May 3, 2017

Gospel Leadership

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Our presenter on today’s Whiteboard Wednesday is Tim Meendering, who has served as a pastor for 22 years and worked with the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes on transition ministry and revitalization.

Tim recently returned from an “Organic Outreach” conference where Dr. Rick Richardson, Director of Research for the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, pointed out that:

  • 80% of American churches are either stagnant or dying.
  • 16% of churches are growing through addition and not through conversion.
  • 90% of pastors are not doing personal evangelism that can be imitated.

Regarding the latter point, this is a big challenge that we need to overcome in order to bring about fruitful outreach for the church.We can be actively engaged in programs, events, and ministries, but too often the result is that there are few stories to tell about new disciples who have been rescued from darkness.

Through the years, this challenge has led Tim to complete a dissertation that focuses on this crucial question: What is it that motivates and empowers people to welcome others into their lives?

When we look “under the hood” of struggling churches we often find the breakdown in pastors and members who are not loving Jesus. These are people who are unable to give up their comfort, their routine, and their traditions in order to pursue the lost. This describes Dr. Richardson’s struggle as well, which is why he has devoted his life to nurturing this life-altering love in his heart and in the hearts of others.

For example, when Jesus restored Peter back to fishing for people, he said to him (three times), “Do you love me?” And Paul explained his crazy missionary-oriented life by saying, “Christ’s love compels me.” The Gospel is God’s intended means to transform hearts and lives so that we will love and pursue others in the way that Jesus loves and pursues us. This means that while we know there is no end to what we can learn and do in the area of leadership and managing change, it is also impossible to overestimate the importance of relentlessly absorbing and applying the multifaceted truth of the Gospel.

One aspect of the Gospel’s mystery is that we are driven toward love and mission by hearing more of what Christ has already done, and less of what we need to do for God. Jesus addressed the same concern with the Pharisees when he said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In other words, it all begins with love and so it’s important to hear and lead with the Gospel on a consistent basis. Additionally, we should all teach the Gospel so that Jesus and His mission become more precious than all the substitute activities that typically turn us inward.

Consistent outreach is a huge challenge but it is possible when there is a relentless and organized focus on the vision. At the same time, there should be a relentless refreshing that takes us toward a supreme love for Jesus. Organic Outreach is providing an effective strategy that is bearing fruit in churches across the world. One reason for this is its commitment to a foundation of loving God and loving others. I can also recommend the Gospel Coalition as an excellent resource for learning more about the love and refreshing that comes through the Gospel.

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