That spare tire isn't such a bad thing

When I was a kid growing up, I used to hear adults complain all the time about how hard it was to keep their bodies in shape as they aged. Everyone once in awhile, one of them would look at me and my friends and say something like, "You kids have it made. While you keep growing up, all I seem to be able to do is grow out. It looks like I've got a spare tire around my waist!"  As cheesy as this statement is, it holds a lot of truth for today's churches.

Ask any pastor or church leader if expanding the kingdom of God is priority, and he or she will unequivocally say, "Yes!" Ask those same leaders what strategy they have in place to make that happen, and the answers you get probably won't be so emphatic or unified. How do we expand the kingdom of God while we are here on earth?

I realize that this is a theologically loaded question, so let me narrow the scope a bit. What can churches do today that will effectively increase their impact and influence for Jesus? Having heard variations of that question asked over the years, I have heard lots of conflicting answers:
  • We need to build another building. That's one sure way to grow.
  • More programs are what we need. People will flock to our church if we can offer them more.
  • We can go to two or three or four services to accommodate all the people we want to reach.
While none of these suggestions is inherently bad, they do miss the point. If all we do is add to what we already have, then the only direction we are going to grow is upward, not outward. In other words, we will limit our reach to those who need to hear the gospel in favor of strengthening our base so that they have to come to us. I'm pretty sure that's not how Jesus intended it to be. Churches need to be more like the old guy who keeps having to buy size larger pants - continuing to grow outward.

Kings of old did not expand their territory simply by building bigger castles. They went out to conquer and acquire land. When Jesus gave His disciples - and us - the Great Commission charge in Matthew 28:19-20, His words were ones of expectation. "Go therefore" is better translated "as you are going," spoken with the assumption that we advance the kingdom not by building upward but rather by focusing outward.

If you want to be part of advancing the kingdom of God, make sure you spend less time building castles and more time beginning new villages and communities.

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