Twenty-seven years ago when my wife and I traveled in a U-Haul truck to the San Francisco Bay Area without a stick of furniture, we came to preach the gospel in an area where the gospel had not been preached. Going to preach the gospel is a different mentality than going to start a church. If you go to start a church, the church gets started, and you've reached your goal. Scripture doesn't present starting churches as the goal.
There are several evangelical churches in our area and I'm not sure what their goals are, but one of ours is to preach the gospel to everyone. If that is the goal of some of these other churches, some of which have bigger crowds than ours, then I would not know it by my own experience with them. In living here for twenty-seven years, our house has never been visited by someone else preaching the gospel. I have never had someone attempt to evangelize me or even hand me a gospel tract in twenty-seven years with one exception. My wife and I were in the Macy's in San Francisco, looking at some luggage, and a piece of luggage that we observed had a tract wedged onto it. We looked and it was our tract, that we printed, that someone with our church had attached to that piece of luggage (I think it was Thomas Ross).
I believe that churches are so interested in getting big, that they forget why they're here. Many of their programs are about successful church growth, meaning additions in numbers, but not in someone hearing the actual gospel. They wouldn't even encourage their church people to preach it to everyone for fear that the gospel would turn people off. I know this to be true, because I've had it said to me by many different people through the years. They would rather someone hear about their rock band than about Jesus, for instance.
As well, I know that churches do not preach a true gospel. They want their church to get bigger and they think the true gospel contradicts that goal. They have minimized or even eliminated certain attributes of Jesus Christ to make Him more palatable or acceptable to this culture. What I'm saying is that they are purposefully not preaching Christ, because they think they'll be more successful if they don't. I'm not saying that some of them would deny these aspects of Christ, but that they just leave them out, understanding that someone might learn about them later at a time when those characteristics of Jesus might be tolerated by them. God knows all this.
The population where we live is so dense that we never end in reaching to every last person with the gospel. Even if you get to a door, you're talking to one person. Five may live there. Only one is hearing at that given time. One is better than nothing, but four haven't heard the message, if you've talked to one. For this reason, you've got to keep talking to people in your area, never stopping. Even though we've been preaching the gospel here and knocked on every door in an area of about 300,000 people, and many of these multiple times, we have not preached to every single person. By the time we get back to certain areas, other people have moved in, faster than what we can get to them. People not that far away have never heard of us and they would say that no one has ever talked to them about this. No one.
As our church keeps preaching the gospel in the same area, we also want to move out further. We went up into the Sacramento area for awhile, about two or three years ago, because one of our members owned a care home up there. We decided to meet on Sundays in their care home and evangelize all around that building. I'm eyeing a particular valley around highway 24, right in the heart of the Bay Area, where I'm quite sure the gospel hasn't been preached. In three of the four towns in this strip of geography, there are no Baptist churches. The fourth town has one, a Southern Baptist church, that I can see isn't preaching the gospel to its area. We can drive to this area in ten to fifteen minutes by a reservoir and over some hills. There is a well-known Catholic college there, St. Mary's, and the average house price is over a million dollars. There are 70-80,000 people there in that valley just right around the Caldecott Tunnel. I know that Buster Posey, Stephen Curry, and others like them, live there. Will they listen there? Maybe not, but that's not the goal, remember? We've got to get there to give the opportunity to hear it. We're preparing to do that in the next few months.
The experts might say that we need a "launch" that would cost us about $300,000 to get a proper start. I mean this. I'm not being sarcastic. This is what you hear. Some of those churches that launched did get pretty big. They knew what to do. They got the right grungy stage and the proper screen and drums and worship team and communications style. They got bigger because they could attract people with that. But most people have still not heard the gospel from them, and they don't care. Our launch is going to cost us some personal sacrifice but very little extra money. We'll probably need to print up some tracts, which we will, and maybe a card to make it easier to contact us, but that's about it. If someone believes, we'll have Bible studies in that home. A new believer would welcome that, because of actual conversion, and then we could branch out from there. It will cost us money for gas to drive the twenty minutes. Maybe you could take $100,000 you would be giving to the launch, leave them $200,000, and give that third to us. I'm quite sure more people will hear the gospel our way. A lot of gas and tracts could be purchased with the $100,000 that the launch might need for the gritty faux brick decoration and the sound system.
There is something bigger than the church and that is the kingdom. People are added to the kingdom by believing the gospel. Everyone who is saved will be in the kingdom physically some day, worshiping Jesus Christ. Just because our church is self-supporting doesn't mean that the kingdom is of a suitable size. Just because I get a paycheck and earn a living doesn't mean that we can settle in and ignore the people who are in proximity for us to preach the gospel to them. Just because our church has a great choir and an orchestra and a Christian school doesn't mean that we are all set. People have yet to hear the gospel.