Saturday, June 1, 2019

Church Growth: How can we make sure our churches are reaching new people?


Church growth: How can we make sure that our churches are growing and growing and reaching new people? Now the goal is not simply to fill up the seats for the sake of filling up seats. The goal is to win lost people to the gospel of Jesus Christ so that they can have eternal life, and not end up in eternal torment. The urgency of this mission is exceedingly high. People die every day, and they need Jesus Christ for their souls to be safe after death. So how do we do this? How do win people to Jesus Christ, and bring them into the church, where they can learn to grow into the likeness of Christ, and maintain their salvation in Christ? I see three key approaches to building the church of Christ, they are street evangelism/door to door ministry, developing intentional relationships, and holding powerful worship meetings.

First of all, we consider street evangelism and door to door ministry. The church has sometimes struggled with simply ministering to strangers. But it’s amazing the number of stories we hear about people who got saved by strangers who came up to them and talked to them about Jesus. Some churches do very little with street evangelism, and I’d put The Salvation Army high on that list. But it wasn’t always that way. The Salvation Army started out on the streets, ministering to drunks in bars, on street corners, and at open air meetings. Yet we seem to think these methods just don’t work anymore. But I really question that assumption. I’ve seen amazing churches like Metro Praise International and their ministry “Chicago for Jesus” where they are engaged in street ministry almost every day of the week! They go out to communities throughout Chicago and set up and start talking to people about Jesus. I participated in this once, and I was amazed how the Holy Spirit moved, and how people stopped and talked to us, and were willing to listen to the gospel presentation. Research shows that the churches who do evangelism the best don’t have an “evangelism ministry” instead evangelism is “baked in” to everything they do. If they have a Bible study, afterward they go out and evangelize. If they have a meeting, afterward they go out and knock on doors. They come to their building, have a short devotional, some worship music, and then they go out. And that is exactly the purpose the building is supposed to have: It’s a launching out point to the community. We’ve sometimes become inwardly focused, trying to serve all the needs of the few people who come to the church. But instead we need to adopt a new mindset: This is our staging area for going out into the community. Street evangelism can be as simple as going to a local park or busy intersection once or twice a week, and handing out tracts, Bibles, and so on, while praying with people and sharing the gospel with people. Then you point them back to your church. But really encourage them to get plugged in at any local biblical church. This can be for as short as an hour or two. This is a great way to bring new life to a dying church. And as momentum grows one could have evangelism several times a week, like Chicago for Jesus.

Second, we look at the important church growth method of developing intentional relationships. This is a tried and true method. You train the people in the church to do evangelism with their friends and family. You have “outreach events” where you set up an event to draw people into the church. Families in the church invite their friends, and hopefully they stay with the church after the event. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a great godly congregation who is really energized to bring new people into the church, then this sort of thing can be great. But if you’ve got a sleepy congregation who’s used to things staying the same, you may find that no matter how many trainings, and seminars, and sermons you preach on relational evangelism, that very little will change. That’s why I would pair this approach with street/door to door evangelism. Both should work in tandem.

Third, we consider holding powerful worship meetings. Worship meetings can become very routine over time. It seems like nothing changes at all. It’s always the exact same formula. We have a call to worship, opening prayer, three songs, tithes and offerings, scripture reading, sermon, response song, and benediction. Now I’m not knocking those elements at all. Those are good elements to have in a worship service. But what if we reimagined what a worship service/holiness meeting might look like? How could it be done differently, to bring us even closer to God, and deeper into His word? Let’s consider some possibilities. Imagine holding times of personal testimonies, or having an entire testimony service. Imagine having a prayer meeting, or an open prayer time during the service. What if after the sermon message, we invited the congregation to break up into groups, just people around them, and then let each group share some of their reflections on how God spoke to them through the message. There are a lot of great ways to develop the service. I like to use short videos that highlight something about God, or something about the book of the Bible we’re studying. I like to use a good powerpoint with plenty of pictures and bullet points. I like to encourage people to take notes on the message. I attended a church in the past that had a quiet time of personal reflection. As an introvert I greatly appreciated this quiet time. What else could we do? Be creative! How could we reimagine the worship service? You know I don’t recall anything in the Bible that says we have to use this exact formula for every service. It says that nowhere in the Bible, actually. How could we adapt the worship service format to help fully engage current generations with the presence of God, the word of God, and the transforming power of God?

Another note on this: We have to make sure our services are of a high quality. Is that biblical? Yes it is. The Psalms say play the instruments with great skill. The music should be well practiced. The transitions should be smooth. The sermon should be well planned and prepared. And the presence of God should be felt in every aspect of the service. It’s so sad for me to see someone go up and read scripture like they’re reading a homework assignment. Read it with the presence of God, read it as the amazing word of God that it is. It’s sad to me when a worship leader goes up there and just starts the song. No, no, no! Guide the people into the presence of God! Help the people to realize they are not just singing a song; they are worshipping the creator of the universe! It shouldn’t be normal or routine. We have to feel the power and majesty of what we get to do! Then our people will feel it too. That is really what brings people to church. They don’t want fancy programs, they don’t want relationships, what they really truly want is to know God, experience God, and live out an authentic, real Christianity. We have to pray for our worship service throughout the week. I’ve been to worship services where you can tell not a word of prayer was prayed before it, because the presence of God is largely missing. We need to praise in worship songs where the worship leader has prayed throughout the week and before service for God to reveal himself through it. We need to hear sermons where the pastor has strained in prayer over the message, begging God to pour out his heart to the body of Christ through them. So overall we need innovative worship services, quality worship services, and prayerful worship services. The people will come because they feel the presence of God, and sense His Spirit at work. If they come to a dead spiritless service, well they may stay a while for the relationships and fellowship, but eventually they’ll probably move on. So bring God’s presence with you to every service. Amen.

In conclusion, I really believe that if we develop strong street evangelism, train our congregations in relational evangelism, and innovate and develop our worship services to be powerful, high quality, and prayerfully practiced, then we will see church growth. We will see lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will see God at work in mighty ways. But ultimately all this must be done by God. He is the one at work. He is the one who blesses us. So probably the most important thing is that we as leaders are praying every day, studying the word, and living in personal holiness. If we’re living empty lives of debauchery and carelessness, why should God bless the work of our hands? It’s amazing how much success or failure rests in the hands of one person: The leader. Be that Godly leader, and lead wisely, and you will see God at work through your ministry. Amen.



References
Borden, P. D. (2006). Direct hit: Aiming real leaders at the mission field. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Chicago For Jesus - About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2019, from http://chicagoforjesus.net/about-us/
Platt, D. (2011). Radical together: Unleashing the people of God for the purpose of God. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.
Seven secrets of successful evangelism. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1996/02/seven-secrets-of-successful-evangelism
Southerland, J. (n.d.). Live on Mission – Evangelism Training. Retrieved May 10, 2019, from https://www.namb.net/your-church-on-mission-blog/live-on-mission-evangelism-training/
Thompson, C. (2016, June 24). Train Your Church to Evangelize. Retrieved May 10, 2019, from https://factsandtrends.net/2016/06/24/train-your-church-to-evangelize/

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