Turf wars can be brutal –especially within ministry.
As a young minister in the Eighteenth Century, John Wesley was chided by the Anglican Church for preaching across parish lines (invading another pastor’s turf).
When approached, Wesley famously explained, “The world is my parish.” In other words, Wesley did not draw boundaries for his ministry. He saw a world full of opportunities.
Usually when we think of ministry “turf wars,” we think about boundary disputes between two churches. However, I think we should be more worried about the boundary disputes pastors place upon their own churches!
Wesley was right — the world is (your church’s) parish. I can say that confidently, because the Bible states is clearly.
In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve the task of multiplying and filling the earth (Genesis 1:28) with the people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). This was the first call to discipleship in history.
In the very same sentence, God gives Adam and Eve every resource they need to fulfill the task when he says, “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
Here we see the commission (make disciples) and the resources (subdue and have dominion).
Jesus repeated the idea when he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me” (Matthew 28:18). Commission, plus resources, equals “the world is my parish.”
So why do many pastors assume their churches have incredibly low limits? Why do some pastors laugh at the idea of their church “changing the world?” Isn’t that like laughing at Christ’s commission?
I believe many pastors struggle with an internal “turf war” in which they believe that their ministry is inferior. For many, it is because of personal limitations. Maybe they don’t have the charisma or organizational skills of another pastor down the road. Perhaps their church doesn’t have large facilities or overflowing bank accounts. Maybe they feel as though they don’t have any “go-to” leaders in their church to whom they can delegate and trust.
But all of these perceived limitations deny the power of God to provide everything they need to pursue Great Commission work. Either Christ has “all authority” or he doesn’t. And, if he does, he can and will provide exactly what his churches need exactly when they need it.
Maybe the problem is that we don’t always recognize the resources God has already. For instance, the pastor who only sees a small building might be missing the dozens of houses owned by his members in which small group Bible studies could take place. Or he may not realize that public facilities such as parks and recreation centers are a part of God’s provision for his church. Such public places are filled with sinners (like us) who need Jesus! What an opportunity to set up a children’s Bible club in the summer or men’s basketball Bible study.
Pastors, if you think that the disciples at your church have been given to you in order to build bigger buildings, you’ve got it backwards. Christ has already provided buildings (in your community) for you to make disciples. And, last time I checked, nobody is waging “turf wars” over those locations. The only person who is limiting your church may be you.
When we realize that God has already provided the resources for us to minister, public buildings become mission outposts and our congregations become missionaries. The world truly is your parish!