We all want to see God do amazing things, but we can forget about the hard work it takes to see the fruit. Hard work is just that: hard work! And it can be very easy to become uncomfortable and even overwhelmed by the mess of ministry to the lost. Remember this scripture from last time:
Prov 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
Ministry gets messy when there are people involved! And the gospel is always the answer. Only Jesus has the power to save and to truly change a person.
As we continue to do ministry and reach out to the lost in our community, I have seen a few things that have become invaluable as we learn to minister to those far from God. So, here are just three things that I have found to be helpful and some practical ways to disciple people through the mess of life.
EXPLAIN WHAT YOU ARE PREACHING
1 They won’t know much — We have to understand that many people have never heard the gospel and have never been to church. This may seem hard to believe in certain cultures, but in our community we are dealing with people who didn’t grow up in Christian homes and haven’t been to church much—if at all. So they don’t understand many terms that are found in the Bible because they have never read it. They don’t know what a church service is supposed to look like because they have never been. They don’t know much about Jesus; and if they do, it is usually is skewed because they learned from culture, media and friends—not from God’s Word.
So, how have we practically dealt with this? We explain what we are preaching. I take the time to explain a lot of what I preach and don’t assume that people have heard any of it before. You would be surprised to know how often we assume that people already know the things we know. But listen, many people have never heard that God loves them and that they can have a relationship with Him. Or that they can personally know Him and have their guilt and shame forgiven. So, we tell them! We explain the uncommon words like “justification, sanctification, propitiation, atonement” etc. We explain what we are doing in the service and WHY. Things like why we sing, why we study the Bible, why we give, why we take communion, etc. We have also given hundreds of Bibles away because most people we interact with don’t own one. So we explain the story of who Paul is when referencing Him. We also put the page number of the text on the screen so people know where to find it in the Bible we gave them. We try to EXPLAIN what we are preaching and WHY and what we are doing because most people don’t understand the things we do. We want to communicate clearly.
2 Their values won’t match yours — We must understand that non-believers won’t have all the same values as a follower of Jesus because Jesus isn’t their Lord. A few examples of this could be parenting or language. It is quite common for there to be people that use inappropriate language around us. The Bible tells us that what is in our hearts will come out, so if you are ministering to non-believers you should expect that their language with represent their heart.
Proverbs 28:19 says, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” We must preach that there is a better way in Jesus and let them know where we stand on issues. It is ok to call sin “sin” and to have requirements to serve. For example, we always have people that work with our kids go through background checks, and they must be walking with God. We understand that everyone in our church won’t fit those requirements, but to ensure safety and make sure the kids during service are being discipled, we have placed a standard there. We also take a large portion of our service to preach God’s prophetic vision from the Bible which is our primary authority and standard. We want to teach the heart of God and what He values as right and wrong. We understand that it is not about morals, but we must also understand that we can please God through obedience by the power of His Spirit. They must see that the law of God is perfect and good. And that our faith has works. We want people to observe the commandments of God; and when people become born again, they are able to be transformed and no longer slaves of sin. So, we preach though the Bible in order to help people understand the person of Jesus and His ways.
SET AN EXAMPLE
3 They won’t be mature in the faith - It has been so amazing to see so many lives transformed by Jesus at Redemption Church. But just because you say a prayer doesn’t make you mature. People are immediately forgiven from their sin, but the consequences are still with some people. So we have seen saved people still fight addictions, still serve time in jail, still go through a divorce, still live with the sin that bought death in their lives. I have seen a heart change immediately, but understanding and maturity come more slowly. Some may not give finances immediately or sign up to serve or even be in fellowship. So, many of the people that call Redemption Church their home don’t come every week because they never grew up with that discipline. Most of them have never read through the Bible. So what are we to do about this?
Preach to them with our lives. Set an example! We have to show them a better way. Many of us learn by example and are more visual. The Bible tells us we aren’t to merely love in word but also in action (1 John 3:16-18). It has also been said that vision is caught not taught…so we must show them what it means to walk with God with our lives. It is our responsibility to walk with others and to disciple them. This is one of the main reasons we are to have patience with others because this process takes time. So, give time to non-believers to ask questions, to pray with them, and to teach them. Include them in your life even if they aren’t “acting like Christians” yet. Include them even if they haven’t accepted Jesus into their lives yet either!
The Bible tells us that the strong are to help the weak, and we have come to find out that many people need us to help them. They need to see what a godly marriage looks like or how a single person is to live in purity. They need to see the vision we so often preach to them so they can understand it better and follow our example. We know we are far from perfect, but this is also a good thing. People need to see imperfect people, leaning on the grace and mercy of Jesus, following after Him with their whole lives. So, we try to have people in our lives as much as possible during the week—not just on Sundays.
We are all in the business of making disciples, and we need to get messy with people right where they are in order to see the fruit of God working in them. This takes a lot of work and patience, BUT it is totally worth it. May the Lord bless our efforts in reaching people far from Him and may our church always be messy!