The three strategies we covered last week are focused primarily on God, and today we look at three that are primarily focused on people. Jesus’ commands and even the Ten Commandments mirror these broad categories. Our first responsibility is always to God, but the life of the believer was never meant to be lived in solitude, isolation, or retreat.
Participation in Fellowship is essential for believers as it is often connected with worshiping and serving together and functioning as the family God intended. It presses us to think of others as more important than ourselves and is often the workshop where “iron sharpens iron.” A church’s attitude towards fellowship is usually evident within a few seconds of a person arriving at a meeting, and relationships are typically what bond a person to a particular local church, more so than the teaching, music, programs, or location. At the same time, we have to avoid being inwardly focused, which ultimately leads to death. Our goal should be to bring more people into the fellowship.
Participation in Discipleship is where the rubber meets the road for believers. Fellowship initially requires little more than showing up, but discipleship is demanding and doesn’t happen naturally. All believers are disciples of Jesus, but we should also be disciples of other believers who are further along in their walk with Christ than we are. This is often associated with age, but time does not necessarily produce spiritual maturity. Discipleship often starts with the basic teachings and practices of following Jesus, but our faith touches every aspect of our lives. The discipleship process will often include our family life, career, education, recreation, and finances, often with more than one mentor. Without intentional discipleship, a believer may never move beyond milk to the solid food of God.
Participation in Missions is how we most visibly live out the Great Commission. Missions is not limited to going somewhere else to share the Gospel, though that is certainly part of it. We are to live on mission wherever we are. The Great Commission is no less applicable in Athens, Georgia than in Vera Cruz, Mexico or Ukerewe, Tanzania. The facts are, though, that many places around the world have never heard the Gospel, while most of us have multiple copies of the Bible on our bookshelves and phones. Some of us may be called to leave the southern US and move to parts of the country or world that are in desperate need of a faithful Gospel witness. Others may be called to do so on a short-term basis. All of us should give to support these efforts and be faithful witnesses wherever we are.
These six areas of participation (Prayer, Worship, Word, Fellowship, Discipleship, Missions) are the habits of a healthy church and a healthy believer, and they form the core of our strategy. Next week, we’ll look at specific opportunities for growth in these areas. Until then, look for opportunities to participate in these strategic areas individually and in the life of OHC.