Monday, June 26, 2006

"Reaching Those Without Christ"

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

I believe one of the reasons Southern Baptist Churches aren’t growing at a greater rate is many churches are focused on “in-reach” verses “out-reach.” Although, it is a fact that the normal Southern Baptist church’s average attendance is 30 percent of what is actually on their roll. I believe too much time is being spent on reaching the converted, instead of reaching the unsaved. Clearly this doesn’t mean that we neglect our membership, but the goal of our church should be reaching those without Christ with the Gospel.

I am talking about a paradigm shift in the way we do church. Many of our churches plan for survival. The biggest question that is ever asked is how do we keep our members coming? I believe that must change. The biggest question we should ask is how can we reach those that are without Christ. I hear preachers brag about how many people come to their church, but we all must stop being satisfied with how many people come to our church and start thinking about how many aren’t coming. For my own personal ministry I have decided to stop looking at how many are coming to our church and start looking at how many we as a church still need to reach.

Who cares if you are the pastor of a church of twenty-five thousand when you are in a city of two million lost people? You may be excited about having that many people in your church, but just think about how many people aren’t in your church. My challenge is for every church to refocus on reaching the lost. Churches that focus on reaching the saved have worship wars, building conflicts, and immature congregations. Pastors, let your people know that they aren’t the “end” of your vision, but the “means” of reaching your vision. The vision is outreach.

I believe the goal of the church isn’t to build a great attendance as much as building God’s Kingdom. Therefore, I believe the best means of reaching those without Christ is through church planting. For the sake of argument, I’m using the words “church plant” and “satellite” interchangeably. No matter what your church size, every church must have a vision to plant another church in the next year. If that isn’t your vision, your vision is too small.

I encourage you to develop your own plan, but here is mine. I am in a community of 2,200 Christ-less people. I believe to reach that many people we must start four new churches. We will organize 12 small groups that will go through a church starting discipleship program. The purpose is for every small group to become a mini-church. Then we take three of the 12 small groups and help them organize into a church. The church culture they create will be focused on a different people group than ours. Their structure will be different than ours, but we will work together to reach our community. Once they have begun, our remaining nine groups will grow back up to twelve small groups and start the process over. The new church start is to grow into 12 small groups and plant a new church work as well. If we will be faithful to the work, we will have four new church plants within five years.

I share all of this to say, your church will grow as you focus on reaching the lost by focusing on church planting. Reaching your community isn’t based on the size of your attendance, but on the size of your vision. Let’s reach those without Christ.


Blogger Scotte Hodel said...

As a layman, I'd like to hear more of the practice of what you're discussing.

David Rogers speaks on this subject somehwat in his latest blog. His colleague's experience with "knocking on doors" is consistent with our own church's experience: lots of activity, membership/attendance remain static. Similarly, "F.A.I.T.H." evangelism at our church has about 1 profession per 1000 doors. The Mormon church uses a similar approach. I sometimes wonder if the real "goal" of their program isn't so much to gain converts (which they do), but rather to condition themselves against opposition so that they remain true to their message - which, for the record, ain't our message.

Mr. Rogers proposes an alternate strategy at the individual level - "relationship building." This one seems to be more successful. It's amazing to me to hear people in church discuss how revolutionary that approach is - "you mean make FRIENDS? Wow! I never would have thought of that."

Your proposal seems to be at a larger macro-level, church planting within the community. My own church (and a sister church) were started this way nearly 40 years ago. There's still 10,000-20,000 people without a church in our community, but there have been no local church plants (that I'm aware of) sponsored by these three congregations in quite some time. Further, I've been told that the bulk of "new members" in churches in town have been "transfer growth," rather than new converts. This is largely true in terms of US citizen membership at our church; being a University community, our international sunday school has had great success in reaching non-US people with the gospel.

You've laid out an interesting strategy in the last couple of paragraphs - churches targetted at different people groups, churches that have different atmospheres! Please keep us posted on how it progresses!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea, will be eager to read the results.


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