According to a 2021 survey of US adults, 86 percent are somewhat or completely certain that Jesus existed two thousand years ago and have a favorable view of him. That’s really encouraging!
However, according to that same survey, only 11 percent have a favorable view of the Christian church in America. What this means is that the church as an organization has little chance of reaching the unchurched. But the Church (capital C) does. You see, the unchurched are not interested in your church, but they are interested in your Jesus. And they’re interested in hearing about your Jesus from you. Seventy percent of those who claim to be unchurched also claim they would welcome a discussion about Jesus and the Bible with a Christian they’ve come to know and trust.
But how do they come to know and trust us? By us spending time with them and demonstrating that we genuinely love them. We live in a demonstrable society. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Or in the words of Jesus, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The church in modern times has largely engaged the unchurched with explanation rather than demonstration. We as the Church (both small and capital C) need to think—and do—differently. I’m afraid many of us are so busy doing church that we don’t have time or energy left to be the Church. We need to recognize that the Church isn’t a building or an organization. The Church is us! And we are called to serve others. “Live such good lives among the pagans that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).
During his earthly life, Jesus loved people in tangible ways. He fed the hungry, healed their diseases, went to their homes and ate with them, touched them, took walks with them, and shed his blood in a publicly humiliating way. Jesus wants us to show similar love. This doesn’t happen with mass mailed postcards and e-mails and social media posts. This happens when you—someone who has the love of Jesus inside—spends time with someone who doesn’t. This happens when you take a walk with an unchurched person, offer to listen, open your home and have a meal together, do something real about someone else’s real need, and say a prayer together. “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). This isn’t rocket science, but this is out-of-this-world love. This is the love of Christ . . . which compels us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:13-20).
The Church isn’t a building or an organization. The Church is us! And we are called to serve others.
When it comes to gospel outreach, churches today need to be thinking less about “What do we need to do to get all those people out there into here (church)?” and more about “What do we need to do to get all these people in here (believers in the church) out there (into the world)?”
Let’s learn to judge the health of our church less on the basis of its seating capacity and more on the basis of its sending capacity. Less about service in the church and more about service as the Church for others. Less about ledgers and more about love . . . the love Christ has for us . . . the love Christ has for others.
View Matthew Vogt’s presentation from the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at lutheranleadership.com.
Author: Matthew Vogt
Volume 110, Number 11
Issue: November 2023
- Challenged churches
- Jesus’ church will not be overcome
- Refined by fire
- The importance of followers
- Our Lutheran moment
- Leading from your knees
- Leadership conference equips members to serve
- Training the next generation of leaders
- Moving the needle
- Strengthening ministry teams
- Reflections on Lutheran leadership
- Lutheran leadership: Not just authority
- Shifting congregational culture
- Partners in ministry
- The love of Christ compels us
- The Lord’s triple gift