A few years ago, I was invited to spend a day with the leadership of a large, well established church. In a spirit of openness and transparency, they invited me to speak into the life of their community & ask any question I felt appropriate – a courageous thing for leaders to do. So I proceeded to enquire about the programme, the finances, the team, the schedule, the ministries, the future….the list went on. So far so good.
Then came a key question….’How many people have become followers of Jesus during the past year through the life of this church?’ There was a hushed silence and some thoughtful frowns – but no answer was forth coming. When I asked the question again, this time there was a kind of mumbled conversation that ensued until someone eventually suggested that it wasn’t really ‘our thing’ to keep such records. For me, this reply was a statement in itself which needed addressing. After some further gentle prodding, it was estimated that only around 10 people had come to faith that year with just a small number of those people being baptised.
What transpired was a good church led by good people with some excellent programmes….but lacking an intentional focus to see non-Christian friends & family coming to faith in Jesus. I suspect this is the case with many churches. The very notion that any Christian community should ever be satisfied with seeing low numbers of people embarking on the journey to follow Christ is simply not good enough.
The thing is…virtually every church will say they want to see more people coming to faith in Christ. However, the sticking point happens when this challenges the programme. In other words…if winning people for Jesus genuinely becomes a significant focus in the life of a local church, then the way things are done comes into sharp question and challenge – including services, terminology, structure, teaching themes, financial giving, ministries etc etc. They all need to honestly face up to the question: ‘Is this going to help people come to faith?’
Often, an unhealthy consumer mentality can creep into church culture that’s attractive to some Christians but which makes no connection with people who aren’t yet believers. Ironically, it’s often the most theologically astute churches which are most susceptible to this. Their focus on offering verse by verse expositional teaching, fine spiritual dining and an intellectually stimulating experience actually ends up doing far more harm than good, producing inactive Christians who crave comfort, enjoy insularity and who become resistant to change.
Of course, every church should offer great teaching, worship, programmes and the rest. But each of these need to be prefaced with that one simple question: ‘Will this help people come to faith in Jesus?’.
Anyway, back to the church I visited a few years ago. My question profoundly challenged it’s leaders and they went on to re-examine their entire schedule. They intentionally factored in a commitment to reaching people for Christ in everything they did and my gosh did it make a difference. I was honoured to speak at that same church a year later and on just one Sunday morning, over 50 people responded to the call to follow Jesus. The church has grown significantly since – and they’re now faced with some new challenges…or as one of the leaders put it to me… ‘wonderful challenges’.
At the Junction Church Leicester & Loughborough, we are absolutely committed to winning more people – because we love people. It was encouraging last year to see around 200 people making decisions to follow Christ. But this is just the start. We have much to do and we must never become complacent.
Whatever it takes to reach a generation, we’re up for it.
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.
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