Whenever I have an opportunity to preach for one of our churches, I try to communicate how our area is changing. It’s impossible to deny. The Bible Belt culture many of us grew up with, where one could be assured that his neighbors at least knew the basics of the Gospel and respected Biblical values, is passing away. In its place is a mostly secular culture in which Christian values are not only rejected, but are set apart as inappropriate and unwelcome.

I share this to awaken Christians to the missional task before us. No longer can churches conduct business as usual. While every Baptist church I know seeks to reach unbelievers, most are set up to reach people who have some sort of Baptist or Christian background. These are people who like what we like, who may have departed the faith, but are now coming home. And we ought to reach such people.

But increasingly our mission field is comprised of persons who have no real knowledge of the Gospel, or if they do they live in outright rejection of it. And these people will tell you that they are not seeking anything we claim to offer.

Something must change if we are to reach these people! But what?

It’s not necessarily what you might think. I believe it has less to do with musical type, preaching style, Sunday School vs. small groups, or any of the countless other topics argued at preachers’ meetings. The change required, I believe, is much more internal.

I believe we need to change from attractional ministry to an incarnational one. Attractional evangelism is what we do when we plan events like revivals and block parties, then invite unbelievers to these events. Or we plan our services so that they might appeal more to unbelievers.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I still advocate these events. But honestly, they do not draw those who have no bent toward the gospel.

I often wonder how different our communities would be if we simplified our schedules and made room for our best and finest witnesses to be out in the community, involved in the school’s PTO groups, coaching Little League, and in other ways befriending unbelievers. Simply living an honest Christian lifestyle among them, all the while seeking opportunities to inquire about faith. It’s something to consider, especially as the “tried and true” methods of yesterday draw fewer people in.

I also believe we need to change our understanding of the church. We need to shift from thinking about the church as the place where we serve Christ to thinking of it as the body through which we are equipped. The community and world around it are our mission fields. While many serve in the church, the church is like our “boot camp,” where the body of Christ is developed into an army through which Christ’s kingdom advances.

There is more I will write about these things in coming months. For now, let me encourage you to consider your own place in God’s kingdom work. There are definitely absolutes we cannot change, such as our commitment to Christ, His Gospel, and the inerrant scripture through which we know Him. But as our community becomes less defined by Christian values, we must change how we engage it.

I’ve given you my “two-cents.” Will you make change?

Bro. Jim