In a recent conversation a minister asked a couple questions of concern about his church. His questions could have been asked by many church ministers and members across our nation. Actually, I have had similar conversations with other pastors and church leaders. The basis of these questions revolve around, “Why is our church not growing?” While this and similar questions occupy the thoughts of many pastors, I was pleased this minister friend was seeking answers and not afraid to ask.
Our church continues to provide opportunities for the community, Easter and Christmas events, harvest festivals…How does a church make these a ministry and not just a handout? We’re giving away these services and fun times, including food. Most of the time we are asking guests for their name and address but, as far as I know, no follow up is done except to send them a flyer the next time we have a free event coming up.
Follow up is a key to any event or attraction of people to a church. They cannot know the depth of caring unless you demonstrate that depth. In the church world we have bought into the idea that we are showing depth of compassion by hosting these types of events and ministries. How shallow our thoughts when we do this. In essence are we not merely trying to lure them in with a baited hook? Unfortunately, in too many instances this is the truth being played out through today’s churches and we think by hosting these community events we are fulfilling the Great Commission.
I have heard it said more than once that you cannot visit in people’s homes any longer. I find this to be one of the biggest untruths of our day. Serving in KY, OH, GA, CA and working with churches in other states, I have never been kicked out of a home or off a porch when visiting for God. I do go in prayed up and with a proper loving attitude, never with a preconceived idea of the length or specific depth of conversation. My aim is always to share God’s love and my appreciation for the face to face meeting. If this is as far as the visit goes, then I have been obedient in attempting to share His love beyond an event. I always pray for an open door and opportunity to enter into a conversation about Christ as God wills. When this happens I praise Him for the bonus blessing.
Too many times when follow up visits are made, I’m afraid we go in with a wrong attitude or air about why we are there and lose the opportunity to share God’s love allowing Him to work through us in the situation. Whether we verbally express it or not, different agenda comes through to the prospect. I believe when we do not conduct appropriate follow up visits, we do an injustice to God and send a message of the lack of depth of our care and compassion for lost souls headed for an eternity in Hell.
These events can be fun and we get a good turn out from the community but it doesn’t seem to be doing the church any good except for, perhaps, warm fuzzy feelings that we are reaching out into the community. We are building a good reputation in the community for the church but thus far it hasn’t encouraged anyone to visit us for worship. Other churches are doing them, even some government programs do the same.
I’m beginning to feel that the community is merely receiving these as another form of welfare or as entitlements that the church is obligated. I think these have become so common place that they have ceased to show the community that the church cares for them. Thus no longer engendering a desire to become a part of the church.
(Notice the pastor is coming close to answering his own question) Perhaps you are correct. If so what are you willing to do for a different outcome? God has called your church to reach the surrounding community. At some point in history a group of people believed God was leading them to reach the people of that particular area, and I do not believe God’s plan was to reach the community for only a certain number of years. There are still people in the community who need Christ. Therefore, there is still work to be done.
How will your church be intentional about embracing the community? If the community has changed, what changes are required of your church to reach the new face of the community? There are successful churches doing exactly what you know you need to do, be intentional and make the adjustments. Throughout the last 2000 years the church has modified its methods to share the good news and the love of God to the changing cultures surrounding the church. Today is no different. God has placed you, (each person) in the church body where you find yourself today, for a reason. This is your watch. How will you be intentional and lead your fellow believers to be intentional about sharing the love of God and reaching the community where God has placed you?