Over the last few years, we've noticed a new trend in church planting work in Europe (Italy included). Rather than evangelize the lost, the new concept is less direct, even a bit sneaky. The idea is to simply be nice, be the body of Christ, fix parks, paint schools, mow people's yards, and make people feel part of the community of believers even when they are not yet saved. By being among believers, it is assumed, eventually, they will be converted...
One underlying idea in this reasoning and practice is that people cannot be expected to come to church gatherings where they would hear the gospel. These are postmodern times, and it's true, we shouldn't expect people to come to church gatherings. Then again, the church never should expect spiritually dead people to come to church, or to Christ for that matter. This is not something unique to postmodern times. Since the church cannot expect people to come to her gatherings, the reasoning goes, we should get them to come to the churches home gatherings or community groups. There is nothing wrong with getting people to come to community groups. It is usually a less scary environment and a good way to expose people to the truth that can save them. Believers should be bringing others with them to experience the Christian community and to learn the Word of God and will of God. This is clear and good.
The point that is often overlooked, however, is that the church was never to expect any lost people to come to her. The church is called and commanded to go to the lost wherever they are, by means of evangelism, and evangelism in every and any form. Once someone is soundly converted through Biblical evangelism one does not need to tell them to come to church or to community group gatherings. Like a baby longs for its mother and her milk, so a person born of the Holy Spirit longs for the church family and the Word of God, the truth that alone sets free.
In this movement of making people feel part of the church even though they are not soundly saved, some quote Francis of Assisi, by saying, "Preach the gospel and use words only if necessary..." Two problems: 1.) it's unlikely he ever actually said this and 2.) it's simply not Biblical.
Christians are called to be witnesses. We must open our mouths, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the Gospel and help others to understand their desperate condition before a Holy God in order that they would see their need for the Savior, repent and believe.
In this movement of making people feel part of the church even though they are not soundly saved, the understanding of what a church is gets watered down. Church membership is usually pushed aside and naturally, also church discipline, because without any formal church membership one cannot establish church discipline either.
So much more can be said regarding all these things, but today we leave you with this well-stated short clip from a brother associated with 9 Marks. He treats the subject with the same concerns we have, but with a particularly helpful clarity.
Enjoy and God bless!