People Versus Mission
I came across a passage of Scripture this morning that has really struck me. It’s Romans 12:10.
Be devoted to one another in love.
I wrote, yesterday, about the nature of the Gospel–it was a critique of a post from Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC. Part of the DNA of their church is “to be more focused on the people we’re trying to reach than on the people we’re trying to keep.” While I appreciate the ministry of that church, and have been blessed by it, I worry about this part of their DNA.
In fact, this is part of the DNA of many Evangelical churches in America. It’s the Willow Creek Model; all that matters is the number of people who become Christians. Pastor Furtick says it with audacity:
Focus on the people you want to reach and you’ll keep the people you want to keep. Let the rest walk. They’ll find a church elsewhere to graze.
The way I see it is they’re just occupying the space of a person who needs to hear the gospel. You’ll fill their seat.
And it will be with the person who needs it the most.
How do you reconcile this with Paul’s command to “be devoted to one another in love”? Furtick’s approach places the mission ahead of the people, and anyone who doesn’t get on board with the mission can “find a church elsewhere to graze”. So much for devotion.
It is not like God to write people off, to dismiss them to another pasture, for having spiritual needs after they’ve embraced the Gospel. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last year is that my life is not about the mission, it’s about the people. Jesus has called us not to climb a mighty mountain or calm a raging sea, but to “make disciples”, to “be devoted to one another in love”, and to “carry each other’s burdens”.
Again and again, the Bible tells us that this life is about the people, and that each person is magnificently loved by God no matter where they stand on the spectrum of salvation. Our calling, as ministers of the Gospel, is to be shepherds of the sheep, and we will be held accountable for each one in our flock.
Is there a mission? Of course there is, but the people come first. Missions are temporal, but people live forever. Therefore, “be devoted to one another in love”.