Stir Up One Another
Unbelievably, the month of January has already passed. The new year is off to a quick start, and I’m sure the pace of the coming weeks will not diminish. During our Vision Sunday service on January 14th we discussed our theme for 2018 – “Impact One!” Over the last several days, I have already heard from people in our church how this theme has challenged them to purposefully focus on impacting people with the gospel. I pray that as the months of 2018 pass, we will not forget or forsake our responsibility to invest our time, talent, and treasure into God’s kingdom. Impacting people with the gospel is the responsibility of all believers. We are commanded to call the unsaved to salvation and to encourage the Christian to live faithfully to the gospel.
The writer of Hebrews summarized the responsibility to impact others this way, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). The word translated “stir up” comes from the Greek word “paroxusmos” meaning “to irritate.” This word is often used in the negative sense. All of us are usually pretty skilled at stirring people up or provoking them to the point of agitation. Most of us can provoke another person to anger or frustration without much effort. The ability to agitate others just comes naturally to us. But, the writer of Hebrews gives us an interesting word play that teaches believers to take the tendency of stirring others negatively and use it for God’s good purposes. We are to impact others in such a way that they are encouraged to live a life committed to the gospel, which will produce love and good works.
Remember, churches don’t make disciples. Disciples make disciples. God uses people to minister the Scriptures to the needs of others. God sovereignly places each of us into the lives of people to minister to them. While churches must maintain right theology, philosophy, and priorities, these things alone do not produce mature disciples. Faithful disciples make and mature disciples as they purposefully invest into the lives of people. People primarily come to a church and stay because of meaningful relationships. Relationships are the context in which believers stir other believers in love and good works for God’s glory. It’s the responsibility of every Christian to build meaningful relationships that create the context for effective discipleship.
Vibrant churches make sure that they are a place where people can get the spiritual help their parched souls need. People are broken, and they are looking for a place of hope. Vibrant churches understand that our job is to reach the world, not judge it. Judging is God’s business, our business is making and maturing disciples for the glory of God by proclaiming the good news of the gospel into one life at a time. The gospel is a story of hope and restoration. It’s our job to proclaim that message to the world.
As Gary McIntosh noted in Beyond the First Visit, programs are not the answer. He writes, “At best a newly designed ministry has an effective life span of about three to five years. After that it will need to be revamped or, in some cases, totally scrapped for an entirely new approach. What remains constant during this period of rapid change is our relationship with people.” Programs and methods will come and go, but relationships are the time-tested effective context in which we can impact the lives of others.
I hope your desire is the same as mine. I want more people to find a church home at Grace. If we are going to be a vibrant church that impacts others, we must intentionally build and foster new relationships. When people make friends, get involved in a group, and find a place to serve, they are far more likely to remain in a church. Research has shown that those who remain in a church for more than six months have an average of seven friends in their church. Those who drop out of churches average only two friends.
In the words of Gary McIntosh, “Churches that sit back and expect new people to find their way into the church’s networks of friendships and participants are going to be disappointed. In most churches the social and service networks are closed to the natural addition of new people… The average guest simply does not have the desire or personality to fight his or her way into the social networks of the church.” Keeping our eyes open for new people will keep us from settling into the comfort zone of comfortable relationships.
The friendliness of a church depends on your perspective. I pray that we all remember that our guests are in our services by divine appointment. Reach out to them with kindness and compassion. Invite them back. Impact them with a warm smile and a sincere “welcome.”
Of course, the majority of people who attend our services are regular attenders. Use this year to build new relationships with people who have seen at Grace for weeks or months or even years but have never met. Find someone that you can minister to. Show them the love of Christ and go ahead and do what we often do best – irritate them! But irritate them in a way that honors the Lord. Impact them with your concern. Impact them with your patience and wisdom. Invest in people one person at a time. Use your time, talent, and treasure to boldly invest in God’s marvelous and eternal kingdom.