You’re no doubt familiar with the saying that the three most important things in real estate are, “Location, Location, Location.” Similarly, it seems the three most important things when it comes to trying to motivate a congregation to become missional are, “Communication, Communication, Communication.”
Church Revitalization is hard. And, the longer a church is plateaued or in decline and the older the members, the longer it takes to get it growing again. Revitalization takes time and is often a slower process than those of us who are passionate about it would like. I’ve talked with many a frustrated church leader, both lay and clergy, who just can’t understand why more people aren’t on board with becoming missional.
If you are a church leader who is longing to see the church you are in revitalized, let me encourage you not to devalue the long-term effectiveness of communication. Communicating the Great Commission, a lot, over time, is effective in turning around the culture of a church.
One of the clichés that I have regularly relied on is, “You get more of what you focus on.” I’m not sure where I heard it but I found it to be very true. When I’d focus my communication on ministry, more people got involved in ministry. When I focused on small groups, more people got into small groups. And obviously, the more I focused on being missional – going outside of the church and connecting with non-believers to bring them into a relationship with Jesus and the church family to make disciples, the more people became missional. So, if you are wanting to see your church revitalized, communicate, communicate, communicate, the Great Commission.
And communication is not just from the pulpit. Here are four ways to Communicate the Commission:
1. Pray. Prayer is obviously more than a communication tool, yet it does communicate. Enlist a prayer intercessor team to be praying for church revitalization and local mission. As they gather or spread your prayer requests, the commission gets communicated. Have prayer events where church members can gather to pray for the lost in the community – by name if you know them. Pray for your evangelistic outreach programs in the prayers of the people. Encourage people to identify and pray for non-believers they know personally. These are just some ideas. How else could you utilize prayer to communicate the Great Commission in your congregation? And the best part about this strategy is that you are communicating to God and He will act in response. Remember, he wants your church to grow and people to be saved more than you do. In Luke 15:5-7 about finding the lost sheep it says, “And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (NLT)
2. Preach. If you are clergy and regularly preach, the pulpit is a powerful communication tool. Remember, you get more of what you focus on. One or two sermons here and there on The Great Commission won’t transform the culture of the congregation. Most church members have grown up in what we’re now calling “Christiandom,” a culture that was sufficiently Christian so that we didn’t have to be missional for our church to be “successful.” Those days are gone. Church revitalization requires all Christians to realize that enough people won’t wander into our church doors anymore to keep up with or exceed the members who die or move. Unless the congregation transitions to being missional, it will eventually shrink and die. That needs to be communicated, communicated, communicated. Yes, you also must preach on worship, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship, but those are largely more a part of members lives already. Preach the Great Commission, a lot.
3. Promote. What I mean here is utilizing all the various communication tools churches have. Communicate the importance of the Great Commission in many ways through: bulletins, newsletters, e-newsletters, bulletin boards, posters, on screens before and after worship, and whatever other creative ways you can think of. I’m not sure the actual statistic, but it’s the idea that people have to read or hear something at least six times before it registers.
4. Practice. Giving people opportunities to experience local mission and evangelism is far more transformative than only preaching and promoting it. Early on in our revitalization efforts, we did a 40 Day campaign with a theme of “Deepening the Community in the church and Reaching the Community outside the church.” We challenged everyone to join a small group and for every small group to participate in an evangelistic outreach. As a church, we ended up replacing and completely furnishing a wheelchair-bound widow’s mobile home, including building a ramp. It’s a longer story, but for now, what happened was the entire congregation got so caught up in the project and received so much joy from serving outside the church that local mission was no longer a question of should we, but what can we do next! That experience was a catalyst for the missional culture the congregation later more fully developed. What missional experience can you create to let people put into practice the Great Commission in your community?
Again, you’ll get more of whatever you focus on. Look for ways to focus on and Communicate the Great Commission.
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching.