One of the reasons why so many congregations are dwindling in size is that far too many have become the disciples of the apostle Delegate without understanding his message. His mantra is “Distribute responsibilities to as many as possible in an effort to promote greater productivity and less workload on any one person.” It’s a great philosophy, but too often it has been abused by those who follow him. His teaching has been perverted such that the present mindset calls it “delegating” when actually it’s nothing short of offloading. At that point, it becomes a detriment to the work of a local church. So much is offloaded onto so few that there is no longer an effective means of success.
Jesus delegated the task of evangelizing the world to just 11 men, and the strategy was highly successful. Within 30 years an inspired apostle could speak of the task as having been accomplished (Col. 1:23). So why did delegating work so well in that case but seldom produces even modest success today? The answer may well lie in the following facts:
1.) Those 11 men understood the difference between delegating and offloading. They never stopped doing what they were appointed to do. Yet, they constantly delegated the task of evangelizing to those they brought to Christ. Those 11 were the very first to do what we often call personal work today. As personal workers, they were tireless and understood that personal work should be replicated in every place they planted a congregation. The successes of the team that Paul assembled are a model for local work and the leadership of that work today.
2.) They understood their obligation to the world. Paul said, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Rm. 1:14-15). The Greek word literally meant “to be under moral obligation to do something,” “to be a debtor.” Paul had heard the gospel and was given an opportunity to obey it (Acts 22:14-16). He was eager to evangelize because he knew he owed that same right to every man he came in contact with. Paul knew that those people’s souls were at stake. They may very well die in their sins, but they should be given an opportunity to know what to do regarding salvation. Peter also understood what was at stake. He wrote, “…what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pt. 4:17b). It isn’t a question without answer—to the church at Thessalonica, Paul revealed the doom awaiting those “who do not know God and … those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8). When every forgiven Christian of our generation feels the same moral obligation that Paul felt, the rapid growth the first-century church enjoyed will be replicated in our time.
3.) They understood the desire of the Lord. Christ Jesus wants “…all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4) and He “…is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pt. 3:9). Knowing that this is what the Lord wants and that evangelism is how He wants it accomplished, Paul also wrote, “…I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16; cf. 2 Cor. 5:11). When we think about the statement, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” (Acts 2:42), we have to realize that in that teaching was the responsibility for the newly saved to share that message (delegation); and, because they did, “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
An ingrown church doesn’t practice evangelism as a church, though it may well offload the task onto an evangelist. An ingrown church looks to its needs in nonproductive ways. It remains comfortable when assembled, and it maintains expectations in terms of its time spent in worship; but it doesn’t grow, nor can it. Let’s rise to the challenge to accept what the Lord delegated without looking for a way to offload it on another under the false flag of delegation. When we all feel that debt and know the Lord’s desire, we will see a life-changing difference!
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2016