New Front Door

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “New Front Door

  1. wackypreacher

    David, I too read some the report from Ed Stetzer and am strongly convinced as you are that many of our churches, including mine, harp back to the old glory days of the 50’s when the church was full. They long for those days, but seemingly aren’t willing to “retool” to reach those outside the church building. In the time I have been at my current church I have preached over and over the need to get outside the building. I have on my office door a note that says: “The church has left the building” and underneath that is a note that says “Gone fishing”.
    In the last year we have done a number of things to get outside the building: Classic vehicle car show, 4th of July community picnic, trunk or treat in the parking lot (which has brought in a family of 12), will be doing a backyard Bible club in a neighborhood about 3 miles from us this summer and recently added a Christmas eve service. All but the last event occurs outside the building in our parking lot or a neighborhood. We are being described by those who live nearby as “The busiest small church in town!”.
    Hanging out the “shingle”doesn’t cut it anymore. As I am hearing lately, “Find a need and fill it”. And that is my new motto here. I pray that many of our BGCT churches will wise up and get out of the church building and reach out in Love.
    Bob Cheatheam

  2. Bob,

    Thanks for the post. It is exciting to hear how your church “has left the building”. You are setting an example for all of us to follow. Keep up the good work.

    David

  3. It seems that sometimes we focus on building programs to attract when we might should be building programs to equip those who are already there. In my humble, layman’s opinion, the pastor of a large church shouldn’t be leading the charge to draw the unsaved into church, that should be the job of the members. The pastor might find that his time is more productive if spent in identifying, training and equiping a core group that will go forth and multiply. That’s pretty much the model that Jesus used.

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