times that call for reassessment.
This is an excerpt from the 2012 Quadrennial Board of Bishop’s Address states, “Few things are of greater consequence to the life of the Church than having a clear and accurate understanding of our mission, and then having a genuine commitment to fulfill that mission.”
Here are a few things that are important to the Department of Church Growth and Development as we work to build the kingdom of God and Zion. First, we must have a clear understanding of the Gospel message. The Gospel is the good news of what Jesus did to reconcile lost humanity to God the Father. Many in the Church are trying to turn over a new leaf, but the message is they need to receive and live out a new life. That new life is from Jesus’ death on the cross, for our sin and in our place. Jesus did for us what we could not do ourselves. His message is a message of new birth, new spirit and a new life!
Then we must have a stronger focus on discipleship and disciple-making. God grows us as we are in a position to receive that growth. This can only happen through intentional awareness and leadership on the part of both leaders and church members. I have found throughout the church that discipleship was both lacking and ineffective. We need to remind people to live out the new life in Christ as God intended. Discipleship is not complete until every disciple becomes a disciple maker. (2 Timothy 2:2) Christian discipleship focuses on actively following in the footsteps of Jesus in the company of Christian believers, then modeling that walk for others. As Christian disciples, we are not passive spectators but energetic participants in God’s activity in the world.
Thirdly, we must engender a greater passion for mission. We need to stand up against the idea of depending on the clergy to do everything. The modern-day church tend to look at those who are professional ministers and say that they are the ones who are called to the mission, while the people in the pews are merely consumers of religious goods and services. We need to see all of God’s people engaged in God’s mission, from their respective neighborhoods all the way to the nations. Because of what God has done for us, we zealously offer our lives back to God.
Next, we rekindle the fires for evangelism in the age where the flame is low. Churches that once focused their energies and efforts toward reaching others for Christ are finding it more difficult to appeal to a constituency with little to no evangelistic memory. Churches will have to find new ways to lead their people to reach out to their neighbors. Our effort must extend beyond evangelistic revivals and crusades, to include incarnational evangelism—being, doing and telling good news where we live and work.
Finally, we must embrace new thinking and ideas in developing best practices of evangelism for the 21st century. Recently, I was invited to participate in the 26th Evangelism Seminar of the AME Church. I was asked to share from my book, RETHINK Church. God often uses teamwork, collaboration and community to bless His Church. What’s working today? What the best practice in this culture and climate? Think of bus ministry in the ‘70s or radio ministry in the ‘50s. That’s still true today. As believers, we can and must be good stewards of our ministry and utilize tools wisely—like multisite churches, viral church planting and finding new ways to serve those who are hurting and in need. “To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill.”
As the church continues to navigate an increasingly post-Christian culture, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to face some truths and change some behaviors to reach the world with the message of the Gospel. I’ve read the end of the Book (Revelations) , and I know what you know: Jesus wins. I just want to be a part of what His team is doing before He returns