What can you do to get your church more established?
The question looms, as churches are slowly beginning to understand that Willow Creek is everything about Junior High School and NOTHING about the word of God, and that there appears to be an agenda behind the Purpose Driven model – namely, the filling of the church with unSaved people, so that the other unsaved people won’t feel so guilty. Alas, they’re all in for a rude shock two seconds after they die…
So, how to you revitalize a dying church? Or one that has gone through a painful split? Or worse, one that has absolutely no idea it is faltering, and slowly heading down the path to death?
Okay, forget changing the church’s message. Preach the gospel. Don’t be afraid to say words like “sin” and “judgment” and “hell”. Don’t try to turn the church into a disco or a nightclub. forget Purpose Driven, be Gospel Driven. Forget willow creek, just learn to share your faith, disciple one another, and get the name of your church out there.
First and foremost, a commitment to the Bible. The congregation and the Pastor, the Deacons and the Sunday School teachers all need a commitment to the Bible.
- Read it. Make a 12 week goal for the church. explain that if everyone tries their best to keep up on it, it’s going to have a DRASTIC effect on the church. Print up and distribute a 12 week reading plan. Pray about it as a church that everyone try to keep up with it. I’d recommending calling from a fast from TV during that 12 weeks. Tell people if they’re worried about missing some show SO MUCH, they could try DVR’ing it. Or record it to DVD and watch it later. The Bible needs to be read as a family. Remind everyone the entire Bible can be read aloud in 72 consecutive hours so this seems like a lot, but it’s not. The entire idea is to get as MUCH BIBLE AS POSSIBLE into the church.
- preach it. Consider for six months trying, if not Expository preaching, try at least taking half a chapter and preaching through that. The idea is to TEACH the congregation the Bible. topical preaching is nice, but Expository preaching has the bonus of teaching every single topic that the Bible addresses. Or perhaps pick a verse or two to preach on this week, then perhaps a verse or two next week. Then if you feel you must move on, move on. The idea is to PREACH THE BIBLE.
- Commit to it. No more saying “this is what this verse means to me” – rather, a commitment to “This is what the Bible says… if this is what the Bible says, this is what God wants.” It requires a dedication to “the Bible says it, I believe it, and I’m going to change myself to suit God”.
A Commitment to discipling is next. Every Christian should be growing. One theme I have harped on in sermons is that NOBODY is unimportant – God has plans for EVERYONE. Every member in a Baptist church is there for a reason, and has some ministry call on their life – even if its just cleaning! Or welcoming people! Or, outreach to the poor! Or outreach to the community! I guarantee that sitting in the pews of your church is a home bible study leader that just hasn’t recognized it! Train them up, let them go! Quit being a one man show and a dictatorship, and let the congregation do what the Lord has called on them to do!
the next issue is a commitment to Evangelizing. Forget little dramas, dance routines, skits, jokes, and rock bands pumping out loud music at 9 am Sunday Morning. If you want to fill your church, you’re gonna have to share the Gospel.
- Classes on sharing your faith: This is a must, as most people have NO idea how to share your faith (it’s actually really easy… keep it to “I” was lost, “I” was headed to hell, “I” needed a saviour, “I” realized only Christ could help me…). Problem: nobody wants to share their faith. Solution – mention it as one of your sermon points every week. Repetition of a teaching point slowly gets it into the most stubborn brain. The Pastor needs to emphasize that the Great Commission is not optional every sermon. The statistic of how many people die and go to hell every hour needs to be emphasized. A teaching on what people will go through while in Hell might help.
- a program to teach apologetics in the church. This one tends to interest the one or two Bible nerds. It also needs to be pushed by the Pastor. Emphasis on the attack methods used by cults, atheists and false religions should quickly drive home the need for this kind of training.
- Family movie night – the commitment to showing Christian movies, or Christian based movies. If it has a Gospel message, then it should be used as an outreach method. Fireproof, etc.
- Pizza night. I’d recommend some kind of inventiveness to think of a way to have weekly community outreach. Pizza night (or whatever) can be an outreach opportunity, a chance to hear the Gospel.
- Home Bible studies. Why should the Jehovah’s Witnesses be the only ones to be successful at this?
Finally, a Commitment to the community. Perhaps a once a year cleanup of some public property. Perhaps a car wash. A garage sale. Or better yet, a garage giveaway. A soup kitchen is a requirement for churches today. I know of one church that used to have a successful “feed the homeless” campaign. It spread throughout the community, other churches falling on board with the idea, everyone setting up a schedule so that the burden was easily distributed among seven churches of like faith and practice. And then… the church shut it down because it was a success!!!
That made no sense to me. none. Feeding the poor and homeless is not an option. You have absolutely no choice. The Bible speaks about almsgiving. Done Deal.
