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FIRST-PERSON: Don’t overlook Jerusalem


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Do you hear the cry of Jesus as He wept for Jerusalem? Do you share His passion to gather the people under His wings like a mother hen provides for her chicks? A strategy for our “Jerusalem” will always be born out of passion. When you have a passion you will develop a strategy; where there’s a will, there is a way. But devoid of passion, the best strategy is doomed to failure. We have been long on programs and strategies and short on passion.

How can we develop a passion for our Jerusalem? That should be the preeminent question on the heart and lips of every Kingdom-focused leader.

First, you must hear the heartbeat of God. God’s heartbeat is that every person from every people group would come to know Him as their rightful King. For that to happen, the people in your Jerusalem must be told the Good News of the Kingdom. I know it sounds strange, but if you want to develop a passion for the lost of Jerusalem, you must first have the larger vision for the lost of the world. The larger the vision, the greater the passion.

Jesus promised His disciples He would give them all that was necessary (the Holy Spirit) to enable them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. This challenge was not given to a denomination or a para-church organization; it was given to those early disciples who began to plant local churches through the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. Our denomination and mission structures were developed solely to assist the church in accomplishing this task. Since this challenge was too large for any one church and remains so today, it required that churches cooperate with one another for Kingdom purposes.

The Acts 1:8 Challenge is one that requires both global and local thinking at the same time. Each church is responsible for witness in all four quadrants — local, regional, national and global. Here’s the problem: We must engage all four simultaneously. If we think that we must first reach Jerusalem before we can engage any other quadrant, the results will be tragic. People in the other quadrants of responsibility will die and go to hell before we complete the Jerusalem task. Each church must have a strategic plan for involvement in each quadrant simultaneously. Don’t let this overwhelm you –- your church can and must develop partnerships for ministry in each quadrant.

REACHING OUR JERUSALEM

We must start somewhere, and therefore, we will start with Jerusalem. After all, it is our home base, and we have greater daily opportunity to reach our Jerusalem than anyone else does. How, then, do we go about advancing the Kingdom in Jerusalem?

I would suggest that you use four simple questions to assist you in developing a strategy in each quadrant.

Question 1: Who is my Jerusalem?

On the surface this question may appear so obvious and simple that you wonder why anyone would bother to ask such a question. “My Jerusalem is my community, right?” Right you are! But let’s look below the surface for a minute. What do you actually know about your community?

This single question ultimately leads to numerous related questions. Who lives there? What are they like? Why don’t they attend our church? Do they attend church anywhere? What are their needs? What do they like to do? How do we communicate with them?

As you can see, a mere demographic study of your community, while helpful, will not suffice. A demographic study can help you to know age, race and ethnic distribution in your community, and such information should be used to help the church in the development of its strategic plan to reach Jerusalem. It will help you to know opportunities for expansion and potential building and staff needs.

However, you need to get to know your community with greater intimacy than a mere demographic look will allow. Much of this can be done through observation and dialogue. Look at your community with Kingdom eyes. Look for needs that your church can meet. Look for hurts your church can heal. Each church should develop a “Jerusalem Kingdom Task Force.” If you now have an evangelism committee, you could use it in this fashion. This group of people should work with the pastor and staff to develop a strategic plan for advancing the Kingdom throughout Jerusalem. The questions above and others can be discussed in this setting. The cumulative knowledge will enable the church to know its Jerusalem. If we don’t know who we are trying to reach, we probably won’t be very effective in reaching them.

Question 2: Who are our Jerusalem partners?

This question is based on a rather simple observation. No one church will be capable of reaching all of Jerusalem. This is true no matter how small the community or how large the church. For this reason, every church must develop Kingdom partnerships. Often these partnerships will be formed with other churches with like faith and practice. Southern Baptist churches have an advantage in that we are already organized into regional associations of churches.

I occasionally hear someone say, “I don’t see what the association does for us.” I would turn the question around and ask, “What does your church do to assist other churches in your region?” We really do need to start thinking in Kingdom categories. If we didn’t care who received the credit for reaching Jerusalem, we would be a lot more effective at it. The associational structure exists to encourage churches to partner in the Kingdom task wherever and whenever possible. You may also find that you will need to work with para-church groups to fulfill your Jerusalem responsibility. For example, you may work with an existing jail ministry to help reach and care for inmates. You might work with a Bible distribution group like the Gideons to make sure Bibles are available to the people living in Jerusalem.

Your Jerusalem Kingdom Task Force can look at Kingdom-sized projects that might be better accomplished together. For example, several churches might work together to establish a crisis pregnancy center, a clothes distribution center, a homeless shelter, an Upward Basketball program, a county-wide crusade, or __________. You fill in the blank. The opportunities for Kingdom advancement are limitless when we work together.

Question 3: What are we doing now to reach Jerusalem?

I love those mall signs that have an arrow that says, “You are here!” Truth is, if you don’t know where you are, you probably won’t get to where you are trying to go. I find that many people in the local church do not understand why we are currently doing what we are doing, which accounts for apathy in attendance and resistance when anyone attempts to change the current structure.

I know that last statement might sound contradictory when I speak of both apathy and resistance in the same sentence, but they are actually allies. For example, when a church attempts to discontinue a program because it is no longer effective, you will find people coming out of the woodwork to complain about disbanding a much-needed program. Go figure! This lack of understanding also creates the problem of under-funding. This is pretty simple. People don’t give to support those things they don’t understand.

For this reason, the Jerusalem Kingdom Task Force can help to interpret why the church does what it does. For example, we should ask, “Why do we have small group Bible study?” I happen to believe the small group Bible study is an effective tool for reaching Jerusalem. However, if the teachers and members think it’s only to provide fellowship or teaching for the present members, it will never be effective for outreach. Any attempts to reorganize it or start new units will be met with rebellion. The fundamental issue is the clear understanding of the purpose of those small groups.

You should look through your whole organization with three questions in mind. Why do we do this? Is it effective in terms of our Kingdom goals? What do we need to do differently? This dialogue should produce greater understanding of your present structure which can translate into greater involvement. It may also lead naturally to the fourth and final question.

Question 4: What remains to be done?

This is where the fun really begins. When a church begins to think about future possibilities, it is poised for Kingdom advance. Passion leads to vision, and vision fuels growth. Permission must be given to think outside the box.

What you discovered as you have answered the first three questions may lead to a new and innovative ministry. It may cause you to form new partnerships. When a church begins to look to the future rather than dwell on the past, good things begin to happen.

You must adopt a mindset that celebrates both success and failure. When we try something and it fails, we have just learned something that we don’t need to repeat in the same way. Failure is often the pathway to future success. Applaud people when they attempt new ministries with a Kingdom vision.

Make sure all of your future plans are focused on expanding God’s Kingdom and not your own. If we are not careful, our egocentric thinking can disguise itself as Kingdom thinking. Since we are going to be accountable for how we used all the resources God gave us to advance His Kingdom, we must be ruthless as we ask this question. It should be asked when we start new ministries, when we build new buildings, when we hire new staff, etc. People will support with their time and money Kingdom-focused ventures. I think one of the reasons that individual giving through the local church has slumped so low is that we have failed to dream, pray and act in Kingdom-sized categories.
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Kenneth S. Hemphill is the national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis.

    About the Author

  • Kenneth S. Hemphill