With the church in America struggling to reach a new generation, many are beginning to wonder how to reach people for the Gospel. We are rightly asking: “What is the most effective way of reaching the lost?” We can mourn the decline of our so-called Christian culture in America, or we can look at this incredible opportunity the Lord has given us to bring the message of salvation to the lost. I’m convinced that the best evangelistic strategy today isn’t a new program, but for the church to recover authentic Gospel community in our life together.
Turning our attention to the book of Acts, we witness community on mission. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon Peter, and he preached a bold and heart wrenching sermon. On that day, three thousand souls received Christ and were baptized. These humble disciples now have the responsibility of leading the church, and Luke, the author of Acts, begins to describe to us what the church did. As we see, the church focuses on Christ. He is the foundation and the center of their fellowship. Their life together was very simplistic—there aren’t committees and bureaucracy, there aren’t music rehearsals or planning meetings. We see this minimalistic design of the church that focuses exclusively on Christ, the community of the saints, and the work of evangelism.
In order to encourage us to pursue authentic and vulnerable Christian Community in our churches, let us look to Acts 2:42-47. In this passage we see the beauty of the early church and its life together, and we discover that community and mission go hand in hand.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
When a church centers themselves on Christ and commits to one another, that community will multiply in number. The Lord’s hand powerfully rested upon the first church. As they lived life together, they grew in number, “praising God and having favor with all the people.” Luke tells us that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” True Gospel community is community on mission.
Over the last twenty to thirty years, the seeker-friendly movement convinced churches to compete with shopping malls. To reach people, churches expanded their product offerings in an American culture vying for attention. Over time, our churches began to look more like shopping malls that enticed Christian consumers to stay than simplistic and vulnerable communities centered on Christ. We could debate the actually effectiveness of the seeker-friendly model, but it’s pretty safe to say that its effectiveness dwindles. As this post-Christian age dawns, the work of apologetics and evangelism will require more than cheap marketing tricks. Lost people don’t just show up to church if you open the doors. Perhaps they used too, but not anymore. Now we need to understand that important first word of the Great Commission—“Go.” It’s going to take authentic, committed, and radical Gospel community on mission. I believe this is our great opportunity to win the lost for Christ.
Today’s generation is the most connected generation in the history of the world. Yet, in this world of smart phones and social media, people experience loneliness and isolation greater than ever. In order to have good standing in this digital age, young people feel the incredible pressure of curating their media lives to our culture’s standards. As a result, people are hungry for true community outside of the blue hue of their screens. Yet, here is what makes the Christian community so compelling: Gospel community centers on the grace of God, where sinners should gladly feel welcome to come. In addition, as lost people observe and participate in Christian community, they will see the warmth and richness of our love and commitment to one another. As they witness the Gospel on display in our life together, the message of Christ will begin to grip their hearts as we share it with them. Through the patient embrace of Christian community, sinners will find a home and come to embrace Jesus as Lord.
When Christians begin to live intentionally together with an eye for reaching their city, God brings explosive Gospel growth. If you hope to reach your city, it won’t come through some big event at your church, but by the church living in Gospel community in the city for the city.