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3 ways great churches focus on action

| by Brian Thorstad

“Words! Words! I get words all day through; First from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?”  –Eliza Doolittle singing “Show Me” in Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s “My Fair Lady”

It sounds simplistic, but I believe it’s true. Mediocre churches focus on words; great churches focus on actions. Here’s what I mean: 

1. Mediocre churches focus on Biblical words; great churches focus on Biblical actions.  Churches that go deep in teaching and studying the Bible are always popular. The Bible is a fascinating book. We can never learn it all, and we can never teach it all. I would love it if teaching the Bible in great depth without much application profoundly changed peoples lives, but it doesn’t.  

The Biblical philosophy of education holds that we’ve learned a Bible truth when we’re doing it, and not before. Jesus didn’t tell us to teach his followers everything He commanded; He told us (Matthew 28:20) to teach his followers to obey everything He commanded. It’s better to teach less content with more application than more content with less application because our hearers are not learning or growing unless they respond with obedience. 

Since there’s so much to learn, the companion temptation is to spend all week “in church” learning the Bible. Far better to spend a couple of hours a week learning it and the rest of week prayerfully seeking to live the lifewe’ve been learning about. 

“Too much talk and not enough action. Do you know anybody getting’ satisfaction?” —Mark Lindsay, of Paul Revere and the Raiders

2. Mediocre churches talk about evangelism; great churches practice evangelism.  Evangelism doesn’t have to be complicated. Jesus frequently healed people and then sent them away saying “Go home and tell your family what God has done for you.” Pretty simple evangelism training, wasn’t it?

Living in the twenty-first century hasn’t changed this. My new neighbors are nice people. When I met them I wanted them to meet my wife, for I knew they’d like each other. I also wanted them to meet Jesus for I knew that they’d like each other too. I’m looking for the chance to tell them about our best friend. It’s really that simple, isn’t it?

Perhaps instead of four hours of evangelism training, we should provide an hour, then set aside the next week’s hour for talking and praying about our week’s worth of practicing what we learned. The third session could be additional teaching, focusing on the questions raised by the previous week’s successes and failures.

 “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”  —Jesus in John 16:24

3. Mediocre churches talk about prayer; great churches practice prayer.  Rightly understood, prayer is an incredible opportunity and one of the most powerful ministries which we can engage in. One of the great things about it is that it takes no special giftedness or training. The simplest believer in Jesus can pray with power.

When Jesus’ followers asked him to show them how to pray he didn’t sign them up for a two-semester course. He gave them a 52-word (Matthew 6 in the New International Version) model prayer and then let them watch him.  

“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”  —James 2:18b

Talk, of course, is cheap. It’s the easiest thing in the world to revert to being a “too much talk and not enough action” church. But the joy, the blessing, the results come when we force ourselves to move beyond mere talk to real, Christian action.

Photo source: istock

Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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