A number of years ago I remember driving down the road in my car, letting my mind wander while observing people walking on the sidewalk, heading to work or just waiting for a bus. I was driving through our city, Oshawa, but for some reason, was paying extra special attention to my surroundings that day. I had been thinking about all that God was doing in our church and had been feeling such a great desire for everyone in our city to experience God’s awesome power. As I watched people simply going about their day, the thought came into my mind, “I wonder how many people on this block are actually saved or have had a real opportunity to know Jesus.” This, of course, sparked the next question that I pondered, “How many of these people are lost and on their way to hell forever?”
For whatever reason, I had never looked at my city quite like this before. I had this overwhelming desire to somehow get these people to experience what we were experiencing at our church, but couldn’t figure out just how to do that. Having our church members simply invite their friends and relatives to church had proved somewhat fruitful over the years, but it hardly put a dent in the enormous task of going and discipling nations, let alone discipling a city. The next thought I had really rocked me; it was a great revelation that I have never forgotten—God can actually be doing wonders within the four walls of your church, but the city and society can continue on as usual and know nothing about it. It is even possible that they may not know your church exists, or worse yet, that God exists.
To be honest, I never saw it as the Christian’s fault that more of society wasn’t being changed and affected by God; I always saw it as the unsaved person’s fault. I figured that it was their hardened hearts that kept them from God and from experiencing Him. However, the idea began to nag me from that day forward— maybe the church hasn’t done the best job of bringing the God that’s within our walls, out there to the unsaved. Out there where an entire city, society, and even nation is waiting for God’s Kingdom to answer their questions and deliver them from sin and death. I wasn’t feeling critical of the church, and this article is not meant to be critical. But from that day forward God began to open up a perspective and understanding for me that has transformed my view of what “missional” really looks like.
One thing I do know, we the church are excellent at “having church,” holding conferences, and even spearheading pockets of “revival” that sometimes last awhile, and sometimes for a short period of time. What we have struggled with is the transformation of culture and the discipling nations part. Let’s not hide it, let’s be honest with the evaluation of our results. That is one thing that is concerning for me. Maybe there is another. What do we do when we aren’t sure how to impact society? We settle for an obsessive focus on building our own local church while waiting (and maybe praying) for God to do the heavy lifting of impacting culture in our city or nation. Now don’t get me wrong, it is never “either or.” It is actually “both and.” God wants us to build healthy local churches, but never at the expense of neglecting the harvest that is already ripe.
This is probably why Jesus’ strategy for “thy Kingdom come” didn’t look like building a mega church and focusing on sabbath attendance. In fact Jesus’ methodology was different when it came to impacting culture. He understood that the Kingdom’s very nature was that of be planted, grow out, and subdue. This emphasis on the transformation of culture was evidenced in Jesus’ ministry as well as in the ministry of the Apostles. Of the biblically recorded 132 public appearances of Jesus, 122 were in the market place. Only 10 were in the synagogue. Out of the 40 recorded miracles of the apostles, 39 were done in public places. God’s desire is that the Kingdom of God be taken beyond the four walls of the Church and into the market place to transform the culture.
Having the privilege of leading a ministry that has been instrumental in national impact in several nations, I have come to a few conclusions.
- The reality is that churches come and churches go, but sociological transformation can impact generations and steer the direction of nations.
- “Revival,” (with the exception of sovereign revivals initiated by God at key times in history to steer the Body) do not necessarily always transform the culture surrounding “the building” that the revival is happening in.
- The reason for our struggle to fulfill the Great Commission doesn’t have to do so much with a wrong motivation from leadership or something negative generally. In my experience it is that well intentioned leaders and labourers just don’t know “how.”
For years God has been helping the Body of Christ to understand the need to go beyond the four walls and to fulfill the “seven mountain mandate” (Lance Wallnau) but the question I am asked on a regular basis by Pastors and leaders alike is “how.” In coming blogs like this one I hope to begin to unpackage a “how to” gospel that gets results and impacts culture whether you have a building or not to work from. In the last two years by God’s grace our ministry has seen close to 250,000 people influenced, souls saved, and governments moved to start thinking in terms of the church having the answer for the betterment of society and nations. And all of this has happened without a building to work from. It has literally been a “beyond the four walls” movement.
