All of us who are involved in ministry - the local church - missions - or parachurch - want to make the largest difference we can for the cause of Christ and see the largest number of people changed by the gospel message.
That passion leads us to develop programs, ministries and events that will reach and impact the lives of those who participate. All good.
But, we often miss the most powerful, organic, and viral ministry strategy designed and modeled by the God of the universe - incarnational ministry.
Incarnational ministry is a lifestyle where we intentionally identify with those around us (our neighborhoods, workplaces, friends and circles of influence) in authentic relationship - sharing our lives, love, faith, time and resources just as God chose to identify with us in his incarnation.
It is not a program, it is a lifestyle. And it is viral. It requires no budget, no staff, no facilities - just the willingness of God's people to be His people to those around them. As God's love rubs off on others, it spreads to corners of our community that our churches would never touch through programs or events.
Jesus did not come with a program, he came with a life that he wanted to share with others. His challenge to his disciples was to become "fishers of men" like him. His method was to meet people where they were in relationship, love, grace, acceptance, truth, and practical help. It was life on life impact - the essence of incarnational ministry.
Helping incarnational ministry become the DNA of those in our congregations is far more powerful than all the programs we can develop - good as those are. And through incarnational ministry, a church of any size, fifty or five thousand can have an influence far beyond its size. It is powerful, organic, and viral.
And it is all too seldom an emphasis in congregations today. The Reveal study done by WillowCreek Church is a wake up call that our programmatic emphasis in the church today is not working. It is not producing disciples. It is not developing incarnational lifestyles. For all of our buildings, budgets, staffing and programming we are producing few fully devoted followers.
I believe we need to re-focus from the programmatic to the incarnational model.
What would happen this week if everyone in our congregations did one or more of the following things?
Encourage somone who needed encouragement
Prayed specifically for someone in need
Found quality time to spend with a friend, neighbor or co-worker
Shared something of their life story with authenticity
Helped fill a need in a tangible way
Life on life - viral and organic. Programs and events are great, incarnational ministry is essential and viral and powerful. Which are you putting the greatest emphasis on in your church? In your life?