By: Rev. Wayne Frazier, ONA Church Vitality Coach
In the last year Christians have noticed with concern that “things have changed”. Strong forces are shaping American culture where we do gospel ministry: Covid, a new administration, and a growing secular culture. No longer do millennials, the next generation, by habit or positive cultural support tend to come to our ARP churches.
This new day in ministry has been coming down the tracks for a long time! In the past, American churches had the blessing of a culture which said we were a force for good. Now, we are viewed as regressive because we uphold biblical absolutes and sexual norms. So, how do we take the unchanging gospel to this secular culture? Or how do we connect people with the means of grace (preaching, prayer, and the sacraments)? The Great Commission makes this our responsibility as we depend on God’s Word and Holy Spirit to convict and convert!
First, laypeople must be mobilized to make trusting friendships with our neighbors and co-workers. Since people tend not to “come”, we must “go”. As the Great Commission says, “As you are going, makes disciples of all nations…” A church’s outreach strategy for too long has been a nebulous and passive expectation that people come. Those days are over! Now we must go! Do we love our neighbors as our self? If so, we know all their names and we pray for them regularly. We know significant information about them such as their work, university, or home state. And finally, we know their heart issues such as illnesses, children or grandchildren making poor choices, and marriage challenges. As we love and pray for our neighbors, gospel opportunities arise!
Secondly, churches must have a quality church website which is relatively easy to construct and financially reasonable. Facebook is an inadequate introduction to your church. Websites are “the front door” for any church today. 90% of people who come to our church, first look at our website for directions, times, and information. If we do not have a website, think of the potential guests who do not come because of “no front door”? Even fellow members may be nurturing a friendship, which causes neighbors to look for our website. What if it is not there? Remember as we shape our website that people usually come to Jesus by first being “welcomed” to a church community of loving believers and building friendship with trusted Christians. It is through our warm welcome and friendships that unbelievers learn that the media’s characterization of the church is false. So, our website does not need to tell everything we believe if we want to see folks come to Christ. Once they come to Christ, in time their regenerate hearts will be shaped by the scriptures.
The book of Acts reminds us that the Roman culture was hostile toward Christians who refusing to bow down to Caesar. Nonetheless, the gospel prospered as laypeople were mobilized by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have the same gospel and same Holy Spirit. And come to think of it, we have a similar hostile culture. In this context as in Acts, the gospel will prosper!