Leveraging Our Interests For the Kingdom of God
By David Price
“Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of[a] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember,[b] I am with you always,[c] to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
These are some of the most comforting, encouraging, and most terrifying words spoken by Jesus. He is clearly telling us that He has all authority and power of the Universe at His disposal and that He will be with us to the end of the age. How much more comforting can that be? I love that…if it just wasn’t for that part in the middle. He says we have to do something, and that something is most likely going to get me out of my comfort zone, especially when it involves making disciples.
This means I have to engage people. It means I have to be intentional about talking to them about the Gospel, one of the two things (the other being politics) you’re never encouraged to talk to people about! The idea of sharing the Gospel with someone is a terrifying proposition to most. If I’m totally honest, even as a pastor it’s not a comfortable thing to do.
Of course, for us to be able to do what Jesus says do with confidence, we have to get our heads around those “bookends” of the passage so that we understand that in His power and with His authority, we can not only share with confidence and boldness, but with results as His presence begins to woo a lost soul to Himself through our Gospel words.
The hard part is often getting into a situation where we can have those conversations…those Gospel conversations. I know some people who truly seem to have the gift of evangelism so that as soon as they sit down next to someone, they’re engaging in a Gospel conversation. That’s a bit more of a challenge to me, introvert that I am. However, within the context of a real relationship, I can find all kinds of opportunities to talk about the Gospel. Quite often, that’s the key: opportunities to build relationship with the intent of sharing the Gospel through friendships!
So, what if we could focus the ministry of our church towards providing avenues through which these kinds of friendships can be established? In the former church I pastored, we called these “Interest Groups.” Why? Because it’s what they were and we couldn’t think of anything more clever. They were simply groups built around common interests.
As an example, we had a guy in our church who loved gourmet cooking, so he started a gourmet cooking interest group. All who were interested in cooking or who wanted to learn how to cook joined in, got together once a week or a couple of times a month, and learned how to make some kind of gourmet dish. I learned how to make a mean omelet all the while having some meaningful Gospel conversations.
That’s what I’d like to see happen at The Gathering! Truth is, I’m already seeing it! There are already one or two groups that have formed made up of church members who have common interests and want to talk about Jesus. Now, what if those group members began inviting other people with the same interests who don’t know Jesus? Now, you have a comfortable, safe (non-threatening) place to casually talk of the Gospel.
Do you like to run? There are probably other members of our church who do, too. Get a little bit organized and start running together with the intent of enjoying each other’s fellowship and inviting other runners who don’t know Jesus to join you. In so doing, you have the opportunity of gaining some new friends with similar interests and introducing someone to Jesus. Add to that the bonus of doing something you’re already passionate about doing and you have a perfect trifecta!
Maybe you like to do crafts. Plenty of people in our city do. There’s the makings of an Interest group. Like outdoor adventures? You live in Chattanooga! Leverage that interest for the Kingdom! Do you like to sew? Cook? Lift weights? Read books? All of these and just about anything else can be your pathway to effective ministry doing what you love to do. It just takes a little effort and determination to build Gospel relationships.
What is great about this kind of ministry is that it de-centralizes the ministry of the church so that it’s more local “program-driven” and more organic, which is when the church is most effective. You get an opportunity to develop and operate your own ministry so that the job of the Elders is to simply encourage and aid you in any way we can, and then to make sure that it stays healthy. As I said the Sunday I first introduced this, the only time the Elders would actively get involved is if it became a “G-Group” (a gossip group!).
Of course, there will always be some ministries that would be categorized as “programmatic” to some degree or another, because they are essential for the church to minister to all of our members. For example, childcare will always be a need and we will continue to ask for more people to take part in serving in that area. Being a part of a cleaning team is always a need we have that all members should serve in, but these are reduced to the essentials, freeing up as much time for you to get outside the church walls and build relationships!
The other great benefit is that almost anything can become an avenue for ministry. This means that if you like to do something, there is no excuse for you not getting involved in ministry! You simply need to leverage that “something” for Kingdom use.
To help you do this, we want to dream with you. Talk to an elder or your deacon about an idea you have and, if you need help getting it started, that’s why we’re here. Our goal is to begin keeping a list of established Interest Groups so that members who have that same interest will know how to get involved. We will have a registration card available so that you can provide basic information about your group like who should join, who to contact about joining and how often you will meet. Hopefully, within a short time, we’ll see new “ministries” popping up all over the place, filled with people using their abilities and interests for the glory of God!