Bible School
Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus left the church an important work: to take the Gospel to every creature. And the church has been working at it ever since. For 2000 years, we've sought to take the message of salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

But many churches today are struggling to make an impact. It's rare these days to hear someone complain: "behold, ye have filled [insert city] with your doctrine" (Acts 5:28Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.). Few express alarm about believers who are "[turning] the world upside down" (Acts 17:6And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;). Rather, sociologists are wondering if Christianity will survive more than a generation or two.

The statistics are startling. Some 85% of churches in North America have plateaued or are in decline. Most mainline denominations are hemorrhaging membership. And public perception is changing. One recent survey of 1000 Americans asked whether they saw the church as a positive, neutral, or negative influence in their community. Only 14% saw it as helpful. More than half viewed the church as doing more harm than good!

That should give us cause for concern...

Putting Ministry First

I believe part of the problem is that many churches have failed to put ministry first. Rather than exploring new and creative ways to reach out into our communities, we've taken a defensive posture--and spent most of our energy preserving a handful of traditional ministries.

In many churches, only a small percentage of exhausted leaders do the vast majority of the work. And most of those efforts revolve around just keeping things going. Few churches have taken the time to identify specific needs in the community, and connect them to real, lasting solutions. Few, if any are making much impact.

The church should be bursting with outreach ideas. Every member should know how to awaken spiritual interest, build relationships, and draw people to Christ in whatever targeted segment of society God calls them to reach. Every church should be a beehive of unique and innovative ministries. And it can be, if we will re-commit to putting ministry first.

A New Way of Thinking

The transition starts with a change in thinking. It won't be easy, but it will definitely be worth the effort. In the paragraphs below I suggest seven bold ideas that are foundational to putting ministry first:

  1. The church was organized for service. We've been given a clear assignment: the Great Commission. Every priority should be given to achieving this goal.
  2. The call to ministry extends to every member, whether we've been elected to a church office or not. The goal should be 100% member engagement.
  3. Recognize that there is infinite diversity in the body of Christ, and that God has a special ministry calling for each person, based on their unique interests, resources, and background.
  4. Church leaders should promote training that encourages members to find their distinct place of service, and then equip them with the essential skills of ministry development.
  5. Every member should be encouraged to launch some exciting new outreach ministry, or plug into an existing outreach ministry of the church that inspires them.
  6. Those in elected leadership positions should see their primary responsibility as promoting and coordinating ministry by members, rather than doing all the work of ministry themselves.
  7. Each local church should create an organizational structure that recognizes, supports, integrates, and encourages ministry done by members.

While I don't have time to develop all of these concepts more fully here, if you follow these through to their conclusion, they are likely to create radical change in your church. Specifically, they will lead you to an explosion in ministry.

It Starts With You

Imagine the scene. Members all through your congregation, reaching out to all sorts of groups in your community, in unique and innovative ways. Ministry to artists, roofers, diabetics, members of specific cults, single moms, college students, and the list goes on. Each group being reached by some dedicated member, or group of members, using strategic methods specifically adapted to the needs of that group.

Everywhere, people are being reached. Every contact nurtured and cultivated. Relationships are growing everywhere. Countless Bible discussions are taking place, countless questions answered. A steady stream of seekers are finding their way to Christ.

And those who do come to faith, are nurtured, cared for, and discipled. Ultimately, they also are equipped for ministry, and deployed to reach some other corner of the community. Everywhere there is a sense of expectancy. Of urgency. Of mission. Can you envision it?

Only one thing stands between that vision and today: individuals willing to lead the way. To step out, and launch that first new ministry. Or the next one. Won't you determine to be a part of that vision? To guide your church, by both words and example, to put ministry first once again?

Take the Next Step

Want to learn more about the essential principles of ministry development? Join us for a special LIVE Training event from FAST called Worker Tools. We'll guide you step by step through the ministry development process and show you how to either revitalize an existing ministry, or launch something entirely new.

Enrollment closes soon. Sign up today...

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Anything in this article resonate with you? Does your church operate any unique or innovative ministries? Can you point to specific ministries in your church that are consistently bringing people to Christ? How important is it for churches to be serious about reaching their community? Share your thoughts below...

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