In March, I began attending monthly “clergy coaching” sessions with the Rev. Lon Dean, senior pastor of The House of Praise in Schodack. The sessions focus on the “best practices” of churches that are consistently used by God to help people meet Jesus and become His disciples.
That’s the goal of what Lon is teaching us and encouraging us to put into practice.
The goal is not to become a bigger church. It’s not to be cool. It’s not to have more money to pay the bills.
The goal is to become—more and more, one step at a time—a congregation that is poised and equipped and empowered by the Spirit to be used by Jesus to bring lost people into His Father’s Kingdom and then send them back out into the world as His ambassadors and servants.
Only God can make us a congregation like that! But we have a part to play, too. If all it took to become a congregation that helps people meet Jesus and become His disciples was to pray hard, love people, and preach the Word of God, Hope would be bursting at the seams with new converts and disciples.
Hope is a precious treasure. I love this church, and if you’re reading this, you probably do, too.
So does God! God wants to use Hope. He already is! But right now, the precious treasure that is Hope UMC is not very accessible to those outside our walls.
Have you ever noticed that most of the “new people” in our congregation are already Christians? When Christians come to Hope, they feel at home. But unchurched people? Not so much.
If the goal of a Christian congregation is to help people meet Jesus and become His disciples, this is a very serious problem!
One of the things that Hope doesn’t do very well is “assimilate” new people…especially people who don’t already know Jesus. Unchurched people just don’t seem to feel very comfortable among us. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there are proven, time-tested “best practices” we can adopt that will help us do a better job of putting first-time, unchurched guests at ease among us, so that they are more inclined to consider an invitation to come back the following Sunday.
Assimilation is an important goal in the life of fruitful congregations. Through the process of assimilation, first-time guests are encouraged to return, second and third time guests are encouraged to establish relationships with people in the congregation, and regular attenders are encouraged to take responsibility to serve in the life of the congregation. The goal of the assimilation process is to help people keep taking “next steps” toward faith in Christ, growth as disciples, and active church membership.
This may sound familiar to some of you. My coach’s coach, the Rev. Nelson Searcy, was commissioned by Pastor Rick Warren to write a manual to help churches put the practices outlined in The Purpose Driven Church into action. That manual is Searcy’s book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. This little book is packed with information that I believe is going to help Hope take the first steps toward becoming a church that welcomes new people and encourages them to come back.
You’re invited to join other leaders at Hope in reading Fusion this summer. It’s available on Amazon. If you need help getting a copy, please let me know. Please also let me know when you’re going to be away this summer so we can plan 4 or 5 times to talk, pray and strategize about what Searcy has to say.
Father, we thank You that You were in Christ, reconciling the world to Yourself, not counting their trespasses against them. We thank You that by Your grace, You have drawn us to Jesus and bestowed upon us Your inestimable gift of eternal life through faith in Him. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on Hope UMC so that we can be used by You to seek and save the lost. Fill us to overflowing with Your love. Grant us humble, listening hearts, and willingness to surrender all that we have and are to You, so that we truly live as Christ’s ambassadors, and so that You can accomplish Your good and loving purposes in us; we pray in Jesus’ name.