We’re studying through Paul D. Borden’s Direct Hit: Aiming Real Leaders at the Mission Field.
The missional vision of the church must be seen as urgent, or else the church will always find a different priority to pursue. And the need must be seen in terms of danger of damnation of our neighbors. It can’t be about our desire to grow and have a bigger church. It has to be about eternal fate of those outside the church.
And this requires a kind of preaching that many have become uncomfortable with. We’d far rather hear about how happy God is to forgive than the eternal fate of those without faith in Jesus.
Most congregations behave as though God is going to somehow give their neighbors a pass to escape divine judgment for their unrepentant sins, whether that consequence is eternal separation from God after death or something more severe. In other words, even churches that teach an urgent message are often unwilling to implement it. One reason that our region has experienced a significant number of congregational transformations, plus a growing number of congregational reproductions, is that many leaders in distinct congregations decided to take this concept of urgency seriously.
(Kindle Locations 815-820).
And this is why a mainline denomination was able to turn things around. They returned their preaching to the reason for the Great Commission: the lost condition of their neighbors.
But the American Baptists went a step further. They also considered the social illnesses that follow from separation from God —
Increasing paganism within the culture produces a decline in moral standards. As these standards decline, behavior consistent with such standards also declines. Individuals make many more poor choices that contribute to a greater numbers of behaviors leading to personal disaster and frustration. The nuclear family is becoming almost as extinct as dinosaurs, resulting in many children who are raised without mothers or fathers or both. In most states, the government is the “parent” of at least ten thousand children in custody on any given day. In our culture, many children with a mom and a dad are raised as though they had neither. Media and drugs make all kinds of sinful behavior more available and easier to become secretly involved with. Economic issues continue to divide people, creating financial excuses for people to live sinfully.
(Kindle Locations 858-864).
The church needs to be continuously reminded of their mission and vision from the
A pastor can express urgency by describing the plight of individuals who have not experienced these works of God in their lives. Vision comes as we offer God’s answer to the plight of humans through the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, congregations need to hear both the plight of those outside of Jesus Christ and his church and the offer of hope that can be accomplished as the congregation once again engages in God’s mission for the Church.
(Kindle Locations 937-940).
Healthy, growing, reproducing congregations, which reflect a very small minority of congregations in wealthy nations, and average, normal, dysfunctional congregations, which are the majority, are two very different cultures that cannot and will not exist together. They are like two different nations with different cultures that embrace opposite values and do not usually speak the same language.
Healthy congregations are defined by sacrifice.
(Kindle Locations 1005-1009).
Unhealthy members will become uncomfortable in church filled with sacrifice and transformation — and either become healthy or leave. The preacher cannot preach sermons that please both groups.
When pastors come to most established congregations and desire to lead change, they must realize that they are signing up to lead not just a few battles but an all-out war. Most pastors fail in this war because their army is too small when the conflict is engaged. They have too few officers.
(Kindle Locations 1024-1026).
One of things I most appreciate about Borden is his realistic view of the church life. People really will go to war over even trivial changes. Asking the membership to become evangelistic — and being serious about it — risks the preacher’s job. The elders may agree in principle, but they don’t want to lose friends or fail to make a mortgage payment. And they’re volunteers with limited time to commit to the church.
Borden does not paint a pretty picture or push baseball diamonds and clever slogans. He knows that there are no easy answers, that change is painful, and Satan will work hard to punish those who try to change things. His book is by far the most realistic on the subject that I’ve read.
And he doesn’t waste time with chapters on why we need to save the lost or trying to justify what he’s doing. He knows that any church leader already knows that. What they need is guidance on what to do and how to head off the inevitable backlash.