Let’s begin with Matthew 28:18-19.
Jesus gives us the Great Commission, He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe…” When Jesus says “disciple all nations” there is no other way to understand this commission other than that God’s ultimate desire is for us to be fruitful, multiply (win people to Christ), fill the earth (with Kingdom values and principles), for the purpose of the Kingdom of God having absolute dominion in all the earth. Therefore, if we understand that this is God’s ultimate desire then we must be willing to labour for this and be strategic. God wants to use you and me as His instruments to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth for the purpose of global dominion. Jesus is the King and He is counting on us to establish His Kingdom and to ultimately bring nations to His feet (Colossians 1:16-20). If this were not possible to do, He would not have said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore…”
This is why, as people of the Kingdom, it is unacceptable for us to assume that Jesus died, was raised from the dead and was given ALL authority for the purpose of Believers to turn their churches into little Garden of Eden’s. That is to say, the mandate of God is to take the culture of the Kingdom beyond the four walls of the church and into every sphere of society. God’s dream is not only for the church to worship Him, but it is also for the world to worship him. Therefore, the ministry success of a pastor or leader is not graded by how many people they gather in a building. It is about how much “Kingdom” they can bring into the world. Of course, in this age, we understand that the earth will never be covered with the perfection of the Kingdom of God in totality. However, it is God’s dream for as much of His Kingdom as possible to come to this earth. This is exemplified by Jesus when He prayed, “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
I’m sure many of us have believed that when the scripture in Matthew spoke of nations, it was strictly referring to the nations of the world in the form of countries and entire races of people. The Greek word for nation is ethnos, meaning multitude, company, troop, tribe, nation, or people group.
Now, I am certain, and our Greek translation makes it clear, that the word ethnos does indeed refer to the nations of the world as I just described. That is not surprising when you think about the greatness of God and His incredible dream and desire to redeem the whole world to Himself through us. But if we do not look deeper at this particular word, the average person who is not a “super apostle,” evangelist, or government leader may feel that they are exempt from this commission from our Lord.
In fact, the word ethnos not only refers to nations in the form of countries, it also refers to any people group on the earth today. Yes, any people group. This means that the word nations in Matthew 28:18 can also refer to many different levels of society. It could include anything from a city to a high profile financial organization, even a local college campus or high school. This is an amazing commission that Jesus gave us because once it is properly understood, the average Christian is faced with the fact that we have been commissioned to take responsibility of discipling and reaching every level of society that we find ourselves in. We have a mission to partner with God in redeeming every level of society back to God. We are carriers of something great, something that separates us from the average person, and we should not hide it. The love that God has shed upon us is actually a supernatural love that is tangible and can unlock the hearts of even the vilest of sinners. Indeed the world is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God; the world is waiting for us.
I think we can all agree that this is the heart of God and the heart of the gospel. I’m also sure that what I have just shared is nothing you haven’t heard before.
Now, if we were to take an honest look at the focus of our lives, the focus of our churches, and what we place priority on in our church culture, we might be surprised at how far we have strayed from the original intent. Could it be possible that we have become content and satisfied with our beautiful church building and good, consistent attendance? Have we possibly turned our church buildings into waiting rooms for the redeemed to relax until our number gets called and we go to heaven? After all, if the goal and high point of Christianity is to just get saved and attend church each week to feel goose bumps, then we all might as well go to heaven now. Why do that on earth when we can do it better in heaven? And what do we do once we have been “revived?”
Apart from enjoying the goodness of God as He awakens us, (which there is no substitute for) revival really should be a means towards a greater end, otherwise God would have taken us to heaven already where the greatest elements of revival are happening right now! No, we are still on this earth because we are called to dethrone demonic ideologies in communities and nations by uprooting systems of unrighteousness and replacing them with righteous systems. This is done for the purpose of compelling people, saved or not saved, to observe a heavenly value system. We are called to fulfill a great commission – and even use strategy to do it.