Looking Outward

As a Christian begins to mature in his or her faith, he or she begins to realize that the Christian life is about more than just what we want, what we like and meeting our needs, for the Christian life is about serving God by serving others in a way that advances God’s purpose.  Clearly, this is what Jesus mode;ed to us in everything that he did on this earth.  This is what the Apostles did, and this is what we are called to do; there is no greater satisfaction in the life of any mature believer than in seeing someone give their life to Christ, and we along with the hosts of heaven rejoice every time this happens. When a large enough percentage of a congregation reaches the point where their focus is on serving rather than upon being served, a local church can begin to shift its focus to the lost and away from serving its existing members.  Of course this is not to suggest that we ignore them; not by a long shot.  In fact, when you reach this point, there will be more done to help one another than ever before, but it won’t be the focus.church_clipart_white

I mentioned when telling you about our “phase 2” that we were trying to train up people to lead our small group ministry, and this we did.  Small groups meet in the homes of members to study the Bible in a relational way.  The people in the small groups get to know one another well; they become friends while learning to apply the Bible in their lives.  When one of them is hurting, the group finds out and answers the need; the group leader becomes in essence a pastor of a manageable number of people and sees to their needs.  Often, needs are met without the larger church body even knowing about them, and it isn’t just the ministerial staff that serves these needs, it is now the people who hadn’t ever done so before… they have become disciples in the truest sense.  As a by-product, something else happens on Sunday morning; after the worship service, people hang around and visit.  When a new person comes to church, there really isn’t any great need for “greeters” because everyone has become aware of who is new, and since they have become aware of the need to reach out, they greet new people as though they were family… and nobody ever told them to do it. Why is this?  It’s simple, they’ve grown up in their faith and are looking, entirely on their own, for people to serve.

Here is a key factor in church growth that is often overlooked:  When enough members of a local church become more spiritually mature, Jesus will use them to grow the church by either bringing guests or forming relationships with the guests brought by others.  It is not the Senior Pastor’s job alone, nor is it the job of a “hired gun” or of “professionals,” it will happen when the people become disciples of Christ in fact as well as in name.

This brings us to the other side of the coin, so to speak, and that is how the worship service will be “targeted.” This is a point at which we made a critical mistake that slowed our progress down, for we targeted the wrong group.

The thought process went something like this:  Our congregation is aging, which will sound familiar to many.  We were on a course where the day would come when we would all die off and that would be that, so we need to bring in younger people, who of course would not be comfortable in such an old group…  We made 2 decisions, one was a good one and the other was not.  The good one was that we decided to target males rather than females.  The bad decision was that we would target a young demographic; 18-34 thinking that 1) this is an age group that most churches miss entirely, and 2) that we would gain  young families which are vital to long-range growth.  Before you go crazy on me, these two things were our main focus, but not to the exclusion of anyone else.

Why men?

This seems to run counter to the current culture, but then so is the Bible.  It isn’t that we didn’t want women; nothing like that! It was simply a matter of observation over a long period of time.  When a woman decides to follow Christ and her husband does not, she comes to church by herself, or with very young children.  When the children reach the age of 12 or 13, they most often stay home on Sunday with Dad.  The fact that the wife attends church and the husband does not also create problems in the home, and eventually, most of the wives quit coming… or the couple splits up.  On the other hand, when Dad decides to attend church, you get the entire family, including teenagers, and there isn’t a divide between husband and wife; everyone is better off.

The real question should be: Why don’t so many men like church?  We got some ideas about this just walking around and actually looking at the place.  Most men don’t put floral arrangements everywhere in their homes. Most men don’t choose color schemes that are light pastels.  Most men don’t look forward to a Father’s Day sermon about how worthless they are as fathers and husbands.  Most men don’t really think that every single conversation needs to be about love, feelings and warm fuzzies, but since the 1970’s churches have gone in that direction to appeal to the feminism in the culture. In the process, men began to drift away from the church in vast numbers…

When we fixed up our facilities in phase 1, we used a decidedly masculine color scheme and decor; the flowers are gone.  Activities and events shifted from nice social things to purposeful ministries that either built a culture of service or reached out to the lost directly.  We started to balance our preaching, away from 90% love and warm fuzzies, 10% everything else, to a Scriptural balance.  God’s unfailing love is mentioned frequently, but not just as an abstract concept.  Now it is direct application in context and is discussed in relevant passages that show God’s love as it really is, not just as in “let’s all feel good today.” We no longer dance on eggshells when teaching passages that relate the actual Scriptural role of men in the family. It is amazing how God will bless the church when His Word is taught with accuracy!  Our numbers of women grew.  Our numbers of whole families grew.  Our numbers of men grew. All began to serve the Lord.

Our demographic assumptions turned out to be wrong, and after 2 years or so, we had to adjust to suit the realities of the community.  After the 2010 Census we came to understand that our community was overwhelmingly older and more affluent that we had thought so we changed ou focus to 35-55. A few months later, things began to click.

In our next post, we’ll take another look at TWWADI and go through some of the adjustments made in that area.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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2 Responses to Looking Outward

  1. This is a very insightful and well written post Don. Looking forward to the next part.

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