Dear GCI Family and Friends,
A few months back, Communications Director Michelle Fleming shared an assessment tool that Replicate Ministries uses in helping to debunk several myths about ministry. Replicate Ministries encourages all the churches and leaders they serve to come on board to what they call, “All Play, Everyday Disciple-Making Movement.” I really like this catchy phrase. It points to the biblical posture of a priesthood of all believers. It also reminds me of a slogan we sometimes use in GCI, “making disciples who make disciples.”
In the spirit of an “all-play” mentality, I am writing a short series on the 4 Es of pastoral ministry – engage, equip, empower, encourage. (Keep in mind that our Avenue champions need to think and operate out of the 4 Es too.) My first entry is on engagement.
To engage, in the purest sense, is to recognize and recruit. Everywhere we look, we see people who need Jesus. When I say need, the needs can run the gamut from forgiveness, to healing, to meaning and purpose in life. Maybe the person you see is simply looking for acceptance or true friendship.
Several years back, Christian researcher and author George Barna informed the church that the greatest need in Christianity was for Christian believers to be engaged in relationships with non-believers. This engagement runs deeper than just hanging out and being friendly. It means befriending another, taking the time to listen and hear the good and the bad, and everything in between. It means sharing life experiences and making lasting memories. It means being there in tough situations and in times of celebration. It means talking to God about your friend as well as talking to your friend about God. It is life-on-life; it is place-sharing.
To engage is to induce to participate. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinth church says that he became all things to all people that he may win some to Jesus. He wanted Jews and Greeks alike to come to Jesus and share in the blessings of the gospel. He especially had a soft spot for his native people. In Romans 10:1, he wrote, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Engagement includes our directed interest and investment in others.
Engagement doesn’t end when a person hears the gospel and attends church. In many ways, this is still part of the beginning of engagement. Think in terms of the healthy church Avenues.
For the Hope Avenue, engagement begins in the parking lot and into the lobby as people are warmly greeted and appropriately attended to. Think of a progression from the hospitable welcome to the sanctuary gathering where the message is centered in the person of Jesus. When I say message, it is inclusive of the songs being sung, the scriptures being read, the prayers being raised, and the sermon being preached. The entire experience is to honor and celebrate Jesus.
The Faith Avenue provides spaces where the new believer (in community with veteran believers) can grow in their understanding of Jesus, and be equipped with the tools of spiritual disciplines, enabling them to grow in their personal, daily worship. In my years of being a lead pastor, I falsely assumed that regular Sunday attenders were being discipled because they got to hear my fabulous sermons. I was naïve to believe that, especially when I frequently noticed people nodding off while listening to me. Ultimately, sermons are to inspire, to help people see that the gospel is real and exciting, and always point to Jesus, but discipleship needs a deeper dive.
To engage is to occupy, involve, and include. It means to be a living, active part of the body of the church.
Many years ago, I read an inspirational book by Ray Stedman called Body Life. Here is a quote from him that sums up this aspect of engagement.
The church is a living organism. In the physical body, the hand moves when the brain says to. So too the members of Jesus’ spiritual body takes [sic] direction from Him as our Head. Jesus gives each member gifts and talents, making himself alive within his church. He equips his people to love one another, and to serve in unity his kingdom. This is Body Life.
Within “body life,” there must be a pastoral perspective. (This includes the lead pastor as well as members of the Faith Avenue who are serving to help new believers establish their walk with Jesus and find their “best fit” in the life of the church). It is important to truly see the person and help them identify who they are in Christ. This begins with the secure knowledge that they are a beloved child of God, included in the life and love of Jesus. In relationship, we help them identify their personality strengths, their life experiences, their passions, and how the Spirit is gifting them to fit into the body. We trust the Spirit to place members in the body as he sees fit. This is much easier when the members of the body are able to engage in the process and confirm the calling.
Engagement is a relational process that begins with befriending, leads to growing in understanding, to deepening the level of sharing and caring, to mutually being impacted by the presence of Jesus, and to an understanding of what it means to be adopted into a personal and intimate relationship with our Father. Engagement is integral in all stages of making disciples. Engagement is who Jesus is and what Jesus does. As the Scripture reminds us, we love him because he first loved us!
My prayer is that GCI will be an even more engaging Church. May our Faith, Hope and Love Avenues expand as engagement is happening throughout.