Leader to Leader, Ministry

Three Ways to Keep Your Congregation Focused on Sharing the Gospel

September 15, 2016 | Posted by Todd Jones

As a motorcycle rider, I love leaning my bike into a nice tight, banked curve. Those who don’t ride, and inexperienced riders, may not realize that riding the curves is more of a mental exercise than a technical skill. Yes, you have to know how to control the machine. However, the brain, more precisely, the eyes control the direction. The mental discipline is in looking beyond the curve, not looking into the curve. Most of the time when a biker doesn’t make the turn it is because he or she made the mistake of focusing on the turn. When you focus on the curve, your bike will begin to follow your eyes to the edge of the curve. Naturally, as your bike begins to move toward the edge of the road, you become even more fixed upon the place where you might leave the road. This focus increases the bikes desire to leave the road. The key is not to get distracted by the curve by keeping your focus on the other side of the road, beyond the curve.

That’s a long set-up to say, focus matters on the road, more important to this article, focus matters in church leadership. As I think about leadership and focus I believe the most important question is, “What is determining your focus?”

This might not seem like the most important question to ask. The logical question would be, “What is your focus?” That is a good question and a necessary question, but it is secondary to the original question. Going back to the motorcycle analogy at the beginning of the article. If asked, 100% of riders would say that their focus would be getting through the curve. Yet, there are riders who don’t make the curve. They don’t make the curve because the momentary need, navigating the curve, rather than the long-term goal, getting past the curve determined their focus.

This question is a critical question for your ministry and mission. In many congregations structure determines the focus of activity. For some congregations the focus is determined by the calendar. Sill other congregations let public opinion determine their focus.

What determines your focus? I believe that question is answered by Matthew 28:19-20. “Go make disciples.” To navigate the changes and challenges of life, we need to look through the corner to the other side. The other side of our faith journey is discipleship. I know that this passage is most often associated with evangelism, but it also encompasses ministry. Disciples are people who come to faith, continue to grow in the faith, and join the mission. Hence, Jesus said, “Baptizing and teaching them.” Our conversion occurs through the power of the water and the Word. Our growth as followers of Christ occurs as we learn God’s Word of truth.

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I’m convinced that a healthy congregation is a congregation that is focused on answering this question, “How can we reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple the found so they are equipped to live confidently in God’s grace?” Most of the determining factors above play a necessary role in our journey toward discipleship. The tension comes from our need to keep focused on the other side of the curve, discipleship, while we manage critical tasks such as structure, calendars, programs, and people. When these tasks begin to consume our attention, we’ve lost our focus.

To help the congregation keep its focus I would suggest the following:

  • End every meeting with the question: Will our decisions today help us be more focused on reaching the lost and discipling the found?
  • Evaluate your congregation’s calendar and budget asking the hard question. Are we investing time and treasure on activities that directly impact our focus of making disciples, reaching the lost and discipling the found?
  • Celebrate discipleship wins. Celebrate baptisms as God’s activity in redeeming a soul from captivity. Celebrate new members who have found their way into your faith family. Celebrate those who complete important spiritual development milestones, such as confirmation, Stephen Ministry training, or a marriage enrichment seminar. Celebrate members who share their faith with others in the community.

Todd Jones
Todd Jones is an assistant professor in the practical department of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO. He teaches a variety of core courses in the curriculum, as well as, elective courses in church planting and congregational revitalization. He assists congregations as a consultant focusing on staff development, strategic planning, and church planting. He has been married for 33 years to an amazing wife, Susan, and has two adult children.