Local Focus: Bloom Where Your Church is Planted 4th Essential for a Truly Evangelistic Church
A local church must not jump over the “Jerusalem” of Acts 1:8 and salve its congregational conscience by only supporting foreign missions. A church’s first and foremost responsibility is to “bloom where it was planted.”
Did you ever stop and think, “Why was my church planted where it was planted?”
If you were to trace the history of your church back to its beginning, what would you find that motivated the men and women who took a step of faith to begin your church?
In many cases you would probably discover that someone or some group of people realized the community where your church was planted NEEDED a church—a lighthouse beaming the saving gospel of Jesus throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.
Presbyopia – It may not be a term that you are familiar with, but it’s a reality that all of us will eventually have to deal with, if we haven’t already. “Presbyopia is the normal loss of near focusing ability that occurs with age.”
Our loss of near focusing happens so gradually that we don’t know it’s gone until the results become so intolerable that we can’t go on without getting help.
I never needed glasses until my early adult years when I began to realize I was becoming only near focused. I could read without glasses but couldn’t read the road signs. With the help of glasses, the focus in my vision gradually changed. So, now I can read road signs without glasses but can’t read a book I’m holding in my hands or the computer screen right in front of me.
Many evangelical churches that I’m familiar with have had a similar experience. They were planted because the founders clearly saw the need around them, but now their local focus has dimmed. But because they do have at least a partial commitment to the Great Commission, they have shifted their vision and focus on giving to support evangelism, discipleship, and church planting “over there.”
I know of non-North American “national” church leaders who have visited some of the churches in North America that support the missionaries who came to their country to teach them to evangelize, disciple, and plant churches. Often these church leaders from other countries are shocked and disappointed that the churches who sent missionaries to them are not practicing what they have sent missionaries to teach and practice.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am very committed to international missions. For 25 years I have worked for an international mission board. I’ve had the privilege of teaching and training missionaries and national leaders in over 30 countries. My personal ministry would not have been possible without the faithful and sometimes sacrificial support of Christian families and local churches. But a local church’s commitment to foreign missions should not become a cop-out for ignoring doing missions in the community where your church was planted.
Yes, Jesus said, “all the world,” and, “the whole creation,” in Mark 16:15. He said, “all nations,” in Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47. He said, “to the end of the earth,” in Acts 1:8. But, to clarify the expectations of this commission, He said:
“Beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47) –
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:8)
The term “glocal” has become popular in recent years among economists, politicians, and even missiologists and church leaders. It means to simultaneously give appropriate attention to the “here” and the “there”—the local and the foreign. Think McDonalds, KFC, Coca Cola, Pizza Hut, Exxon & Shell & BP, not to mention tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.
How successful would McDonalds and Coca Cola be, if they didn’t balance the “here” and the “there”?
Jesus didn’t invent the term “glocal,” but he certainly endorsed the concept and commanded its implementation for the spread of the gospel.
There is no perfect survey instrument to determine how balanced your church’s “Here:There” ratio is. But it shouldn’t take you and your church’s leadership long to assess it well enough to know whether or not you are “blooming where you were planted.”
- What percentage of your church’s programs are genuinely (genuinely!) focused on spreading the gospel to your local community?
- It’s not all about money and the budget, but how much of your church’s budget is allocated to local evangelistic outreach?
- What percentage, roughly speaking, of your church members are actively developing relationships with unbelievers with a goal of presenting the gospel to them when they are open to receiving it?
- How many lives of folks from your church’s neighborhood are you seeing changed through the ministry of your church?
But you don’t know how difficult it is to evangelize in our area! You don’t understand that people where we are don’t want to hear about God, the Bible, or Jesus! Or: Everybody around our church has their own religion!
If we really thought those excuses were valid, we wouldn’t send missionaries to most parts of the world. But because the “gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” there is no place too hard for the gospel not to work, when combined with planting, prayer, and patience—even where you live!
Are you concerned that your church seems to have lost its local focus? Are you concerned enough to take steps to regain or strengthen it? Many pastors and congregational members are concerned, even to point of near-desperation. We, at Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship, often hear those pleas for help.
There is hope. Your church can regain its life-changing impact on the community in which your church was planted—it CAN bloom. That’s the reason for this series of articles, “Twelve Essentials for a TRULY Evangelistic Church.”
If the pastor is willing to lead the effort and he has rallied a core group of evangelistically interested members of the congregation who want to make the Great Commission the TRUE mission of the church, locally as well as internationally, there is definite hope, realistic hope.
The next step is to develop a strategy for reaching your “Jerusalem” the way Jesus intended and the way the early church responded. But a strategy must be customized—it must be localized for your church and your community. All we can do in these articles is give you principles, tested and proven principles, upon which you can build your own local strategy.
The first four articles covered foundational principles:
- The Pastor must lead the church in its effort to become a TRULY evangelistic church.
- Lay Leadership (pew leadership) is essential to spreading the passion and exemplifying the possibilities throughout the congregation.
- THE Mission of the church must REALLY be the Great Commission, not just a pious platitude hidden away in the church’s constitution.
- Local Focus must not be neglected, even if the church has the far sight to support missionaries “over there.”
The next eight articles will give you the practical “how-to” principles for customizing a localized evangelistic strategy so that your church can and will “bloom where it was planted.”
FREE postage-paid copy of Gaining Ground with Good Soil for pastors in the United States. Non-USA pastors can also receive a FREE copy, but payment of shipping costs is required.
Here’s a look back and a look forward to the entire set of articles in this “Twelve Essentials to a TRULY Evangelistic Church” series:
- Twelve Essentials: Overview
- The Pastor
- Lay Leadership
- The Mission
- Local Focus
- Equipped Congregation
- Basic Discipleship
- Peer Accountability
- Shared Experiences
- Evangelistic Praying
- Simplified Programming
- Congregational Warmth
- Persistent Pursuit