Friday, July 02, 2010

A Broader Vision of Ministry

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:36-38)

We live very close to a metropolitan area with a population estimated to be over 775,000 people. Within a 10 mile radius from where we live there are about 218 churches, and that includes all denominations; Catholic, Lutheran, other mainline Protestant denominations, and so forth. Do the math and we have approximately 1 church for every 3,500 people in the metro area.

Now lets include a plus/minus for other factors involved in where people in the area might go to church, if they go at all. For that plus/minus, lets go as high as 30%. Why 30%? Because that's the number I pulled off the top of my head. (I'm not claiming this is scientifically precise.) Our range is now 4,550 - 2,540 per church. Even if my estimate for the number of churches in the area is off by plus/minus 30%, the ratio of the total population to the number of churches is pretty high. And it should be clear that if we divided the area's population by only the number of Evangelical churches in the area, the ratio goes up even higher. Let me ask a question.

Is this area "over-churched"?

I think not...

So what do we do? One of the things we do is pray for laborers to enter into the harvest, but do we recognize them when we see them? Do we recognize the answer to our own prayers?

A brother has a vision for the need. He wants to do something about it. He even has the audacity to believe there is a need to start another church in the area. How do we respond? Do we encourage him? I'm not talking about a man who is a novice, new to the faith. I'm talking about a man that has a relative level of spiritual maturity, and has even had some level of ministerial and theological training.

One of the objections we might hear is, "But he's not qualified..."

Oh really?

Maybe for your church and tradition he isn't. And maybe he doesn't fit your ecclesiastical circle, but do you really want to write him out of all ministry whatsoever because he doesn't cross all your "t"'s and dot all your "i"'s? You really want to claim that your tradition alone has the market on the what and how of the Timothy and Titus passages on the qualifications for ministry? Oh really?

What would happen if instead you said, "Brother! I thank God for your vision and desire. I'm not sure how well you fit our tradition and our way of doing things, but if you can find some group that you fit better with, and they are willing to help you, then go in peace with our blessing, and we will pray God uses you to start that church and that it will be able to reach some of those in our desperately needy metropolitan area that we are not able to reach."

To say such a thing and really mean it would require humility in several areas.

We would need to be humble enough to realize we in our particular Christian tradition are not Lord of "the call".

We would need to be humble enough to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in building Christ's church is not limited to our particular Christian tradition or ecclesiastical group.

We would need to be humble enough to look beyond our own particular tradition and ecclesiastical circles and actively embrace and pray for God's work outside our limited boundaries. To do so requires the humility to admit that the churches of my own particular tradition or ecclesiastical circle cannot meet the massive overwhelming need in our metropolitan area by ourselves.

Over the past few months I've become aware of two separate situations of men with a vision of the desperate needs in our metropolitan area and a God given desire to do something about it. All tradition and ecclesiastical circles aside, here is my response.

"Brothers! God bless you! May He use you to reach some of those desperately needy people in our metro area that the rest of us are not reaching. God bless you! Go in peace! May He guide and direct you in all you do to His honor and glory alone! Amen!"

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