Tim H. Swanson
How many staff or ministry leadership meetings have you sat through where people get fired up saying things like, “Our church isn’t growing because we’re not reaching out to the community”, “We’ve become too inward -focused”, “We need to begin actually discipling people”. Then, they often have some convenient numbers and statistics to support their points. I’ve heard lots of these, but after that first little bit I usually have a hard time recounting how the conversation goes because I’ve been in the habit of tuning out after the statistics. It’s not that I disagree with those people. I think they’re right. But, when they start talking about missions and evangelism all I hear is, “Blah blah blah evangelism. Blah blah blah 80% unchurched. Blah blah a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with music.” By the time they’re done talking I’m either playing Angry Birds or tooling around on ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com.
The issue with these conversations, and the reason I tune out, is not that these fired up people are wrong. It’s that I, like too many others, carry around a bad attitude about outreach. I have a totally jacked up misconception about evangelism. I feel like it’s someone else’s job. When people start talking about sharing the gospel with the unreached, I start looking around to figure out who is supposed to do that. The problem is, when I look around at everybody else, I’m looking in the wrong direction. I should be looking in a mirror.
After His resurrection, Jesus sat down with His disciples and told them this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” But, like me, many Christian leaders today act as if he said, “Okay, I want you to run church services. It doesn’t matter who they appeal to. If new people don’t come, blame it on the culture. Peter, teach themed sermon series about whatever is relevant. Matthew, I want you to take an offering at the services. John, you can play guitar right? Good. Write some songs about me and make everyone sing them. And this is the most important thing, let the planning of those services consume all of your time. I don’t want any of you to have any real relationships outside of those couple hours on Sunday morning.”
As a worship leader, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that reaching out to nonbelievers is somebody else’s job. but that’s just not the case. Jesus calls all believers to be witnesses. That includes singers, instrumentalists, tech team members, and most of all the worship leader. As the leader everybody is going to look to you to see how to act.
If your church is talking about outreach, it has to begin with you, especially if you’re a leader. Evangelism takes place in conversations between believers and nonbelievers. You and I need to become the believer in one of those conversations. If you’re anything like me and you’ve developed a bad attitude about outreach, I’d like to simply prompt you to think about your own attitude with a few questions.
1. Have I been putting the responsibility of outreach on somebody else?
2. Who do I know who doesn’t know Jesus?
3. God, will you provide an opportunity for me to tell somebody who doesn’t believe about what You’ve done in my life?
In my church, outreach has to start with me. Like a lot of church leaders, I live inside the Christian bubble. I graduated from a Christian college. I work at a church, which is where my social network is. I even exclusively attend Christian 12 step meetings. But even I have a sold short list of nonbelievers that I can pray for opportunities to share Jesus with. The truth is, anyone with Facebook or an email contacts list knows someone that needs Jesus. If you can’t think of anyone right now, don’t worry. They’re out there. I promise. All we have to do is pray for the opportunity and God will provide. He’s good that way.
Tim Swanson is the Music Director at Moon Valley Bible Church in Phoenix, Az. His great satisfaction is working with his team to write music that glorifies God. While he is not working, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids. For more, visit timhswanson.com.