At Exponential 2012, Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship (Honolulu) and author of eleven books, including Doing Church as a Team and Dream Releasers, discussed how many congregations are focused on the wrong assignment. Wayne used the analogy of a university student who submitted a paper as part of a course requirement. When the student’s paper was returned to him his professor had commented, “You have crafted an articulate, engaging paper. The subject matter was researched thoroughly and quotes were footnoted properly. You have given detailed attention to proper formatting. Grade: F. Why? Wrong assignment!”
Many Christians expend lots of energy and resource on the wrong assignment. Financial resources are sapped by mortgages and repairs to buildings. Potluck dinners and community garage sales are organized in the name of “outreach” (and to help alleviate congregational deficits!) Sermons and Bible studies are offered for those already saved (of course, in the name of discipleship!). Members haggle over trite issues (e.g. Should potted plants be used in the chancel area or only cut flowers? Should kitchen cupboards be locked to prevent misuse of plates and cups?)
If a professor were grading the average congregation, he might comment: “Articulate and engaging messages. Your work is thorough. Your effort is exemplary. You pay attention to detail. Grade: F! Wrong assignment!”
Please: don’t read this and think that I am saying discipleship is the wrong focus. I am not saying that! “Making disciples” is the core of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19-20. But, for what purpose are we making disciples? What are the end goals of the discipleship process? Certainly, we want to be fortified in our faith but how are we being equipped, trained and sent to serve as God’s missionaries in the world?
While we expend thousands and even millions of dollars in real estate, people are dying of starvation — physical and spiritual starvation! While we haggle over flowers and use of kitchen facilities, people are going to hell! The assignment given to every Christian of every Christian congregation is to “Go!” … to participate in Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving lost people. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) And following his resurrection from the dead, Jesus said to his followers, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
In 2002, “A Mission Plan for the Twenty First Century” was presented at the Lutheran Church – Canada convention. The document is well worth the effort of locating on some dusty congregational library shelf and reading! The document concludes by saying, “Here is the challenge for the 21st century: will the church be courageous enough to use every resource that God has given her to ensure that others will live with him forever? Will the church engage the world in such a sacrificial manner that the unbelieving world will look upon its dying and say, ‘This truly is the Bride of the Son of God!’ If the church is about the Father’s business, He will surely not let allow its witness to disappear from the earth. The carpet may be shabby, the organ out of tune, the windows plain, the spire not very high, but the heart of the church will shine with love and mercy. Those who view its sacrifice of love will praise the God of its creation. Those who will come to faith will join with the dying church to offer their voices to those of the angels in praise to God for having made His church such a glorious gift. So may it be!