Hope Church Las Vegas Founding Pastor Vance Pitman reminded during an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan that Christians have the mission to "engage" people "with the Gospel" wherever they may be in the world.
"The size of the church does not determine its significance. The size of the mission determines its significance--and the mission is big. Whether your church runs 10 or 10,000, both have the responsibility for the same mission, which is to locally engage their city with the Gospel and globally engage people and nations with the Gospel," Pitman said.
Pitman, also an inspirational speaker and the incoming Send Network President, pointed out the need for a change in mindset among Christians and churches that contributing to the kingdom of God is not a matter of size and of one's capacity or resources.
He revealed that this mindset is basically affected by the phrase "living 'for' Christ," that focuses on one's capacity, know-how--on the self. Rather, he stressed, one should live with the mindset of "allowing Christ to live 'through' you," which means a total surrender of oneself as to how the Holy Spirit intends to move in one's life for the service of God.
"Evangelism and missions is not the highest realm of spiritual service. It's simply the overflow of Christ in us living His life through us. So if I'm not engaged in missions and evangelism, it's really not a missions and evangelism issue. It's an issue of Christ-likeness in my life being fleshed out," Pitman explained.
"(The first followers of Jesus) didn't have influence. They didn't have resources. They didn't have money. They didn't have education. They didn't have societal prestige. They had none of that. But what they did have is Christ in them and the empowering of the Holy Spirit manifesting the life of Christ through them--and so every one of them embraced the mission personally. Every one of them embraced (the command) that 'you will be my witnesses,'" he added.
Pitman then cited his own experience of founding a Southern Baptist church in Las Vegas, where the majority of the population were non-Christians (95%) when he arrived there in 2001. Add to that that the majority were even non-religious (60%) at that time. It was a tough challenge that meant sending "out mailers all day long and nobody was looking to go to church."
Pitman started his team in his living room with 18 adults who helped him pray over the phonebook of Las Vegas residents coupled with "pray-walking 50,000 households." He also had to comb through the Bible to find a fit scripture on a discipleship strategy that fits the need to harvesting people, from which he was able to concoct, "abide, connect, and share."
Accordingly, this meant establishing "genuine relationships" with those in the community that bore fruit through 13 families who became the "Little League" of his initial efforts. Two decades after, Hope Church now has 4,000 members belonging to 50 language groups that has given birth to at least 75 churches.
"We're not a holy huddle in the midst of a dying world. We're an army that's been sent out to accomplish a mission that is so much bigger than us. The reality is, God's alive and at work in the world and he's invited us to get in on it with Him," Pitman said.