Relentless Pursuit: Staying at It 'til Jesus Comes 12th Essential for a TRULY Evangelistic Church
The biggest challenge pastors face in leading a church in becoming TRULY evangelistic is not getting started, it’s avoiding stopping. It’s the DNF syndrome—“Did Not Finish”—that foils THE Mission.
“Spartan Race.” It’s an increasingly popular obstacle course race (OCR) based on the sport that was common in Ancient Greece, perhaps the kind of race the Apostle Paul had in mind when he used the race-metaphor in his epistles. All ministries have their obstacles, but because Satan has heaven-or-hell reasons to oppose evangelism, churches must be willing to relentlessly pursue the goal of rescuing sinners—under, over, and through some daunting obstacles.
The greatest challenge to implementing these “Essentials for a TRULY Evangelistic Church” may be the short-run syndrome—churches that start but stop when they encounter one or more of several obstacles. And there WILL be obstacles.
Two keys to overcoming them are (1) be pre-aware of the obstacles and (2) pre-plan, as much as possible, how to respond.
Common Obstacles to Long-Term Evangelistic Ministry
Never in North American history has there been more external opposition to evangelism. Pluralism reigns, proclaiming: “All roads lead to heaven.” “My religion is just as good as your religion.” “How dare you say Jesus Christ is the ONLY way!”
And pluralism has even intimidated many Bible-believing Christians and churches. Terms like “saved,” “conversion,” and even “evangelism” are no longer in vogue in many so-called good churches. They have been replaced by a more politically correct and “less offensive” church vocabulary.
Many evangelical congregations haven’t heard a Biblical sermon on Hell in many years. Why? Because it’s offensive—sometimes even to “evangelical” church members. Secular culture opposes the very essence of what the Bible teaches about lostness, eternal damnation, and the Bible’s story of redemption. Leading your church to be Biblically counter-cultural with regard to proclaiming of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be an uphill battle against the strong headwinds of liberalism, secularism, pluralism, multiculturalism, and agnosticism or atheism.
Then, there’s the internal opposition from folks in your church who may value the status quo of a church that meets their needs and wants, more than they value seeing the gospel change hearts, lives, and eternal destinies of hell-bound sinners.
Ultimately, to be TRULY evangelistic, a church must decide it’s more important to focus on those they want to REACH as opposed to those they would like to KEEP.
Think: What would Jesus and the New Testament Apostles do if faced with those two options?
“Missional Attention Deficit Disorder”—Yes, there’s another kind of MADD and it’s more common in churches than you may realize. Sometimes it occurs because the pastor is ADD (or ADHD). Seriously, there is something about pastoral ministry that seems to attract men with an Attention Deficit Disorder. A pastor with attention issues should seek professional help, else the church will struggle and fail.
Sometimes churches suffer from Missional Attention Deficit Disorder because they realize their ministry is failing but don’t know what to do to “fix” it, so they blindly grasp for solutions.
And sometimes churches are MAAD because they just seem to enjoy “chasing butterflies,” always hopping on the latest ministry fad until another enticing one comes along.
The solution for Missional Attention Deficit Disorder:
First. Make the GREAT Commission, your church’s TRUE mission—the “where you want to go.” Decide what needs to be done to get there.
Second: Focus on the mission of making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things our Lord commanded. And pursue it, relentlessly!
The “Evangelism Essentials” in these chapters are basic principles necessary for churches to succeed Great Commissionally, not a new “butterfly” program to briefly chase then abandon. These principles are essential to getting a church back to a New Testament kind of lives-changing ministry.
The tortoise and hare have taught us well, but have we learned? It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish—a persistent pursuit of the goal is more important than a quick and flashy start.
“How quickly will these twelve principles begin to produce fruit in my church?” If you are looking for major quick-results, you probably will be discouraged. Resist discouragement by taking the long view and by enjoying small successes along the way.
There’s a maxim in the commercial world—“Marketing won’t bring results, but marketing plus patience will.” You might want to convert that into a church ministry maxim and post it over your desk.
When I was a freshman student in a Christian college, the other students preparing for ministry let me know that there were two things I “needed” to do: (1) get “great preachers” to sign my Bible, and (2) choose a “life verse.” Well, I never got into the great preacher thing, but having a life verse made sense to me. I didn’t want to choose one of those common verses that a lot of other students had chosen, I wanted something unique. So I selected Galatians 6:9.
Little did I know, at that time, how much this verse would mean to me throughout the years of ministry that followed. I must confess that I have “grown weary” many, many times but I have never “given up.” Galatians 6:9 has kept me going. And it’s a great theme verse to keep before the church in its “Spartan race” toward becoming TRULY evangelistic.
Pursuing lost sheep is a wearisome task. It is much easier for us to be inward-focused, inward with our fellowship of believers and inward with ourselves. But, for a committed disciple of Jesus, the question is NOT, “Is it easy?” BUT “Is it worth it?,” and “Is it right?”
Pastoral turnover can easily wipe out evangelistic momentum. Depending on whose survey you trust, the average tenure of a pastor at a local church is somewhere between five and seven years, although some surveys say less than five. Pastoral longevity or the lack thereof can be the “make” or “break” of a church.
Just imagine: Suppose your church begins to make a serious effort to transform itself into a TRULY evangelistic body of Christ-followers and is experiencing some positive results: more than a few members are beginning to buy into the vision, the congregation is warming up, evangelistic prayers are becoming more frequent, and baptismal services are anticipated with excitement and experienced with shared joy. Then, the pastor who led in these efforts announces he is accepting a call to pastor another church. Ouch!
What are the chances your church will find another pastor who will pick up where the previous pastor left off? Odds are, he will come with his own agenda and priorities and most of what your congregation has gained will be lost.
For this reason, it is essential(there’s that word again) that becoming a TRULY evangelistic church must become a local church-value, not just a pastor-value. As difficult as it may be, churches need to choose pastors who will meld with the church’s values, rather than try to weld their own divergent ministry values on the congregation.
DNF = “Did Not Finish.” There seems to be no public DNF statistics for Spartan races, but a common estimate is that less than half of the starters become finishers.
With some legitimate exceptions, DNF feels like a failure to serious runners—disappointing, embarrassing, even humiliating. In light of eternity, whether or not a runner finishes an earthly 5K race, marathon, or even a Spartan race is no big deal. But to be a DNF in races with the reward of incorruptible crowns, should and will be disappointing, embarrassing, and humiliating to Christians. The Apostle Paul pressed through many obstacles toward the goal that matters most.
We want to help you and your church be a “finisher” in becoming TRULY evangelistic. That’s why we extend an invitation to your church to become a part of the Echo Network: Helping Churches to Sound Forth the Gospel. The name “Echo” comes from the Greek work in 1 Thessalonians 1:8.
As a member of the Echo Network, we will provide coaching for the pastor and other key church leaders, as well as regular opportunities for online networking sessions with other pastors.
For more information and to join the Echo Network, go to www.GoodSoil.com/Echo
Look back and a look forward to the entire set of articles in this “Twelve Essentials to a TRULY Evangelistic Church” series:
- Evangelical Pastor
- THE Mission
- Local Focus
- Congregational Warmth
- Equipped Congregation
- Basic Discipleship
- Peer Accountability
- Evangelistic Praying
- Shared Rejoicing
- Strategic Simplicity
- Relentless Pursuit