11 Apr, 2016 The Four Fields – Part VI (How to gather new people to your church?)
Last year a young man introduced a powerful diagramme to me. After introducing the diagramme as ‘The Four Fields’ and drawing a rectangle and dividing it into four equal rectangles drawing four fields in each, he labelled the top left box with the word ‘Go’ explaining the need for the Church to ‘Engage’ a lost world. He then labelled the top right box with the word ‘Gospel’ and explained the necessity of sowing in order to reap and he wrote the word ‘Sow’ and then drew some seeds in the soil. Then he went to the top right hand side of the bottom right hand box and wrote the word ‘Grow! He then drew a small shoot coming out of the field. He then wrote underneath the shoot the word ‘Disciple’. He went on to say, “As we go and engage a lost world (pointing to box one), seeding it with the gospel (pointing to box two), we can anticipate a return which needs to grow through discipleship.” With that he moved to the fourth box and on the top left hand corner of the box wrote the word ‘Gather’. He drew one plant coming out of the soil, followed by a second and a third. He said, “As we engage a lost world (pointing to box 1) and then as we seed it with the gospel (pointing to box 2), and as we grow those who respond to the gospel through discipleship (pointing to the box 3); we can anticipate more converts who we can then gather then in church”. With that he wrote under the gathered plants the word ‘Church’ in box 4.
Jesus made a powerful statement which should cause all church leaders to examine themselves deeply. He said “He who is not for me is against me and he who does not gathers scatters.” Matthew 12:30
According to this verse, gathering is a proof of being ‘for’ Christ. Activity, ministry, programmes, meetings and the expelling of energy to run church, without measureable end results (people gathered), is not something that Christ considers being ‘for’ him. People making decisions for Jesus, but then being scattered because they do not link in with the local church, or are not absorbed into the faith community, does not reflect Christ’s will and in fact shows the opposite.
The fourth field where God is turning up is the field of gathering. If we are not gathering, then we need to ask ourselves, ‘Are we in God’s field?’
Research in America shows that 3% of the American church is growing due to evangelism and discipleship. The others churches are either growing due to migration from one church to another, or churches are stagnant of decreasing. I believe that this is reflected in New Zealand as well. Most churches are either stagnant or shrinking whilst some are growing due to Christian migration or soul winning and discipleship.
If we are to see a reversing of this trend, we need to ensure that as churches and Christians we are engaging in all four fields, Going, Gospel, Growing and Gathering. Gathering is an art and requires our most focussed and deliberate attention.
How do we gather?
Some years ago I read a statement from Bill Hybills where he listed his eight keys to reaching others for Christ.
- Befriend a non-Christian
- Keep them from church
- Share the gospel
- Keep them from church
- Lead them to Jesus
- Keep them from church
- Disciple them in their new faith
- Only when they are ready, take them to church.
This looks something like our four fields. Point one is Field One. Point 2 is Field Two. Point 5&7 is Field Three. Point 8 is Field 4.
Sometimes we feel compelled to invite our friends to our church meetings earlier than they can cope with. Gathering in a small group is a far more effective and productive way of providing discipleship and opportunity to grow.
Gather for a season in their home going over the basics. Share life, teach the fundamentals, introduce Christian friends, baptise, model prayer and Bible reading and answer questions. When your disciples are ready to join you at the Sunday meeting, then the gathering process has reached its goal.
Addition you can count on.
For believers who will intentionally function in all four fields, there is a promise for ministry that adds to the kingdom. There are some wonderful churches active in God’s Four Fields and they are growing and proving that they are ‘for’ Jesus. Faithful leaders are becoming fruitful leaders because they are active models and promoters for their people.
When you look at the drawing you find a large plus symbol right in the middle of the page separating the four squares. This tells us that serious additional growth is promised to those who work in all four fields. We have some wonderful examples of churches in our nations enjoying healthy addition growth and presently I am collating some of their stories for those who would like to know how they have done it.
If we are not gathering, we are scattering. Jesus wants to see a growing crowd of followers. As we work in all four fields we can anticipate kingdom growth. But… there is a way to go from addition to multiplication, and next month I will share the final part of this presentation with you.