Next, I spoke about this at the beginning of this blog, in one of the first posts. A Cancer group for Christians. I strongly recommend that the congregation be tasked with, “Make it happen.” It is completely up to them. But I, as a pastor, would contact the local Oncology clinic and make arrangements to be available for Pastoral counseling for the recently diagnosed. You can be an atheist easily at 24, and in good health. Let’s see how that overconfidence holds true when the doctor gives it to you straight – you’re not going to see 25. A Pastor should be available to help in that moment. “Yeah, but they don’t go to my church.” And did Jesus Christ ask the father of the little girl that died if he followed Jesus? No, the Lord went to help, and also spent the time talking about the father’s eternal destiny as well.
35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. 37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. 38 And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. 39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. 41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat. Mark 5:35-43 (KJV)
So, why should we do any different? Now, the cancer diagnosis is not usually that bad – but when you hear the “C” words, the reality of death sinks in, no matter what the age.
In addition, one should understand that chemotherapy can leave one feeling weak and very sick. And the recovery time from surgery can vary for individuals. Members of the church can assist with that – go grocery shopping for the person. Make meals. clean their house. Every last little thing you do is an investment that will never be forgotten. And if you let the Oncology clinic know your church has a program set up (and make sure you leave them a stack of business cards!), trust me – they’ll give the info out and let the patient make that call. You may get nothing, but you may get everything.
Pastors should also contact the local courthouse and find out how to get their church on the community service list. People ask every day if they can lessen their fine or sentence by community service – why should your church be left out? Remember, this is an outreach opportunity. Someone made poor decisions, and now is looking for a way to improve your life. Any decision requiring your own efforts usually fails. Any decision that requires relying on God does much better.
Now, a lot of first year pastors are going to panic reading this list, and assume this means 170 hour weeks. Not really – but be prepared to disciple. Train up others! This is not a one man show! The Lord set up a system for us to disciple one another. Train someone year one, and turn them loose with oversight the next 6 months… then trust them to do the job right.
A church model railroad club is also a good idea – you’ll bring in the rail fans to your church to operate and help construct the layout – but they’ll also be more likely to join and get involved. One of the legends in model railroading is a deacon in his Baptist church (George Sellios). You better believe that the members of the club he belongs to will be checking out his church!
Church garage sales and giveaways should be considered annually.
Finally, lessons in singing, guitar playing, etc should be considered as well. Make sure that the instructors attend the church, and let the kids know, “hey, remember – this is a church – we can’t have Metallica here. Unless they’re repenting and want to be saved. Please keep the music Christ honoring and Godly.” These programs should be discussed at church meetings, and make sure that everyone approves. If it’s something someone at the church has a problem with, then no. The idea is to keep people coming into to the church. And trust me, the church piano player is probably giving mini-music lessons anyway – why not let her make some money at the same time?
This is just me brainstorming for a few minutes, and its amazing how many ideas I had. All these ideas should be run past the members of the church in open meetings, and see what the reception is. For example, I personally have no problems with the idea of teaching martial arts, if you strip away the Buddhist trappings and put in place a Christian environment- After all, a punch is a punch, a kick is a kick, and it’s amazing how absolutely DANGEROUS society has become in the last 20 years.
It’s amazing to me how many people have no problem with wrestling or boxing, but if the class puts on white pajamas, suddenly there’s issues! “they bow to one another!!!” Yes, well, there’s bowing in the Bible too. Take out the meditation and all the references to the mythical “Ki” and you’re good to go. But before you start showing people how to do takedowns, run that past the church! You may find after all that quite a few in the church has problems with it, and if you’d just plunged in there and offered Christian Karate, everyone in the church could be having secret meetings about, “who’s going to break it to the pastor he’s fired?”
My ideas are based upon, getting the community to recognize the importance of the local Baptist church as a resource. And everyone recognizes how the church is God’s witness on this earth. You think of a church, you think of God. If people find out churches are important, and get used to the idea of spending time there, you get more foot traffic. Foot traffic means conversion. Conversion means getting people saved, and starting the discipling process.
Want to grow your church? Do it in a godly way. My ideas are bound to, well, not work out well unless God is behind them. If something starts and problems arise, be courageous enough to say, “I was wrong – that was a bad idea. Let’s stop that now.” Everything I’ve come up with here is not going to work in EVERY church. Some churches do really well with bus ministries, for example – others fail miserably. A ping pong ministry probably won’t help ANYWHERE – but if someone comes up to you with that idea, pray about it, and put it before the membership in an open meeting! It might be the one thing your church needs!
But if your church does NOTHING – then you’ll get the same results you’ve always gotten.