There are times in life when strange questions come into my mind. This is one of those times, but I hope I will be able to explain it in such a way that it will make sense.
The other morning, I was sitting in my car while it warmed up. It had evidently gotten fairly cold in the night, and so a frost was on the windshield. As I sat in the car, I noticed the effect of the car’s defroster. That got me thinking about the impact of a Christian’s life, and the impact of a church. One thing that has become apparent to me is that fewer and fewer churches are having significant impacts on their communities. It isn’t because there isn’t a desire to impact the communities. It’s not because we don’t have enough programs. It’s not because we don’t have capable people to impact our communities. Then, why aren’t we having more of an impact on the communities that God has sovereignly and strategically placed us in? I believe it is, at least in part, due to many churches trying to be an oscillating fan. What does that mean?
Have you ever seen how an oscillating fan works? You turn it on, and the fan starts to rotate from one side to the other. When it gets to the other side, it stays there for a short time, and then starts to rotate back to the original side. It continues to do this until you turn the fan off, or you stop it from oscillating. A lot of churches are trying to be a jack of all trades, instead of a master of one. They are trying to have a maximum, outward impact. While that seems reasonable, and like a good approach. Truthfully, it is having a diminished rate of return. The result of trying to have a wide impact is that many churches are a mile wide, while the Christians in that church are spiritually only about an inch deep. The end result is that a church is reaching a large portion of people, but those people are not growing spiritually, which results in a lack of disciple multiplication. Is there a better way?
This is where the car defroster comes into the story. As I sat in my car and watched the defroster work, I saw something amazing. The defroster never moved. It was blowing the warm air on a concentrated place. The result was as the warm air continued to blow on that place, it caused the heat to radiate out further and further, until the far edges of the windshield were thawed out enough to use the windshield wipers to clear the windshield. Instead of having a small impact on all of the windshield, the defroster concentrated on that first spot, and allowed the heat to naturally spread outwardly. What if churches took this approach with those who attend their church? What if, instead of trying to be all things to all people; instead, the church focused on strengthening, and equipping the disciples who are there to grow more and more mature in their faith? The result would be instead of having a church that is a mile wide and an inch deep, you would get a church that is a mile deep spiritually, and as a result, God would grow them wider and wider by reaching people with the Gospel. I’m not advocating for doing away with evangelism teaching, community outreaches, and the like. Rather, I’m advocating for ministry leaders to equip the saints to do the work of ministry, and then go out with them and do ministry. We as church leaders can only meet with and evangelize so many people in a given day, week, month, or year. But, if we trained our people to grow in their obedience to Jesus, they would go out and evangelize the people near them. The result is that we would have a far more reaching impact. Therefore, I believe we should begin with the few, knowing that as they grow in their walk with God, they will be obedient to Jesus more, which means they will be a part of reaching the many.
The crazy thing about this line of thinking is this, it isn’t a new way of thinking. While this may be a revelation to many Christians, churches, and leaders; it certainly isn’t a foreign concept to Scripture. In fact, this is the exact model that Jesus used in His ministry. He didn’t spend the majority of His time with large crowds. Rather, He invested most of His time in His disciples. He knew that He was only going to be here long enough to accomplish the mission He was sent on, which was to be the substitute on the cross for the world. Jesus came to reconciled the world back to God. Soon enough, Jesus was going to ascend back into heaven. However, He also knew that the disciples He taught during His years of ministry, would be on the earth longer than He was, and therefore they would be able to have a larger impact. Therefore, Jesus taught the few with the intent of them reaching the many. The key to having a lasting, larger impact isn’t trying to primarily grow bigger. The key is obedience to Jesus by the few, which will result is a church growing bigger.
As we end 2018 in just a few days, I believe ministry leaders, churches, and Christians as a whole need to answer a question. Will we be a defroster or an oscillating fan? In trying to answer that question, I pray that I and other leaders will remember this, you can’t get good fruit from a bad tree, and rotten fruit will never produce good fruit.