I believe there is nothing more significant that a Christian can do than introduce a fellow human being to the message and person of Jesus.
There is no more important task for a local church than to help people discover and become faithful followers of Jesus. This is a task of truly eternal proportions.
Yet, for all of this, I am often less than enthusiastic about activities that many describe as “mission.”
Some might question such an apparently contradictory point of view, and I guess my response would be, “It all depends what you mean by mission.”
In secular terms, I would suggest that an awful lot of what we describe as mission might otherwise be called marketing.
And why not? Why shouldn’t we devise new and creative ways to “get people in”?
Surely we need to apply our imagination and creativity to communicating the Christian message in relevant and attention-grabbing ways.
Given that our “product” is so precious, should we not invest ourselves and our resources in “marketing” it?
I would affirm this perspective provided that “doing mission” does not become a substitute for being an authentic Christian community.
Like many people, I can find a fair amount of security and satisfaction from being busy. But being busy can also be a great way of avoiding being real.
Being busy on behalf of someone is very different from having a meaningful relationship with them.
Being busy for Jesus is not the same as being shaped by Jesus – and those whom Jesus called to “proclaim the good news” were those whom he first called to “follow me.”
We have all been subjected to effective marketing. We are convinced that the product is brilliant yet discover it is not quite what it was cracked up to be once we open the box.
I dare to believe that when a local church is truly functioning as it should, when local Christians are truly living as they should, they become an irresistible community. When Jesus is truly present, people can seldom keep away.
In the famous gospel story, 5,000 people turned out and were fed (John 6:1-15) not because of a brilliant marketing strategy, but because Jesus was an irresistible person.
The story does not begin “let’s organize a community fun-day” but “let’s get away on our own for a while.”
So, in our enthusiasm to avoid decline, before we rush to devise the latest plan to attract attention or entertain the masses, perhaps we need to ask whether the real solution is to be more authentic in our discipleship and community life.
This does not demand vast resources or masses of time and energy, but a commitment to a real and living walk with Jesus as we seek to embrace and embody his teachings in our individual lives and local church communities.
This is a challenge that is within the grasp of the smallest and most struggling congregation if we are prepared to make it a priority.
Phil Jump is regional minister team leader of the North Western Baptist Association in the United Kingdom and a member of the Baptists Together editorial board. A version of this article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of Baptists Together Magazine. It is used with permission.