On Baptisms, Outreach, and Revival: An Interview with Pastors of a Thriving Church
Interview continued from Page 1.
CGM: In what other incredible ways do you see God working at County Line Church of God?
Stuart: We are seeing large numbers come to worship on a Sunday mornings, where people are connecting to God. We have record numbers in small groups, where they are connecting to each other. We see people excited about inviting someone to church or sharing their faith with non-Christians. We set a goal for our congregation that everyone who calls County Line home should be able to look at one family or person by the end of every year and say, “They are here because I invited them.” We are also doing things for missions around the world that we only dreamed about years ago. We are seeing people discover and implement their spiritual gifts in record numbers. We are seeing people do ministry outside the walls of the church. We are seeing people have a hunger to learn more about the faith and be discipled by others. And most importantly, we are hearing of people giving their lives to Christ on a regular basis. If that stops happening, we are losing the battle and doing something wrong.
Mary Ellen: The theme of our recent building expansion campaign was “Imagine the Untold Stories.” This is why we do what we do. God is restoring broken lives one person as a time, and we expect many more stories to come. Marriages are being mended, broken lives are being repaired, bodies are being healed, and people are learning to serve others. We are releasing a book with several stories of those changed lives next month.
Steve: Many young families who are looking to give their children what they see missing in their lives. A wonderful melting pot of different religious backgrounds coming together. A grassroots, person-to-person testimony of what God is doing at County Line, and others coming because of these stories. A word-of-mouth response like I’ve never seen before.
Nathan: Our people are so generous. We held an Invite Sunday for County Liners to invite their friends and family members, specifically those that don’t have a home church, to our new worship facility. As an extra incentive, the leadership team decide to donate $1 for every person in attendance to a local inner-city youth center. Several people came forward and multiplied that amount by $7. On September 8, we had a record attendance of 2,317 people. Not only did we collectively donate $16,219 to the Euell Wilson Center, but also an individual handed the executive director an additional donation of $1,300. In total, we were able to give over $17,000 to this ministry.
Stuart: It has to become a mentality that says, “The people outside the walls of the church are more important than the people inside.” That doesn’t mean we don’t passionately care for our people on the inside, but reaching people for Christ will always take priority. I believe that can be done that energizes the people on the inside without making them feel like you don’t care for them. While it is a balance, you always lean toward outreach. Outreach is the absolute key to a thriving church. It’s the Great Commission. It has to be done. I would begin by preaching about outreach over and over. And when you come up with ideas for outreach, don’t use ideas that were good in 1950. People won’t come to a chicken barbecue at your church and be so impressed that they come Sunday morning. Get creative and think outside the box. It’s about training your people how to do it. Word of mouth, person to person, is still the number one way to reach people. The number one reason people try church is because they know someone who attends there. But at the same time, make sure you preach about any changes you intend to make over a long period of time. Let people digest it. Do not try and change a church overnight.
Mary Ellen: We have made big sacrifices so that first-timers feel safe, so they don’t feel like they are walking into someone else’s little club. It takes time and courage to turn the hearts of a congregation outward, but it can happen. Never spotlight guests but always be prepared for them and their kids. Walk around every nook and cranny of your facility and worship experience and imagine what it would be like for someone who had not been inside a church for ten years. Preach the plain truth with humility. Strive for excellence everywhere—this means sparkling clean toilets, quality music, well-prepared sermons, safe and engaging kids ministry, relevant student ministries, service to our local community needs and world needs, fiscal responsibility, and strategic planning for the future—doing the very best you can with whatever you have. We also made a Welcome to County Line video clip. We play it every Sunday. It makes an impact on guests and reminds each of us why we are here. Hundreds have said it was instrumental in their choosing to return another week. Watch the video at http://vimeo.com/54457462.
Steve: I think our decision years ago to simplify our ministry direction has really opened up our effectiveness to do well with what we do. It was a hard decision and hard for many to live with, but it pushed more of our ministry outside our walls and we have tried to keep that emphasis.
Nathan: Lost people—plain and simple. Every decision that is made, no matter how simple it may seem, look at it from the perspective of how someone who doesn’t go to church would view or experience it. Start now. Don’t wait till you have a better facility, more staff, or a larger congregation. God has equipped each congregation with the gifts and abilities to reach lost people.
Dane: Pray and ask God for direction. Raise the bar of outreach. Be honest with yourself as a church and take inventory of where you are. What does the congregation really want? To reach people or to be a social club?