(The following ended up on the cutting room floor from my next book Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art. I thought you might enjoy reading what didn’t make it in…)
When I train church planters, the church’s future leaders, nothing has scandalized and sent shivers up their spine more than an infamous homework assignment. But nothing has helped them more either. I issue a challenge to give a report the next week about somebody they’ve led to Jesus in the intervening period. In other words, their assignment is to lead somebody to Christ. They look at me with the same shocked look the people gave Jesus when he sent them out to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the gospel. Reading their stunned faces, I can almost read their thoughts, You mean you actually want us to do something? We were here for another seminar. Another sermonette. Another tidbit of bible teaching. You mean you actually want us to DO something?
Scanning their responses, I confess that my underlying thought run something like, Hey Rockstar, you did say that you wanted to go into ministry, right? You did say that you wanted to plant a church, right? Go frontline for the kingdom? What did you think ministry was going to be? If I spoke those thoughts aloud, I’d sound like the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket, seeing that first look of recognition in a recruit’s eyes when he’s on his 178th push up and on the verge of collapse. That’s when you can see gears are turning in the recruits. They’re wondering what in the heck they’ve signed up for.
A drill instructor drives men hard because he cares. It’s not an antisocial tendency that delights in making others uncomfortable, but the necessity to push them to be all they can be. That’s why Jesus sent out the 72 when all they wanted was to hear another parable, or witness another miracle at the hands of Jesus. But Jesus wanted them to experience it themselves.
Stop and think about that for a second. Most church planters dream of standing in a pulpit telling thousands of people about Jesus, mandating that the believers present do the same, but are intimidated by leading one person to Jesus outside of the church walls. Forgive me while I scratch my head like Lieutenant Columbo, but wasn’t that the part that they were supposed to be good at? I mean wasn’t that supposed to be the entry-level requirement? I’m not a huge sports fan, but doesn’t the NBA get a bit nervous if a guy knows and talks a good game, but gets scared when you ask him to run up the court and slam dunk? We’re paying leaders to perform under the Sunday lights and talk a good game, and that’s why our churches isn’t going to change your city. Your city is going to be changed by ordinary people, like one of my students.
Last year, to fulfill his assignment, one of my students decided to take a Starbucks Traveler to the bus stop and offer free coffee in the cold month of October. At first, people were suspicious and wouldn’t take his offer. Slowly, the brave under-caffeinated souls inched forward, and cautiously took the coffee like curious natives taking shiny beads from Conquistadors. As conversation started, my student plainly told them that he saw them standing there in the cold grey dawn, and thought they’d probably appreciate being surprised by a free gift. He then explained that this is how God felt about them, wanting to surprise them with his grace. A middle aged man stayed behind, missing his bus, to talk. When he embarked a later bus, late for work, a new creation.
Most of my students are bi-vocational, meaning that they’re surrounded all day by the people they’re trying to reach. Church planting is under-funded in the world today. Nobody really wants to pay them to plant a church. They’re not paid professional ministers, but they’re probably more effective at reaching the unchurched than an established minister is. They work their day job, like the Apostle Paul who planted churches in his free time after a hard day’s work, out of his own pocket.
Reaching the unreached is costly. Mission has always had a steep price tag. Those willing to pay the price to see others saved tend to make sacrifices, inconvenience themselves, and take the road less traveled. Without the willingness to get your hands dirty like Paul, those who wanna be church planters will instead end up as church planter wanna-bes. And Lord knows we’ve got way too many of those.
If you were given the same assignment as my students this next week, would you follow through? Where would you go? What would you do?
(You can pick up a copy of Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art HERE