This past week I had the opportunity to speak with some United Methodist pastors and staff on the subject of church growth. One of the main components was lessons learned from my personal story of meeting Jesus. The following is a quick overview of my personal testimony:
In 1978 my parents divorced and my mother was looking for some level of stability for her three children. Since I was the oldest and angriest of the siblings, my mom informed me we would go wherever I wanted. My three best friends—Mark Nettles, Chuck Black and Tim Price—all attended Acworth (Ga) United Methodist Church. So that’s where I wanted to go. They could have been Hare Krishnas for all I knew, but wherever they were is where I wanted to go.
The next two years were an adventure to say the least. I was still an angry teenager. I did not want to be there. I thought church was boring and why was I having to get up early on one of the two days I could sleep in. I disrupted every environment I was in including Sunday School classes, church services and even communions. I even added petty theft to my resume by stealing drinks from the church soda machine practically every weekend. For the record, did you notice how many times the word “I” was used to describe this two year period—eight times. It was all about me.
But the funny thing was no matter what I did, I could not make them angry. At least not angry enough for them to show it. It was if all the nicest people in the city of Acworth attended that church. As a pre-Christian teenager, my impression of Christians was they were not allowed to get mad. But there was one man in particular who stood out—my Sunday School teacher, Chuck Black’s dad, Lenis. I have written about Mr. Black specifically before in the post How a Sunday School Teacher Changed My Life. He modeled for me what a godly man looked like.
Finally, in August 1980, I gave my life to Jesus Christ on a Sunday night. I have said many times the people of Acworth United Methodist Church literally loved me into the Kingdom.
A couple of weeks after getting saved, Mr. Black asked me if I would like to pray with our pastor before the service. Since it was Mr. Black asking, I obliged. I didn’t even know at the time there was an Old Testament and New Testament, but here I was serving my pastor. Little did I know this would place me on a trajectory where I would now be in my fourth decade of serving pastors and church leaders.
As I look back at my personal story, the following is An 8-Step Evangelism Strategy Any Church Can Use:
- Have Your Church Members Build Relationships With Non-Churched People – Think real quick about your circle of friends. How many are unchurched? My three best friends never proselytized me but I knew they attended church. This is important because of the next point.
- Tragedy Strikes Everyone – When my parents divorced they were the ones I turned to. Interestingly, one of the pastors in my coaching session just baptized six people in a single Sunday. As he told me their stories, the common thread was each had some level of tragedy or significant disappointment as a catalyst for turning to Jesus. They people in your church need to have proximity to unchurched people to be there in their times of need.
- Be a Welcoming and Loving Church – Aside from the person of the Holy Spirit, the most important person on a Sunday is the visitor. Everything should be geared to allowing them to have as wonderful an experience as possible.
- Men Were Actively Engaged – Growing churches target, reach and enlist men in ministry. If a child comes to Christ first, there is a 6 percent chance the entire family will meet Christ. If a wife or mother comes to Christ first, there is a 18 percent chance the entire family will meet Christ. But if a husband or father comes to Christ first, there is a 94 percent chance the entire family will meet Christ. Your campus, environment, music, preaching and volunteer enlistment systems should target men.
- Relevant Messages – Mr. Black made the Bible come alive. His messages were relevant, probably because he had a teenage son. He used humor and talked about sports. I really enjoyed his class and kept coming back to hear him.
- They Gave Me Time to Process My Spiritual Journey – Just because I kept coming back did not mean they were glad to see me. I was a mess but they took a long-term view regarding my journey. They were more focused on what I was becoming rather than what I was.
- They Shared the Gospel With Me – Growing churches equip people to share the Gospel. We have the message everyone longs for: Hope and Freedom. Therefore, you must value the articulation of the Gospel message above simply doing good deeds. Good deeds – the Gospel message = Temporary Relief. Good deeds + the Gospel Message = A Changed Life.
- Immediately Connected Me to a Place of Ministry – Once I became a Christian, Mr. Black immediately had me praying for my pastor. He gave me ownership in the ministry.
To recap, here was An 8-Step Evangelism Strategy Any Church Can Use: Build Relationships With Unchurched People, Be There During Times of Tragedy, Be a Welcoming Church, Have Christian Men in Leadership, Have Relevant Messages, Give People Time to Process the Message, Share the Gospel and after they become Christ followers, Immediately Engage Them in Ministry.