Are we off target?
Have we kept our eye on the target? Dave Newton encourages us to check our focus.
In my late teens between finishing school and starting college, I spent a number of months working as an outdoor activity instructor. I arrived for my 4-week intensive training in a range of activities, from the predictable, climbing, canoeing and abseiling to some of the more unusual activities like foil fencing and land sailing. I tend to enjoy most active sports, generally being able to adapt to most things but when it came to archery things didn’t work out quite so well.
I remember starting out OK as I held this lethal arrow in one hand and the bow that provided me with the ability to propel it in the other. I took my stance, guided by the instructor, I drew back the string. Holding still, fingers poised, taking my aim, I released to see the arrow land right in the centre of the target. Before I had a moment to feel the pride rising up inside, and consider changing my name to Robin, I was informed ‘that was your 5-metre practice shot now it’s time to move back behind the line’.
As we stepped back to the beginner's line I realised that my second shot was going to be a little harder. Taking aim I released the arrow but this time, no bullseye, no outer ring, no target at all just an arrow in the long grass. I realised the journey to becoming an expert archer was going to be a long one.
One of the dangers for the UK church and many of the individuals that make it up is that in living out our faith we don't know what target we are trying to hit. We can keep moving the target a far as the purpose of the church and our mission.
We can so easily convince ourselves that activity in itself equals productivity or that our constant busyness means that we are about God’s business. We can redefine our mission as the church until, in the end, it bears little resemblance to the mission of God.
In his book 'Mission Creep: 5 subtle shifts that sabotage Evangelism and Discipleship', Larry Osborne suggests that if we fail to label the target and don't measure how close we are to hitting it, we can easily become self-deceived and start painting the target wherever the arrow lands.
So what should be our purpose as Good News people what is the target we should be aiming for?
Talking about Jesus
We have convinced ourselves that gathering people in a building, singing songs about Jesus or even offering help in the name of Jesus is the same as talking about Jesus naturally to others. Multiple activities happen in the name of mission and evangelism that have forgotten the essential element of introducing the person of Jesus to someone who doesn't yet know Him.
Transformed by Jesus
I love many of the programs and activities our churches run to connect and relate to those who do not yet know Jesus. However, the mission of God is so much more than connection it is transformation.
As people experience the reality of Jesus their lives are transformed, rewired, renewed. It is not simply our responsibility as the church to see how many people we can gather or touch but we are called to partner with God in the transformation of lives, darkness to light, death to life!
Communities - better not bitter
If we are not careful in an attempt to defend what we believe we can put up barriers to people. Often people’s reaction to church or Christians in the community can be one of suspicion or simply irrelevancy. We are called to be a community of people who carry Good News and are Good News not simply to individuals but to communities, towns and cities.
Often that church has become more concerned with defending what we believe that allowing what we believe and who we follow to be a beautiful fragrance in our communities. I long for the day when communities and journalists write ‘Did you hear the good news, they are starting a new church in our community?’.
It can become so tempting to position ourselves by the target we have drawn and pat ourselves on the back when we hit it. Let us instead be churches and individuals committed to aiming for what God has created his church to be good news people.
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