the weblog of Alan Knox

Going… really going

Posted by on Jan 29, 2010 in discipleship, missional | 8 comments

I just got back from having coffee with a couple of great brothers in Christ. We don’t always agree with one another (although we usually do), but we still love spending time with one another and encouraging one another toward maturity in Christ.

Our discussion drifted toward evangelism, and specifically the idea of “going.” We all agreed that we didn’t want to be the kind of people who simply invited unbelievers to come to us. We wanted to be the kind of people who went to them… the kind of disciples who were going.

But, as we talked, we realized that even when people tell us about “going,” they eventually get back to the point where they are trying to bring people back with them. You know what I mean, right? We go out to present the gospel. Then, when someone is interested, we invited them to come meet with us.

We want to be different. Now, when someone is interested in the gospel, we want to continue going to them. Instead of asking people to invite their friends and family to come to us, we want to go to them, much like Peter went to Cornelius and his friends and family. We don’t want to simply increase the number of people meeting with us, we want to see the number of churches meeting around our area increase.

This was a very exciting discussion to us, but also quite frightening. Why? Because while we agree with this in theory, we’ve never seen it practiced… we have no example to follow in real life. But, it’s what we want to see happen in our lives and in the life of the church.

As we left, one of my brothers said that he was going to call “C”. (“C” is a young man who recently professed faith in Jesus Christ through the witness of my brother.) “C” has met with us a few times. But, my friend is now going to offer to go to “C”… to meet with him in his house… to meet his friends and family on their turf. To keep “going”…

I don’t know what’s going to happen… but I’m excited.


8 Comments

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  1. 1-29-2010

    It seems that we often are evangelists for our local church more than evangelists for the Gospel.

  2. 1-30-2010

    Hi Alan,

    A friend and I did something similar last fall. The host, though not a believer, bought in to the idea, prepared food, and invited some friends every week. I had been spending most of my disposable time involved in church activities, so it was a privilege, and refreshing, to get out and get to know folks with really different worldviews, and talk about Jesus.

    The get-togethers ended without any observable “fruit”, but my friend and I are asking God for more opportunities.

    p.s. Thank you for your helpful and thought-provoking blog!

  3. 1-30-2010

    sounds very Incarnational :-)

  4. 1-31-2010

    Going, going, gone (our glory, that is, not His).

  5. 1-31-2010

    If only that were the end of it.

    But I also wonder about the implications re: the “localness” of the church. And then the whole can of worms comes spilling out.

    If the new believer lives some distance away, then to continue going to them and helping a new church emerge makes perfect sense and follows the pattern of Paul and the churches he (and they) planted regionally (um, 15.3 miles?–no, I don’t know how far away in terms of time/distance, but somehow, localness is about locality, not about topics nor about multiple simple/house churches disconnected in the same neighborhood/locality).

    Perfect sense, that is, until you consider that in most localities (11.7 miles? I don’t know!) there are already many churches planted. When is church planting just more division (and more self-glorification to boot)? And that brings up thinking about when is a church a church that even knows how to care for an infant believer in a way that will quickly bring them to maturity in Christ, rather than cripple them to function largely as the crowd of pew warmers and funding sources that justify the meeting only/clergy only model (the majority).

    Also, how does this play in warm bathtub of “accepting one another?” What if they want to come “home” with you? One of the things that impressed me as a new believer was that I was somehow on the inside of this “club” and everyone treated me like an insider, like one of them. If we keep new believers at arms length from our “own family” of believers without a valid biblical (read: distance) reason, what sort of DNA are we planting in them?

    I still think the sense of going and going has an element of selflessness and building His Kingdom rather than our own is right. Perhaps connecting them to ourselves or another, closer church, is still within-locality-based option 1, and helping a new one emerge is outside-locality option 2.

  6. 1-31-2010

    One more thing, if I may. “Going, really going” seems brother to church planting. Localness and Faithfulness of existing churches should be part of any church planting strategy, especially here in the US where churches are already (nearly) everywhere.

    I would SO LOVE to talk to others about two things related to church planting today:

    1. When is a church a church you can recommend to new believers. I assume it is irresponsible to send new (or even mature) believers to a church that functions nothing like the church in the bible. If so, define this point.

    My definition is based on them understanding and presenting the gracious gospel (I Cor 15:1-4) and with a relational congregation that provides substantial mutuality–the food and exercise of every believer. That rarely exists in a hierarchical, clergy-dominated structure.

    2. Church planters are also those who “set right what was defective and finish what was left undone,” and [who] appoint elders” (put in place biblical leaders who follow a biblical leadership model).

    (Mechanical points to follow assume the supreme necessity of an embracing love for every saint and a desire to reach the lost motivates the worker(s).)

    A. I think that a church planter should first map out a logical locality (yes, very squishy and hard to define), and then visit the churches already in that locality. First, can you find a faithful one (oh dear, I did not say perfect!)? If not, are they responsive to biblical truth shared appropriately and in love (are the leaders open to the authority and sufficiency of scripture and willing to change if that is needed for alignment)? Can you or others help them do so? When the answers to these questions are no, then I think a church planter does need to help a new, faithful congregation emerge and need not fear being found divisive by our Lord.

    B. For the first year (give or take 6 months), I also think it wise to avoid having existing believers become a part of the new “church.” That way, you have much less unteaching to do and can plant indigenously, allowing the new church to be birthed with biblical DNA and to allow elders to naturally emerge among them (NO IMPORTS in leadership, especially).

    God seems to like to break the rules as we understand them, so it is also important to follow Jesus’ voice. Paul’s planning was often interrupted and pre-empted by God. Ours will be as well.

  7. 2-1-2010

    Art,

    Do you think it’s possible for an existing church to help a new church start without the new church being either dependent upon or independent of the existing church? Do you think it’s possible for an existing church to help a new church start in such a way that people from both churches consider themselves to be interdependent upon one another?

    -Alan

  8. 2-1-2010

    Possibility 1? Yes. Once. Today? I think success would be quite rare, perhaps rarer than a church with a plurality of servant elders that commonly practices mutual ministry at their weekly gathering.

    On the second possibility, it seems to me that all churches can survive independently, but they are meant to thrive interdependently. I don’t mean we should have floaters constantly or a hierarchical linkage, but on an occasional basis as God opens opportunities, churches can be a help to another. In just the same way that there is to be mutuality among believers so that they each contribute as the Head directs, there is to be mutuality among churches (believers) as the head directs.

    Some examples:

    In III Jn we have, “Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”

    This was a church where two major mistakes were made. 1. A prideful Diotrephes, desiring pre-eminence in the church, acted as the chief leader and 2., he rejected saints visiting from other churches (likely, these were itinerants). This is very much the independent church of today. John wouldn’t be happy.

    On the other hand, we have the following examples of interdependence:

    The church at Antioch sends out two of their key players–Paul and Barnabas; Lystra sends out Timothy (who was a high-functional guy there–“well reported of by the brethren”) to support the work planting new churches and strengthening existing churches. Paul leaves Achaia with Acquila and Priscilla (whom he leaves in Ephesus, Acts 18:18), Erastus (Acts 19:22), as well as Gaius and Aristarchus (Acts 19:29). At some point, Sosthenes travels from Corinth to join the work in Ephesus (Acts 18:17; I Cor 1:1, Corinthians being written from Ephesus), as do Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus (I Cor 16:17).

    The churches of Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor saints in Jerusalem; the Philippian church sent money to support Paul in his efforts, etc.