Pastor’s Perspective – June 2014
I frequently receive questions regarding our new structure. Wise people pay attention to how an organization is structured, so any question regarding our Church’s structure is a great opportunity to remind each other of the priorities and purposes embedded in our ACTS teams. The ACTS team structure is based on a simple but tested concept; that churches that emphasize discipleship through the four core processes (reflected in our ACTS teams) are healthier and have a better chance to grow.
The four core processes that provide the basis for the ACTS teams are Attract, Connect, Train, and Send. These ministries are the four things that are essential for a Godly Church to grow and function. These ministries can go by many names. Some Churches name them Hospitality, Community, Discipleship, and Missions, but whatever the Church calls them; successful Churches embody these things, while dying Churches do not.
Part of the disconnect for the traditional Church is that most of these ministries were accomplished by Sunday School programs in the glory days of the 20th Century. Sunday School ministries ruled the 50s and 60s in most local Churches. It was common for Sunday School attendance to exceed worship attendance in the good old days, and those Sunday School classes were micro communities of faith that embodied the four core processes for everyone that entered the doors of the classroom.
Then the Sunday School era ended abruptly and with a mighty crash. Like the eradication of the dinosaurs, books are sold and careers are created by those who want to tell you “why” the Sunday School era ended. Sadly, that is no consolation for those who continue to change the furniture in Church based class rooms and wonder why no one bothers to show up anymore. Outside of massive cultural changes all we can do is accept the fact that the death of Sunday School has created a discipleship void. Churches that acknowledge this and move to fill the void will thrive; those that continue to rearrange the deck chairs of this sinking program will decline and eventually die.
This is easier said than done, but it is possible. Many Churches sought to accomplish this task by creating home study programs that gather people together to study God’s word, share personal prayers, and create welcoming communities in the privacy and comfort of a Church member’s house. Home study groups have also been mobilized to reach out to the local community through mission projects and other service related ministries. Home Study programs began to grow about thirty years ago (coinciding with the decline of the Sunday School) and have become the new frontier for discipleship and Christian Education programming. The number would show that growing Churches have larger percentages of their membership involved in a home study than declining Churches. The change, however, is only superficial. Home study programs are essentially a transplant of an old program into a new shell. In essence home study programs have been successful in providing an increasingly Church averse nation an alternative to entering God’s house in the middle of the week.
Unfortunately, even successful home study programs have not been able to stem the tide of Church decline. The task of the 21st century Church is to extract the four core processes, necessary for Church health and growth, from the dying husk of the Sunday School program and make them a compelling and regular part of the life of the Church. This means that every aspect of our Church lives should reflect these core processes of the faith.
All of this begins with creating a spirit of attraction within the, and outside of, the walls of our Church. Churches that want to share Jesus with their neighbors and friends need to do whatever they can to attract all people. Of course we must always be wary of Churches that mistake seduction for attraction. We are not advocating a do whatever it takes to bring them in mentality.
Some churches use lottery-style give-a-ways or a visit from the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to “attract” people into their Church. While each of these “events” may well be attractive to the people of the world, they will not necessarily attract people to Jesus. Showing the love of God in Jesus Christ is both the goal and the attraction of the Church. When we speak about attraction ministries we are asking you to welcome people and show them the biblical concept of hospitality and love in every appropriate way and in everything we do. From the moment you park your car hospitality-driven, attraction-oriented churches do their best to make other people feel special.
Churches that practice hospitality are willing to serve others on a Sunday morning as a part of their service to God in Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Attraction based Churches understand that the most important person in the worship service is not the song leader or the Pastor, but Jesus Christ as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Great hospitality makes sure that people see the work of God in our lives. It also lets people know that we are not here simply to be fed, but that we exist to help feed each other. Churches that follow the golden rule live so that others might also experience the love of God in Jesus Christ. They don’t just say it in the sermon; they live it in the warmth of their smile, the embrace of a friend, and the joy of welcoming a visitor and helping them to feel at ease as they enter a new community of faith.
The scripture tells us, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)
This is where it begins in the local Church. The first line of hospitality in the Church is our greeters and ushers. Greeters and ushers are the doorkeepers in the house of God. They always have been and always will be the first line of hospitality in the community of faith. They set the tone for everything else in the worship of God. Their joy is contagious. Their welcome is sincere. They are irreplaceable.
As a Pastor I also take the time to meet and greet people. I do so not to take the place of the greeters and the ushers, but in order to let people know that there is no job more important. When we reach out our hands and hearts to others, when we extend a greeting to someone else, we begin to show them the deep love of God in Jesus Christ. We do it for them. We are not asking for their vote, or soliciting for a bigger offering. We are welcoming them into God’s house as… they…are.
It is here that I have to resist the urge to say that anyone can be a greeter or an usher. This is not really true. Greeters and ushers must be willing to smile and serve with a positive and caring attitude. They must know that they are there to show God’s love, not to share a complaint or petition for a change in the worship service. Nothing can kill worship quicker than an angry usher or an unwilling servant in the house of God. Good hospitality begins with a heart that is ready to serve and show love, for God and God’s Church.
Do have a heart for service? Do you love God and God’s people? If you have a smile that you are willing to share and some joy that you cannot contain. If you believe that the greatest gift that God ever gave humanity was the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, then I have a job for you. We would love for you to receive the training and take on the responsibility of being a Greeter, an Usher, or a Parking Lot attendant. Remember that in doing so you represent the Church, and its leader, Jesus Christ our Lord. Please feel free to contact me or our Attract Team Leader, Jeni Gerber, if you would like to know more about serving in one of the many Attract Team ministries.
In His Service,