New Front Door
There is an old joke about three new ministers who moved into a small town. When the Methodist pastor moved into town he asked “Where are all the Methodists?” Likewise when the Presbyterian minister moved into town he asked “Where are all the Presbyterians?”When the Baptist minister moved into town he asked, “Where are all the people?” The point of this joke was simply Baptists go after all the people. It seems this message no longer holds true for most of our churches.
Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research, recently report on his blog (http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/2008/04/new_evangelism_research.html ) his findings on the effectiveness of the evangelism of Southern Baptist churches. It should be noted that the baptism records of the SBC have declined over the past several years.
Stetzer pointed out that if a local church’s strategy for reaching its community was dependent upon reaching out to those who visit their church, then more than likely they will primary grow with “church switchers” rather than new followers of Jesus.
To stress his point Stetzer wrote:
“Too often the way our churches measure success revolves around what happens at church when we ought to be focusing on what happens in building intentional relationships with those far from Christ,” McConnell said. “Some of the activities on our church calendars may actually be preventing effective evangelism by keeping believers away from the people they need to reach.”
“Believers must resolve to step into their world to share the Good News with them,” Stetzer explained. “If we are waiting for them to someday walk into our churches, that someday may never come.
“We have tried that approach for decades – many church buildings/services are looking great. They have new looks, new music and new strategies,” he added. “We have gone to great length to fix up the barn, but the wheat is still not harvesting itself. I believe we must move from attractional ‘come and see’ ministry to incarnational ‘go and tell’ and join Jesus in the harvest fields all around us.”
As I have reflected on his observations, it was a reality check for me. We have an ongoing FAITH ministry that follows up on our prospects every Monday evening. Over the past five years on prospect visits on those who visited our church I have only visited two families that were seeking a personal relationship with Jesus. As a pastor-leader I too need to learn to move outside of my comfort zone and find ways to engage my community and begin to build intentional relationships with those who need the Lord.
I am also convicted as a leader of a large local church that I need to begin to help our church begin to find ways to penetrate our community with the good news. One reason we need to reach out is the fact that our church facilities are very imposing and confusing to be honest. I often joke that our assimilation plan is that once you get in our buildings you can never find your way out. All kidding aside, the vast majority of our small town is highly unlikely to darken the doors of our church. I pray the Lord will help us to create a “new front door” into the Kingdom. I suspect it will start by our member opening the “front doors” of their homes and hearts to their friends, and neighbors. In addition, we will also have to be more proactive about knocking on their “front doors” and looking for places where God is at work in the hearts of people. “Go and Tell” was the DNA of our early Baptist forefathers, and it is high time we get back to the basics again.