I was having a conversation with a pastor friend of mine the other day who shared with me his dream for his church to transform our city with the gospel. I share his dream for our city to be transformed and believe that the gospel is powerful enough, and potent enough, to transform any community that it is unleashed in. But I told him, I had doubts that this kind of transformation would ever happen through one local church congregation.
The problem with an evangelistic model that also includes an attractional proposition to "come and be part of our worship service" is that it usurps the infectious potential for the gospel to take root and form organic communities in new neighborhoods, business districts, and social hang-outs. The only way to insight an epidemic of Kingdom transformation is through a gospel-movement, where the "good news of the Kingdom" and the "people of the Kingdom" are released to spread the virus to all areas of their inhabitance. Not to recruit and extract, but to infuse and embed.
A church-centric mode of evangelism stifles gospel-movement by equating "new life in Christ" to "new life with us", whereby new believers are funneled into a systematic process of congregational orientation. Discipleship in many ways simply takes the form of "conforming to the ways of how we do Church". This extractional practice is actually driven by fear, that if the new believer is left in their "worldly environment", their faith will be crushed and sin will abound. But Jesus, knowing the power of the gospel, regularly told people who had been transformed by their encounter with him, "Go back to your village, your family, your friends, and tell them the good news of what God has done for you."
If everyone Jesus ever healed, delivered, touched, blessed, or be-friended, was made to take on the same language, culture, rhythm, liturgy, and practice, the explosion of post-pentecost Christianity would have fizzled out. But it didn't fizzle out, because of the power of the gospel and the power of the missionary Spirit of God, who fuel-injected these small communities of Jesus-Followers with gospel-nitro and propelled them out into the world, transforming city after city in its wake. Consider this, by 100AD the total number of Christians were roughly 25,000; just 200 years later, the number had exploded to 20 Million! T W E N T Y M I L L I O N!!!
How was this possible?? This was ONLY possible because of the gospel-mobility of the people of God, their obedience to Christ's commission to GO, and their incarnational discipline to infuse and embed the Kingdom among the various groups of people they were sent to. All the while letting the Holy Spirit guide, inform, and transform the community around them.
Interestingly, understanding the way that God has designed this - there is actually more potential in one disciple, infused with the gospel, to bring about the transformation of his or her city, (because of the exponential power of gospel-reproduction), than there is in one "worship service gathering" sponsored by a church within the city...
If the mission of the gospel is the transformation of the world, and the mission of the church is the mission of the gospel, then it requires EVERYONE to live lives on mission, ALL must be released to be about the viral and infectious work of the gospel. Not as a recruiter, but as an infuser.
This, and only this, will bring about the transformation of our city... and even the world.
by Clarke T. Cayton