You Can't Program the Gospel

When Kaleo Church first started, there were a number of things we wanted to do because other churches were doing it.  One example is a Film & Theology night.  We desperately wanted our people to see culture through the lens of the gospel, but it never really took off unless David or I were there.  (Years later, a group started organically in our church and has been doing this as a weekly event.)  This and other events led me to think about how churches should start ministries & programs.  Here is a thought I'd throw out there:

If church leadership creates a program and tells people they should attend, it is not the gospel.

This goes for prayer nights all the way to film & theology.  There are two reasons:

1. The gospel say, "You are already approved and accepted", legalism says "this is what you need to do to be a good Christian".  Church leadership should facilitate natural outflows of the gospel.  Let's look at an example with prayer.  People, as they understand the gospel will want to pray together.  They will see their desperation for God to show up in order to reach the city, change hearts and everything else involved in being the people of God.  Churches should facilitate the process to ensure they are able to pray as a community.  At our church this has led to once a month prayer and fasting nights, prayer prior to service and a Monday night prayer night in addition to prayer being vital at all meetings and home groups.  If this is not happening naturally, church leadership should ensure that people are being taught the gospel as it relates to prayer and the Biblical call to prayer.  

2. The second reason (which is far less important) is that program driven churches lead from the center.  Church leaders should equip others, rather than being a pastor which will create a centrally lead church (see: Leading a Transformational Community).  In the long run, programs led from the center will hamper mission, create a precedent of non-missional people who rely on the pastors to do the 'real work' of the ministry.  At our church we've learned the hard way, when leaders have great ministry ideas for the church to do these 'programs' usually don't seem to survive in the long run.  Yet, when the people who are passionate about a cause are equiped, encouraged and supported, they are able to be released to do the work of the ministry in powerful ways.  These gospel or missional pacesetters help others see that everyone is able to be on mission and seek to advance the Kingdom. 

  • Bryan Zug

    June 13, 2007, 2:49 pm

    money post amigo, money post.

  • Mark

    June 13, 2007, 7:55 pm

    Great Post!!! I completely agree with what you said, I was wondering if you could help me out a little.

    I’m a new pastor of an established church that has, in the past, had no strategic evangelism taking place, it has not been emphasized by pastors or any other leaders. The people believe it to be important, but have no idea how to get started.

    How would you advise someone in my position in this area? For people who have never really done “evangelism”, simply had it done for them by the professionals, what would your approach be?

    Or, really anyone reading this, I’d love to get some advice here. Thanks for your time!

  • D. Goodmanson

    June 13, 2007, 8:36 pm

    Mark – Good question. This is something that we have been thinking through as we seek to continue to grow as a missional church. Here are a couple of thoughts we’ve had:

    1. Evangelism isn’t a logical/propositional process. A lot of times we can get stuck in a ‘this would be a good rebuttal to their comment’ mentality. It should simply be a flowing out of what we are passionate about. One of the elders at Kaleo was talking about this and it was a good reminder. If we love a movie, an album or tv show we simply speak about what we are interested in. If we (or our people) aren’t interested in the gospel, they won’t talk about it. This is where unpacking the gospel as more than the A-to-Z’s of Christianity is vital. As people are radically changed, they will speak about it.

    2. Too often pastors/leaders are asking our congregation to do the work of evangelism but are not doing it themselves. You can teach evangelism all you want, but you have to recognize you are creating disciples. If you speak up evangelism but can’t say, “follow me as I live missionally” you only end up showing the people that evangelism is for second-tier Christians. The really important people (like pastors and other leaders) only teach and preach. This creates a bad precedent in the church. You should model what this looks like and bring people along so they can see it.

    3. People need to understand story. God’ redemptive story, their story and how to engage in story. I preached a bit on this a week ago:

    Hope this helps….

  • archshrk

    June 14, 2007, 11:20 am

    I’m really glad to read this. Looking back I see how true it’s been and it encourages me to know that not only do we have passionate people in our church but that leadership supports them.

  • Jacob Vanhorn

    June 18, 2007, 8:03 am


    This is an area that I have done a lot of thinking on myself, and I love the direction that Kaleo is going on this. I also would like to see ministry come through the members. So consider this from a fellow leader asking the similar questions.

    Your initial quote ‘may’ be too specific. After reading your reasons for the quote, I re-read it with certain accents. Please tell me if the accents I am reading are as you intended as I may be wrong.

    ‚ÄúIf church leadership (staff/elders) creates a program and tells people they ‘should’ attend, it is not the gospel.‚Äù

    The ‚Äòshould’ attend emphasis:
    I think the question I have is found in point #1 where attendance at the program is equated with ‘come to this if you want to be a good Christian’. Can this concern be diminished in how we present the opportunity/event? ‚ÄúFolks, we recognize that developing consistent study habits for the renewing of our minds can be challenging on your own. Things that are difficult on your own, can be encouraged and enriched through community. For those of you who would like to attend, there are several study groups starting in the area.‚Äù

    For me, it might be too all-encompassing to keep the quote as initially written. I could foresee there being a program that we wanted to start from a leadership perspective where attendance is not compulsory and where it either didn’t require long-term survivability or where it was mission critical. Also, maybe a pastor/staff member wants to model starting a program that God has laid on their heart. Some things we start because it is good for the church. Some things we are compelled individually to start just as a lay member might be. I think the quote is in the right direction and could be a great internal guiding question for staff.

    Below are a few more random thoughts:

    Potential Lay Leaders
    I have found that many lay-people in the church (especially those who are already churched) are unsure of how to approach leadership with a new idea. We would need to make open invitations and clear lanes for starting up a new program/event/ministry. They also often lack confidence in their ideas so we would need to encourage them and extend grace when they present their ideas.

    Ideas I Have Kicked Around
    1. We have 3000+ in attendance with various giftings and areas of ministry. Sometimes I think the best thing we could do to serve them would be to have a special Sunday service where we say, “Anyone who loves Business as Missions go to Room 103. Anyone who loves feeding the homeless go to Room 104. Etc….” Once there, I would have them all mingle for a while and then sit down in small groups with some guided questions: Why did you come to this room? What has God laid on your heart? What are some next steps? How can I pray for you? We could then collect this info, identify a lay-leader and let him/her assemble a leadership team.
    2. Using the local missions ministry to help members succeed rather than starting programs. Let’s say Suzy has an idea for feeding the homeless. She has a great heart but no way to get it started. I think a mentor (maybe a pastor or business leader depending on the ministry) could then lead them through the process of creating a event/program/ministry that is set up for success. Maybe a written tool that helps to train/assess with personal follow-up. It would have to be stressed that this is a process that seeks to encourage them and help them succeed, not to be a bottleneck.

    Thanks Drew again for a great question and great direction.

  • Mike

    September 23, 2008, 10:33 am

    I know this is old, but I just came across it. This is great read! I think you are onto something. I look forward to looking through your blog.

    I responded with my own thoughts today.

  • Ed Soto

    September 24, 2008, 11:59 am

    Good to see you over here, Mike.

    My only comment is to say, God bless you leaders who assist congregants to fulfill their God-given visions. My experience has been that leaders either say “yes” but bail out should the new idea create any waves, or say “no” because they would rather you sign onto their agenda.

    God builds his kingdom with living stones, not bricks.