“What will the Gospel look like if it explodes and spreads out within our community?”
By Phil Kingsley
Too often in the life of the Church, mission has become an optional extra. We think we are only here to worship, teach, and care. We struggle with consumerism - as long as our own spiritual needs are met, we are not passionate about those who haven’t heard about Jesus. Mission is something we do - through a children’s club or a programme.
Yet, it is not our mission; it is God’s mission. And God’s mission is not an optional extra. It is the reason we are here.
God doesn’t bungee us all up to heaven as soon as we come to faith. He has left us here on purpose because He wants to bring hope and “shalom” into the lives of our neighbours.
A lot of people are in survival mode. They think, “If I can hold on to my faith and pay my bills and keep my family together, what more could God expect?” And yet God called His people and said, “Through you, all the nations of the world will be blessed…” We have a life that is beyond survival. We are people with a purpose.
Here in Ireland, we are moving from a “conservative” culture to one that has a hard time figuring out what is right and wrong. Too often, people perceive that Christians are trying to call people back to a traditional set of rules. When we talk about the Bible, they think we want to turn the clock back to a way that was oppressive, unjust and unfair.
But we are meant to be good-news people, calling our friends and neighbours into the life of the Gospel. We need to be yeast, starting off small but spreading and being transformational.
There is a whole dimension of life that we still haven’t experienced in modern Ireland, even though we have a veneer of religion. Jesus has redeemed us for a new way of life. This is a way of “shalom” - bringing everything into a right relationship with God and with man.
The church needs to engage in the lives of people but also to articulate the Gospel, not by stepping back on the pedestal and lecturing people about what they ought to do, but by acknowledging that we face complex problems without easy answers. We need to share that as we’ve come to trust in Jesus and to follow Him, it changes the way we see problems and the way we see each other, and it gives us a basis for grace, forgiveness and seeking justice.
People don’t have solutions to health issues, to ISIS, to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and so on. Somehow the church needs to address these things and articulate a “third way” that is neither tradition nor secularism.
There is a growing percentage of “nones” (people who identify with no religion). If we are waiting for them to come to church, they are not coming! Many are not anti-church but they see it as kind of irrelevant. With the shrinking influence of the Gospel, they won’t to come to us. Jesus became the model of leaving comfort, power and safety, and stepping into the world.
A lot of what we are doing is still locked into the “come” model - you reach out, grab people and pull them back into the Christian tribe. When we do this kind of centralised mission, the person who comes in is the one who has to adapt. Yet God has called us to be the missionaries - the ones who adapt to the culture and contextualise the message.
Today, we need a mind shift from a “come” mentality (come to church, come to our Bible study...) to a “go” church. Churches are breaking out of their buildings. They are starting to redefine their expression of church. They are asking, “What will the Gospel look like if it explodes and spreads out within our community?”
What are the issues and the broken things in our community? What do we have in our hands to address them? How do we release people to new expressions of church beyond the cultural reach of the existing church?
More and more Irish Christians are not content simply to sit in the church. They are realising that the way we’ve gone about living as the church and the way we’ve approached mission is not adequate for the task.
So what does it mean to be people who are not just talking about good news but also modelling it and demonstrating it? The words on the box have to match what is on the inside, and if they don’t, there is a lack of credibility. We talk about kingdom transformation, about hope, love, and grace, and yet often our experience of church is very different.
Most Christians rarely or never have a conversation with someone about the Gospel. They might say, “I’m praying for you” or talk about church but most Christians don’t know what to say or who to say it to.
Those of us who are pastors and teachers have failed to envision and equip our people for mission. We need to coach and mentor people. It is the difference between having someone lecturing about your golf game or someone out with you on the green telling you to drop your shoulder or bend your arm.
Part of that is because a lot of pastors don’t know how to articulate the Gospel in a relational way. We are in a period of re-learning. I realise that the vast majority of people around me have not heard that message in a clear and compelling way, backed up by the authentic life of Jesus followers. Sharing good news is not pushy. We are not trying to “flog” this stuff. We are looking for places where God is at work.
We may be able to answer every question, but that is not the same as winning people’s hearts. My job is not to wrestle someone to the ground logically but to point them to Jesus.
Am I interceding for my neighbours? Am I living my life to bless them? Do I want the best for them? Am I saying “I don’t have all the answers” but I do know that as I’ve come to trust and believe in Jesus, I’m beginning to find sense, meaning, and purpose in my life?
Ultimately, evangelism is the work of the Holy Spirit. God’s heart for Ireland is way bigger than mine. We are the advocates. He is the one who convicts, convinces, and illuminates.
Phil Kingsley is teacher of mission in contemporary Ireland at the Irish Bible Institute. He’s been involved in church planting, evangelism, and discipleship in Ireland for 33 years. Currently, he is working with other leaders to explore what would it take to see the city of Dublin impacted with the Gospel.