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Veteran pastor shares passion for outreach in new book
Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Publishing Network joint release
WATERLOO, Ont. and SCOTTDALE, Pa—For almost 50 years, David Eshleman has had a passion to help churches reach out and share Christ.
He’s done it as a pastor, including serving at Capital Christian Fellowship in Washington, D.C. During his time there, from 1994-2006, the church grew from 45 people to more than 400.
Now he is sharing his passion for outreach as author of Now Go Forward: Reaching Out To Grow Your Congregation (Herald Press).
“For me, the main purpose of the church is mission—abroad and at home,” says Eshleman, a member of the Lititz (Pa.) Mennonite Church. “Our focus needs to be outwards, towards people outside the walls of our churches.”
Many Christians would agree. If that’s the case, why are so many churches in decline?
Eshleman identifies a couple of reasons. First, he says, too many Christians have adopted a “show, but don’t tell” approach to sharing faith.
“We need to help people in practical ways,” he states. “Like Jesus, we also have to use words. We have to talk about it.”
Another impediment to outreach is that many Christians see mission as something that happens far away, he says.
“We don’t have any trouble supporting mission in other countries, but we somehow think we don’t need to do mission at home,” he says. “Jesus came for the whole world, including right where we live. We need to see our next-door neighbours as people who need Jesus, too.”
Eshleman acknowledges that not everyone is comfortable speaking about their faith.
“We all have different gifts, and not everyone has the gift of proclaiming the Gospel,” he says. “We are all called to be witnesses.”
At the same time, he goes on to say, the church is sometimes slow to recognize when some people are called to be evangelists.
“We appoint and bless people to be ushers, librarians, deacons, moderators and many other important ministries in the church,” he says. “But some people are also called to evangelize. We should also be alert to those who have this gift, and appoint them to this important work.”
Then there’s the question of whether it’s still necessary to share the Gospel—the U.S., after all, is one of the most religious countries on the planet. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard about Jesus?
“Just watch the news,” says Eshleman. “Does it look to you like we are a religious nation? So many people need healing. They need to have their lives, families and marriages restored.”
What it all boils down to for Eshleman is sharing Jesus, whenever and wherever possible.
“I want to help Christians see that the main purpose of the church is to extend God’s kingdom on earth,” he says. “Mission is not a separate department of the church; it is the driving force of the church. When we leave the building, we engage the culture with the love and passion of our Lord.”
Now Go Forward can be ordered by visiting www.mpn.net/nowgoforward Eshleman is available to speak in churches on the topic of church growth; he can be reached at 717-665-0569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.