Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
I remember when I was younger, there was a fad in Baptist churches to put a sign as you exit the church that read, “You are now entering the mission field.” Some would give a hardy “amen” while others would be a little more reserved in how they use the word “mission.” This blogpost is not about whether we should take those signs down or build one to place over the doorway but to challenge our thinking about how we exit our church buildings.
Last week was the first time in ten weeks my church opened its door for people to gather. It is painfully obvious that we will not be picking up where we left off before the pandemic. Most Christians in America will experience a gradual reopening of services and programs at their church. Just the thought of your ministry at church suspended for another month may dampen the joy of regathering with your church. But before we go down that road, let’s consider the possibility that this may be the God-ordained push to move our churches forward.
I’ve heard pastors say something like, “The call to be a pastor is a call out of the ministry.” Ephesians 4:12 is their explanation for this. Here, Paul gives the purpose of a pastor (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers): “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Certainly, pastors are called to model what ministry looks like, but the vast majority of ministry done in a healthy church is done by people not paid to do it. So, if I may, I would like to tweak the plaque above our church doors to say, “You are now entering the ministry.”
Sunday after Sunday, our pastors are faithfully feeding us with the word and equipping us for ministry. The alarming statistic thrown around is that 20% of church members do 80% of the work. The good news is we have been given a reset on church ministry! In a day where everything needs to be sanitized before ministry can take place, there has never been a greater time for the average Christian to take up his call to ministry by doing it outside the church. If we begin to view our churches this way, we will rise out of the pandemic with stronger church members and churches.
This shift from the church building as the primary place of ministry to our tables and couches will take some adjustment. Running a program at church breeds a sense of familiarity and comfort. In contrast, there is something unnerving about opening our not-so-clean homes to one another. However, if we want to see our churches grow to be Great Commission focused, it will probably begin to look a lot more like Acts 2:46-47, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (emphasis mine).
It was a daily event for the people of God to get together in the early church. Just imagine with me what that would look like in 2020 America. In reality, we can’t even begin to imagine orienting our schedules in such a radical way, but maybe we should. At the very least, this glimpse into the early church should cause us to pause and consider, “How can I spend more time with my church?”
Not only did the church gather daily, but members also met in multiple places. First, they were going to the temple, but Luke takes careful note that even this happened together. Second, they were eating in their homes. Scripture has much to teach us about hospitality, but as we slowly reopen our church buildings, we need to learn hospitality in our homes. We have substituted hospitality in our homes for potlucks and fellowship meals in a church building. Neither are bad, but they cannot replace the benefits of hospitality in our homes.
Luke adds one little detail at the end of Acts 2:47 that most Christians are interested in, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” We all want our churches to grow! It would be ungodly to wish for unbelievers in your community not to be saved. There are other factors throughout the book of Acts that contribute to the rapid growth of the early church. Not insignificant was the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the saints, but in a passage where Luke draws attention to the daily addition of new believers, he also gives a couple of the reasons for that growth. One of these reasons is gathering around our dinner tables.
Now, I know that this is a blog from a university, and most college students do not have their own dinner table, much less a home. In part 2 of this post, I will take the principles of Acts 2 and make a few suggestions for those of you who are like me and do not have the opportunity to practice table hospitality. But, as you attend your church, I want you to remember when you exit, “You are now entering the ministry!” Let’s start being the church daily!
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.