100 Years of Memories

Suburban Evangelism

This article by A. E. Sheppard, was first published in the End Times’ Messenger.

Rev. Cal Ellerby has added to this article as the Church Planting Catalyst for ACOP!

During the last decade, thousands of people have taken to “living in the country.” Dissatisfied with the crowded conditions of city life, families have sought out the freedom of the suburban way of life to raise their children.

At first, they felt uncertain, they would easily commute to the downtown church where they have been members since childhood, but as the traffic on weekends increased, and babies grew to school age, life became more complicated and excuses were easily found to limit their church attendance, and virtually bring participation in activities to a sudden halt.

This trend must be brought forcefully to the attention of the Church of Jesus Christ. Something MUST be done to meet the need. This suburban trend must be looked upon as a great challenge. It is an open door of evangelism.

God’s will and command has ever been, “to go everywhere preaching the word.” We are nowhere encouraged to colonize our people, and just hold our ground. We must expand. We must advance now with the message of Christ.

Eternity could well reveal that this was part of the program of God to spread the gospel into new communities. Church of God, let us take up the challenge and take to gospel to these districts, opening Sunday Schools, Bible Clubs, Gospel Services, using our suburban church members to blaze the trail of evangelism in their local neighbourhoods.

God’s will and command has ever been, “to go everywhere preaching the word.” We are nowhere encouraged to colonize our people, and just hold our ground. We must expand. We must advance now with the message of Christ.

The suburbs today will be the city tomorrow. Will these cities have strong gospel churches testifying of the grace of God, or are we going to be satisfied to let your couple with their precious children join themselves to modern churches and lose their youth from the glorious truths that we enjoy in our established assemblies of the Full Gospel.

Our churches must take serious inventory of their “enlargement program” and redeem every opportunity to open these areas for Jesus Christ.

Perhaps someone is reading this article who lives in such an unevangelized area. You see homes springing up all around, families moving in, schools being built, shopping centers erected, but no one is building a Full Gospel, Bible-preaching church.

Why not begin to pray for this need yourself. Consult your pastor in your home church, and seek to get him to see your vision and have the burden shared in the assembly prayer meeting. God will direct you from there, and lead you as to what should be done. The “field is the world” and the door is wide open. The grain is ripe already to harvest. Put ye in the sickle, for there are multitudes in the valley of decision.

“Pray ye therefore that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth labourers into His Harvest.”

—By A.E. Sheppard in The End Times’ Messenger August-September 1961

I often get asked the question, “where is the best place to plant a church?” My answer is always the same. “Step out on your front deck and have a look around and see if there isn’t somebody broken and lost in your neighborhood or your community!”

The truth is that we have been called to be salt and light in a broken and needy world. There are three fundamental realities in play today.

First, the gospel never changes. It is the power of God. Paul said it is the only thing that brings about life and change and hope in humanity. What is the intent of the gospel? It is that people’s lives would be liberated, that they would be transformed, and that they would be restored.

When it comes to planting churches, it really comes down to how do we engage the world around us with the gospel? Our focus is to help people discover a life-changing experience with Jesus and then walk with them, helping them become disciples of Jesus.

Church planting, therefore, becomes a matter of establishing disciple-making communities more than an attractional gathering as we have understood it in the past. It changes how we think about what a church might look like.

Second, though the gospel never changes the world has changed. It has changed socially, it’s changed generationally, it’s changed culturally, it’s changed ethnically, it’s changed economically, and it’s changed politically.

Our values have changed, there are just so many things in the world right now that are different even in the last ten years or so. Understanding how the church engages in those changes becomes a critical question when anticipating what a church planting movement will look like.

Third, if the gospel never changes but the world has changed the reality is that the church has to change. My conviction about what the “Newchurch” movement will look like is going to be considerably different than what we have done up to this point.

To be clear, I am not critical of the local church as we currently understand it. God is clear about not being judgmental of the local church in its many and varied forms, not attacking it, or being negative about it.

The local church model as we understand it serves a valuable role in caring for people and for supporting and nurturing people. However, when it comes to our missional engagement I think we are coming up short.

The future of church planting comes down to: what are we going to do? And how are we going to focus our efforts in reaching the lost and the broken in our world?

—Rev. Cal Ellerby, Church Planting Catalyst & Rocky Mountain Regional Director

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