How can we reach the UK? It’s a great question.
I think God has it covered; 98 per cent of Christians spend 95 per cent of their waking lives beyond church walls – at home, at work, at school, in retirement homes, sports teams and pubs – all across the UK. So what if we change the question. Who can reach the UK? Well, we all can. Right where we are.
Isabel is a grandma. She didn’t think she had much to contribute to God’s mission until a group from her church meeting in her home discovered she had a 23-year-old granddaughter who loved to come for lunch every Sunday. Week by week, Isabel was chatting about what she’d heard in church that morning to a young woman in an age range the church finds hard to reach. And she hadn’t seen it as significant.
Whatever the make-up of your church family – old or young, healthy or infirm, rich or poor, employed or not – as Christians they all have one thing in common. They each have a frontline – a place they usually go to, where they spend time with people. And the first principle of forensics is this: every contact leaves a trace.
Isabel’s church minister was in that group meeting in her home. Two things happened. That evening, the group prayed and commissioned Isabel for her mission field with her family. And the next Sunday, when the minister saw Isabel in the pew in front of him, he was reminded that she’d likely share something of what he said later over lunch with a 23-year-old. So he preached with a fresh alertness to the frontlines of the church members. And when we last caught up with Isabel, she described herself as “on a roll”. “My daughter’s coming to church now,” she reported delightedly.
We need whole-life disciple-making communities with eyes to help one another grow in maturity and in mission.
So what might this mean for church leaders?
- Know that what you do on Sunday really matters. Where else will frontline disciples be reminded of the purposes of our creator God? Where else will they be affirmed in their identity as beloved sons and daughters of their heavenly Father? Sunday is vital to ignite an imagination for life on the frontline; and a confidence in God who calls us there.
- Use the power of leadership to affirm the significance of everyday life. Discover people’s frontlines and find ways to understand the pressure points and kingdom priorities in those places. Look for the stories of God at work, even when people can’t see them for themselves. The stories you invite to be told publically indicate what you think matters.
- Go beyond pastoral care. People expect pastoral care. But pastoral equipping matters, too. The primary role of a church leader is disciple-maker – not principal carer, or event organiser, or recruiter for community activities. The ‘equipping’ leader helps people discover the implications of the gospel for the whole of life.
- Give people a broad and deep understanding of what fruitful mission looks like for them. We are caught up into God’s transforming work in the world: our home, our work, our street, our industry, our school, our heart. We want Christians to be messengers of the gospel, but God’s mission means we want them to be a mouthpiece for truth and justice too. God’s mission means we encourage them to model godly character, ministering grace and love. God’s mission means we pray they will ‘make good work’ to the glory of God, whatever their labour – paid or unpaid (Colossians 3:17); and mould the culture around them, whether in workplaces or in families.
- Embrace the challenge of leading culture change in your church; that’s what creating a whole-life disciple-making Church will demand. One leader, reflecting on the culture shift that had happened in his church, said this, “What has changed? Everything has changed and the biggest change has been in me.”
- Don’t go it alone. The numbers of church leaders who want to lead this change are growing. And they’re gathering to learn and support one another. So if you think this could help you, why not connect with LICC through training days or learning hubs.
To reach our nation let’s all learn to be the best we can be for Jesus: right where we are.