Yesterday I shared Pt. 2 of the teaching series, On Mission. Below are my notes to “The Challenge”- a look at our mission field.
Here’s a look at GCC’s mission field:
- In the four counties of Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, and Denver there is a population of 1,992,169 people. Only 706,994 claim to be church adherents! [i]
- That means that on the “high” side, only 35% “attend” church, which is likely to be less than this. In these 4 counties, we have a potential mission field of 1,285,175 people- or 65% + of the population!
- Within a 30-mile radius of our building, there are 2.5 million people. Based on the same percentages, this means 1.6 million people are unchurched.[ii]
- Of those 1.6 million people, 82% or 1.3 million people would attend church IF invited![iii]
- Yet, according to the latest Lifeway Research Survey, only 2% of church-goers have invited someone to attend church in the past year! 98% haven’t invited a single person in the past year!![iv]
- The question is NOT, “How big can we grow GCC?” The question is, “How many people in our mission field need Jesus?”
Some more interesting information about our mission field…[v]
- The average age is 37. 50% male and 50% female.
- 29% are between the ages of 35-54. 24% are 55 and over. 21% between the ages of 18-34. 18% are ages 5-17!
- 54% are married. 26% single. 10% divorced.
- 65% have had some type of college education.
- There are 972,989 “households.” 32%- 2 people, 26%- 1 person, 16%- 3 people…
- Children under 18 are most likely to live in a two-parent household
- 65% are white, 24% latino, and 6% black
- 12% are young, affluent working couples, pre-school children, metro fringe
- 9% are young, single, college-educated, professionals
- 70% of workforce are white collar
For the most part, GCC is fairly representative of these demographics. People in our “mission field” also indicated the following:[vi]
- Drive for affluence is somewhat important
- Devotion to family is somewhat strong
- Commitment to career is important
- Concern for environment is very strong
- Practice for altruism and giving is very strong (provide value, concern for others)
- Importance of religious faith is very important
- Entertainment activities is mixed
- Desire to broaden horizons is very significant
- Pursuit of personal growth is very likely
- Sense of well-being is moderate
These indicate that our “mission field-culture” open to those things that bring value, growth, family connectivity, concern for the environment, and spiritual or other well-being and growth!
A few more characteristics…[vii]
- Somewhat globally focused
- Somewhat conservative
- Somewhat sociable
- Somewhat indulgent
- Mixed in terms of planned or spontaneous activities
- Somewhat dutiful
- Mixed in terms of security or fulfillment
- Trends towards a moderate affluent lifestyle
- Trends towards a moderate concern for others
- More inclined to lead than follow
I don’t want to overwhelm you with data, but these are all very important indicators and characteristics of OUR MISSION FIELD! AND WE ARE CALLED AND CHALLENGED TO BE WITNESSES THERE- our “Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria!”
The Big Idea: How can we best meet the challenge of reaching our mission field? Let’s look at the Parable of the Sower: Mark 4:3-8 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
In this application, the soil represents the culture or mission field’s degree of openness and receptivity to the Gospel or “witness” of Jesus Christ. This Parable tells us several things:
- It obviously tells us that “good soil” is the precondition of a fruitful harvest!
- It tells us that not all soil is “good soil” initially!
- It tells us that the soil must always be prepared to receive the seed!
- It doesn’t tell us to ignore or forget about footpath, rocky, or thorny soil!!!
THE FIRST STEP is acknowledging and accepting the responsibility to be Jesus’ “witness” and be “fruitful” (Jn. 15:8) in the “mission field” God has planted you, me, and GCC!
- Do you accept this? Do we accept this? Are we willing to be responsible personally and corporately and do our part in reaching our mission field of 1.6 million unchurched people within a 30-mile radius of this facility??
- We are certainly not the only church that promotes the witness of Jesus in this 30-mile radius, but regardless, we have been planted here and God expects us to be fruitful and multiply. I am very thankful for the work of those before me. I’m very thankful for all of you who have stayed the course long term at GCC, over these past 12 years, and especially over this past year and currently considering the transition we’ve been experiencing.
- YES, we must all acknowledge and accept the responsibility we have to “witness” to this mission field- and it could be as easy as simply inviting someone…
THE SECOND STEP is clearly understanding our mission field/soil type and utilizing the methods necessary to be a more effective “witness” and produce a great harvest!
- We need to understand our mission field! That’s why I took the time to share all that data with you. Do we really understand our culture? Have we taken the time to appreciate who they really are and what they’re really interested in OR have we simply made assumptions about them and acted accordingly??
- It could be possible that we’ve plateaued at 470 people over the past 12 years simply because of not fully understanding our mission field, especially in terms of their apparent openness to invitation and desire for spiritual things/personal growth, etc., and instead focusing on how we can grow GCC not on how can we win people to Jesus!
- Remember, Jesus implores us to be “fruitful” but he also tells us that we must know the “soil type” we’re working with IF we’re going to be able to reap a great harvest! Instead of asking how big we can grow GCC or assuming our programs or ministries are working, we need to get the “plow ahead of the seed!”
- The better question is how many people need Jesus in our mission field and how can we best reach them for Christ? WHAT IS OUR SOIL TYPE??
IS OUR MISSION FIELD PACKED DOWN “FOOTPATH” SOIL? I can answer this very easily… NO! Based on the data, the characteristics or our demographic, people aren’t resistant to the message of Jesus or reject it completely. They’re very interested in spiritual things, but obviously, they’re either not interested in church OR they simply haven’t received a genuine invitation from a genuine follower of Christ!
