Jim Petersen and Mike Shamy in their excellent book The Insider made an astute observation about our Christendom model of bringing people to our church.
Referring to people who long to reach those around them they state: If they are expected to bring those people into their particular local church, they will have to carry a double message: the good news about Christ and another about their church. That goes too far! It doesn’t matter how great our church is, our gospel is no longer pure when that’s the way we come across.
We do not need to convert people to our local church. We need to introduce them to Jesus Christ so they can become his disciples. They are his, not ours, not our cell group’s, nor our local church’s. They are always his.
So what can that look like in real life? Well, it depends. What is Jesus telling you to do with them? He is your Lord, and his Spirit can lead you to the truth. What situations is he bringing up so that you will know how to follow him? What is he speaking into your heart? But remember, these new disciples belong to him. In places like Colorado Springs or Texas or Tennessee which are still deeply impacted culturally by Christendom, they may want to go to your local church. You will know when they ask you. In a place like I live, four miles from Berkeley, CA, I can tell you almost definitively that will not happen. The vast majority of people in my area are absolutely allergic to Christendom. Anything that smells like traditional church smells like death to them. They may be extremely spiritually hungry, but they think they know all about “church” and they don’t want anything to do with it.
Why don’t you just start connecting your friends to Jesus right where they are? We do not have to put on our best dress or our suit and tie, to go off to a meeting at 11:00 every Sunday morning to know Jesus. That is at best neutral behavior. At worst it is a huge roadblock to the Kingdom of God. Nobody needs to be a “member” of some official church with a name and a place to follow Jesus. At best that is neutral behavior. At worst… What we need to do is be disciples of Jesus. And, we need to show those we introduce to Jesus how to be disciples of Jesus.
Since my calling from Jesus is to start simple fellowships of believers among those who didn’t know Jesus before; my path will probably look like Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10. Somehow Jesus will connect me with the person of peace (Luke 10:6). They, in turn, will introduce me to their friends, called the household of peace in Luke 10:5. I just introduce the whole group to Jesus and show them how to become his disciples. Where will we meet? We’ll meet wherever they want. I’ve started these groups in homes, apartments, picnic tables in a park and in restaurants. My personal preference is to let them decide and assume that Jesus is directing this. Is there any reason you can’t do that?
If you are as steeped in Christendom as I was before I started this journey, I’ll bet I can anticipate some of your concerns. How will they get good teaching? Answer: you are introducing them to Jesus, not a body of Bible information (although you’ll use the Bible). You are their guide as someone a bit farther along the path. Don’t they need the covering of a major leader? Answer: Let Jesus be their covering. You be their friend. Don’t I have to be ordained? Answer: That concept comes from history, not the Bible. If God is already using you, you have his seal of approval. What about baptism? Answer: Why not do what Phillip did with the Ethiopian eunuch. There is not a single Bible verse about baptism being done by some special elite. To insist on such a thing is to add to the Bible and create a roadblock to the flow of the gospel. What about communion? Answer: See baptism. I personally prefer do it as a meal. Do whatever the Lord tells you to do.
Jesus has set you free. You are free to follow him. Don’t allow anything to interrupt the flow of the gospel of the Kingdom and the making of disciples. Your only Guide is his Spirit. He will never tell you to do anything contrary to the Scriptures, so use the Bible to discern his voice. But don’t allow the petty legalisms of Christendom to stop the flow of the Kingdom.
- What other questions popped into your mind which could inhibit the flow of the gospel?
- Why do you think so many people today find church as we know it to be offensive? Are those people only in Berkeley or can you find them in Texas and Colorado Springs?
- Do you find the kind of freedom I’m talking about to be frightening?
- What are the barriers to the flow of the gospel in your life? How can you identify them?
 Jim Peterson and Mike Shamy, The Insider: Bringing the Kingdom of God Into Your Everyday World (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), 84.