Reaching or Teaching Church?

Or "You Just Can't Please Everybody."

Since we're in the "Go" series right now, I've gotten a few comments through the grapevine (no names, though, and that's what I prefer) that we're just too focused on outreach and not enough on growing believers. I expect that, and I'm starting to come up with a new theory on it. My new theory is that it has a lot to do with "wiring." While it's a rare occurrence, I've even heard this from new believers (maybe once or twice). Some people just want or need more--more Bible, more teaching, more detail, more depth...just more. It's not the majority opinion by far, but it is how some people feel.

Interestingly, that's how I'm wired to a degree. Outreach is not my natural bent or gifting. When I came to Five Oaks, my whole passion and energy focused on creating effective small groups first. Most churches that are effective in outreach start with making their worship services really strong first, and then, when they're on a roll, they start thinking seriously about on-going discipleship. Even Rick Warren took years to really get their on-going discipleship process in place (four classes on the basics do not even begin to meet on-going discipleship needs). They're doing great now, but they started with gathering a crowd first. And I'm not arguing with Rick on this. I'm just saying that my bent is discipleship.

In spite of my bent, I rarely get accused of being too focused on discipleship, even though small group discipleship is likely our greatest strength. I am certainly not a highly effective evangelist. That's not being humble. That's just a fact. So I just find this interesting.

And that's why I almost fell over when a new attendee (who is now a member and leader) told me why he stayed at Five Oaks: "There are reaching churches and teaching churches. This is a teaching church. That's why I'm here." Refreshing. Interesting.

In any case, for those of you who want more info (who are wired like me), here are a few suggestions:

  • You don't need me to feed you the extras. You're already inclined in that direction, so pursue it. There are books, BSF, radio, podcasts... Actually you know this because you're already listening and reading. You don't need me to give you the more.
  • Everyone doesn't need the more to be a faithful and obedient follower of Christ.
  • Don't ignore your wiring, but don't neglect what the Bible says are the most important things because of your wiring: justice, mercy and walking humbly with God. That's always the growing edge for me. I can live happily in the world of ideas, but God pushes me out to do compassion with my hands, my time and my heart.
  • Maybe you're just a lot smarter and deeper than I am. Try not to hold it against me. (Okay, I'm being a little sarcastic on that one. In all honesty, I believe this is a theoretical possibility, but I don't really buy it as an explanation.) Seriously, though, I almost always learn something new in my message research that I try to pass on in the message (informational, applicational or inspirational). So if you're not learning, it may be that you're beyond me...or something else.

My hope is that we're a reaching (bringing lives to Christ) and teaching (bringing Christ to everyday life) church. It is a hard balance. Teaching without reaching is unholy. (Read that again.) Reaching without teaching is impossible. (Reaching, defined by Jesus, is making disciples and that can't be done without teaching.)