IS OUR MISSION FIELD SOIL FULL OF “ROCKS”? Based on all the indicators of those within a 30-mile radius of GCC, especially the fact that people consider religious faith as very important to them, and yet, over 65% are unchurched and/or don’t attend church, I’d say our mission field has some good soil on the surface, but underneath it’s “rocky!”
- “Rocks” don’t let the Seed take root! The Seed gets started but faith, salvation, spiritual development only goes so far because of underlying obstacles. People get started in faith or in a relationship with Jesus, or attend church (over 40% of unchurched people used to attend church regularly but stopped because of negative experiences), meaning their spiritual development soon hits the “rocks!”
- “Rocks” can take the form of “stumbling blocks” that “Christians” create! Again, according to the surveys (Lifeway) reasons for being unchurched are: Christians gossip and treat other Christians poorly. Christians have a “holier than thou” attitude. Believers talk more than they listen or care. Christians refuse to get involved in the lives of the unchurched. Christians don’t model what they say!
- “Rocks” don’t get dug up and removed! This primarily speaks to a lack or absence of spiritual mentoring and follow through. We don’t focus on making sure their spiritual roots can go down deep; instead we only focus on the surface and people who initially accept Christ and/or attend church, never get rooted in a true discipleship process with spiritual mentors and a smaller group!
- Our method may be as simple, yet as challenging as each of us seeing ourselves as a missionary and taking personal responsible for the Good News- how we live it! Because obviously those who need the message the most aren’t sitting here in our chairs!
- Our method may be as simple, yet s challenging as in “invite” and beyond that, “involving” and “investing!”
IS OUR MISSION FIELD SOIL FULL OF “THORNS”? We could probably make the case that along with “rocky” soil, or shallow Christian commitment because of stumbling blocks and lack of true discipleship, those within a 30-mile radius of GCC have “competing influences” that choke out the Good News of Jesus Christ!
- The demographic data indicates that drive for affluence is somewhat important, commitment to career is important, concern for the environment is significant, more inclined to lead than follow are indicators of a multitude of things that can compete with a commitment to follow Christ. Not that any of these things alone are “bad” things, its that they can become “bad” things IF they’re out of balance- in other words, putting God first in all things/areas of life!
- The fact that both the Good News and the thorns grow up together indicates hearts and minds that are fertile to the message of Jesus, but means too that there is a lack of discipline to keep the other things from becoming the main things, and not secondary to being foremost a Jesus follower!
- Oftentimes, “pulling out the weeds” means I can no longer be a casual or consumer-driven “Christian.” I can tell you that weeds, in a spiritual context, most often take the form of sin, selfishness, and secularism!
- Our method may need to be motivated by our culture’s somewhat strong devotion to family, very strong desire to give and help others, very significant desire for personal growth and to broaden one’s horizons! I don’t have all the solutions to these things as of yet, but I’m seeking God and processing with you leadership about how we can leverage these things!
IS OUR MISSION FIELD “FERTILE” SOIL? I don’t believe it is in terms of people fully embracing Jesus and all of our churches thriving, growing, and profoundly impacting this region for Christ. Again, the demographics and data would indicate otherwise. But we can see it become fertile soil… How?
THE THIRD STEP is to repent for not being a true witness and respond to the opportunities God has given us in this amazing mission field!
- Repentance is much more that feeling bad about something you know is wrong. Repentance is really all about making the wrong right! True repentance says, “God, I’ve wronged you by wronging others. I’ve been selfish and not surrendered. I’m more than just sorry or asking you for forgiveness, I’m responding to the challenge by becoming your servant!”
- Responding is the only way to meet the challenges head on! Responding means we are going to do whatever it takes to turn the situation around, to change to data, to populate heaven differently!
- Again, we don’t get to isolate ourselves from our mission field, from our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or rest of the world. And sometimes, the easiest and most effective evangelism of all, and yet most challenging, especially as it relates to where we’ve been planted, is the invite to those we already have connections with!
- But regrettably it’s the hardest sell because of fear- we’re afraid we don’t know enough about the faith we profess to talk about it. We’re afraid that we don’t have a life that matches our words. We’re afraid that we don’t have assurance of our own standing before God!
- Further, we’ve all been trained and bought into the idea that preaching the Gospel in the context of a strong, exegetical, Bible-filled sermon is the primary work of the church! But as Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
Fact is, WE ARE ALL SENT! That’s the genius of God’s plan. Even if it means 98% of us start doing the “invite” instead of 2% of us!
- Do we acknowledge and accept that our cause is to be his witnesses?
- Do we clearly understand our mission field/soil type and are we will to utilize the best methods to reach as many people as soon as possible with the Good News AND make sure we disciple them?
- Are we ready to repent for the condition of our mission field and respond to the opportunities we obviously have?
[i] ARDA (The Association of Religious Data Archives) Report 2010
[ii] Fullinsite Report from Mission Insite, Nov. 2011
[iii] “The Unchurched Next Door” Thom Rainer, Lifeway, 2008
[iv] “The Unchurched Next Door” Thom Rainer, Lifeway, 2008
[v] Fullinsite Report from Mission Insite, Nov. 2011
[vi] Impressions Report from Mission Insite, Nov. 2011
[vii] Impressions Report from Mission Insite, Nov. 2011