“As the Father hath sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).
How are you going to grow your church, pastor?
If your church is not growing–i.e., reaching new people and discipling those God sends–your church is on the decline. People die, people move away, some will grow lax and drop out. No church is static. The pastor who sees his role as maintaining the status quo, keeping those who pay his salary happy and placated, is on a mission to disaster.
Every pastor needs a plan or strategy–a prayer, a personal program, a scheme or something!–for reaching outsiders and bringing them into the congregation and growing this church.
That strategy may take two forms: a) a personal ministry; the pastor himself will be faithful in sharing his faith with outsiders and reaching the lost; and b) the congregational ministry; he will motivate and encourage and train his people to be the witnesses God’s Word says they are to be (Luke 24:48 and Acts 1:8).
Okay. What brought this on:
In my retirement ministry, God sends me to churches of all types and sizes. So, I get to see pastors of all kinds. One group of pastors in particular burdens me….
These are the pastors who seem content to shepherd their congregations without a thought about their responsibility to the larger community. There is no outreach and no burden for the outsider. If an outside happens to attend their service, they will hear the gospel and have a good chance of being reached for Christ. But woe to them if they stay outside.
What happens inside the church building stays inside the church building, in too many cases.
The pastor needs to be sharing his faith with the waitress, his next door neighbor, the new family that moved into the vacant house down the highway, and to everyone in the new subdivision that is opening up nearby. He should set aside time every week to give thought and energy to doing this. If he does not give intentional thought to personally reaching people for Christ, other activities will soon intervene and push it off his radar.
Before a pastor can motivate his people to share their faith, he has to be sharing his. No leader can take his people beyond where he himself has come.
Early in my ministry, I heard a pastor complain that his people wanted to pay others to do their witnessing for them. And yet, my observation was that he himself was rarely getting outside the office to make contact with the unchurched.
It’s an easy trap to fall into.
Only after he himself is sharing his faith can he encourage his people to reach their neighbors for Christ. This may involve a formal training program in sharing their testimony and presenting the gospel, or it may be as casual as giving materials to everyone which they are to pass along to their neighbors inviting them to the Easter presentations. Every church should have multiple plans going all the time.
The importance of sharing the gospel and reaching our friends for Christ is a never-ending mandate for every believer. And let us note, we do this not just to “grow our church” but because people are lost, they need a Savior, and we know who He is!
As Kathie Lee Gifford said recently, explaining her boldness for Christ, “It’s as though we know the cure for cancer, and we don’t dare keep it to ourselves!”
My professor of evangelism Dr. B. Gray Allison used to tell us, “If you’ve got it, you’ll tell it. Do you have it?”
Only a pastor who loves his people and takes seriously his call from Christ will do this. The others are in the work for lesser reasons: the pay, a vocation, a career, something.
Some pastor protests
“But I’m supposed to take care of my people. They are the ones who chose me as pastor; they pay my salary. And if their needs are not being met, they can fire me.”
No one is saying to neglect the flock. I’m not one who dumps on pastors with that old tired cliché: “Jesus said we are to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.” That sounds so right at first. But it’s dead wrong.
That so-called “aquarium,” we insist, is the home base. The flock. The people of God. And we are told to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
And one of the best ways we can nurture and strengthen our people is to equip them to share their love of Christ and help those around them come to faith in Him.
Has anyone come to faith in Christ because of your personal witness, pastor? And I mean recently?
No one is better situated to go door to door sharing Christ. People in the community know you, in all likelihood, and will open their doors to you. Give them some materials, invite them to church, ask if they have any prayer requests, and see what the Lord does as a result of your caring visits.
Do this–go door to door for the 100 nearest neighbors–and I will tell you by personal experience what will happen: Your joy in the Lord will explode. And you will preach with a greater freedom and conviction. You have demonstrated the very things you’re calling on your people to do.
One caveat: Do not go around telling your people that you are visiting door to door. Don’t tell them you just led the waiter to Christ. Don’t brag on yourself, even if you phrase it as thanksgiving. Do not call attention to what you are doing. This is not about you. Just do the work, and stay with it.
If you continue sharing your faith, the word will get around. And that will elevate you in their estimation as few other things can do. And that will be worth its weight in gold.
“Lord, bless your pastors, please. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”