Here at the Summit, we have an audacious goal of planting 1,000 churches by 2050. (By God’s grace, we have already planted 298!) One of the most bittersweet realities of planting churches is sending out your best leaders. One of the greatest benefits is getting to learn from them along the way. So we decided to ask some of our Summit Network pastors to give back a little share some of what God has taught them.
Every Monday throughout the summer, check in here for a dash of wit and wisdom from some of our Summit Network church planters. To find out more about how the Summit Network equips leaders to plant, grow and multiply gospel-centered churches, visit thesummitnetwork.com. Next up: Louis Tamburro!
–Chris Pappalardo, Editor
We’re living in a post-Christian United States with tens of millions of un-churched people, de-churched people, and nones as our neighbors. This shouldn’t shock us anymore, but for many of us, it still does. We are surprised to see gospel indifference and biblical illiteracy all around us. We are appalled at legal rulings that violate our deeply held beliefs.
We sense that Christianity is being pushed to the societal margins.
I’ve heard enough arguments about whether Christianity is being pushed to the margins. From my perspective, that’s an established fact. The bigger question is, What are we Christians going to do about it?
Will we grumble about our marginalization as cantankerous Christians, or will we take the gospel outside the margins as gentle aggressors?
That phrase, “gentle aggressors,” is one I get from 1 Peter 3:15, which states, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV, emphasis added).
I’ve often heard this passage applied in ways that imply we are to wait for people to come to us. But that would be against Jesus’ command for us to go! Jesus commands us to go and make disciples, not to sit and wait for potential disciples to come to us. The Great Commission transformed the disciples’ posture from inward to outward, from waiting to going. It was a commission to become, in a sense, aggressors.
Jesus commands us to go and make disciples, not to sit and wait for potential disciples to come to us.
But it’s important to note how we’re supposed to take this aggressive stance. We aren’t crusaders attacking our enemies. We are ambassadors holding out a message of hope and life. This is why Peter says we need to do this “with gentleness and respect.”
In other words, as we engage our post-Christian culture, it’s not just about what we do; it’s also about how we do it. We can say all the right things, but if our posture and tone are wrong—if we aren’t marked by gentleness and respect—we aren’t walking in the way of Christ.
Practically speaking, here are three principles to help you live as a gentle aggressor:
1. Move from the margins to the marketplaces.
In a post-Christian culture, people care less and less about how flawless our programs are. They aren’t coming to our churches because they’ve heard about your music or your killer preaching or the edgy new sermon series you’ve titled “Bad Women of the Bible.” This isn’t “Field of Dreams.” We can’t assume that if we build it, the people will come. They aren’t. And if we continue as we are, they won’t.
The weekend worship service is pivotal, and we will never forsake it. But we need to realize that most of the people who need Jesus don’t want to, intend to, or plan to come to our churches. That’s OK. Jesus didn’t say, “Sit tight and see who wanders in.” He said, “Go.” We need to equip people to take the gospel from the margins to the marketplaces.
2. Love the few, so we can love the many.
One of our codes at my church is, “Love the few, so we can love the many.” We want to love a few people in our city so well, that they can’t ignore the love of Jesus for their lives. So we tell our church to do what you love to do, do it somewhere strategic, and do it in a strategic way.
For example, I love football. My boys play football. So I’m the head coach of both of their teams. I’m doing what I love to do, doing it somewhere strategic in my city, and doing it in a strategic way by being the head coach, giving me relationships with more families. Because of this, three other coaches are now attending our church. I just bought one guy his first Bible ever, and another shared his faith with a homeless guy on the streets just a couple weeks ago. Who knows what God will do with their faithfulness? Who knows which few they will choose to love, and how God will multiply it?
3. Instead of complaining, keep scattering.
We can complain all we want about our post-Christian culture, but that doesn’t help spread the gospel. A farmer yelling at his crops to grow won’t make the crops grow. He has to keep scattering and watering seeds. If we want to see the gospel spread, we need to keep scattering and watering gospel seeds. Most of the seeds you scatter won’t take root. But many will. Are those many worth the effort, the heartache, the difficulty?
Our culture may be post-Christian, but that’s no reason for us to flinch. Instead, it’s time for us to put our mouthpiece in, bite down, and be gentle aggressors. After all, didn’t Jesus live as a gentle aggressor for you?
Louis Tamburro was an atheist in college, which has equipped him to uniquely communicate the gospel to both the churched and unchurched. He has a Masters In Divinity, a Masters In Pastoral Counseling, and is currently pastoring a new church start in Orlando, FL called City Awakening Church.