No quick fixes to grow our churches
There is no quick, easy way to grow our churches says Rev Matt Stone, we need to invest in our relationships to see people connect with God.
Many of us want a quick fix to grow our churches. I know I do. We put our hopes in all sorts of initiatives: Alpha, Messy Church, the Season of Invitation, Fresh Expressions, Hope 2014, the new church Lunch Club, our building renovation, the new minister or youth worker… you name it, the list goes on! We jump on all the latest bandwagons and hope that they will solve all our problems.
The reality though is that sharing the good news about Jesus – which is what’s really important, not just growing our churches – is hard work. There are no shortcuts, no pre-packaged formulas for success. All sorts of courses and initiatives can help us, but only if we first recognise that evangelism is all about relationships: your relationships and my relationships.
I have been doing a little of bit research, looking at the ten previously-non-churchgoing members who have joined two of the churches I minister to in the past five years. Only three of them came of their own accord, seeking God at a time of need, or seeking to reconnect with long-forgotten Christian roots. The majority - seven people - came for the simple reason that a friend invited them to a church service, Alpha Course or social event. They kept coming and, over time, found a Saviour to worship and a community to be a part of. It’s made me realise that friendship and invitations are absolutely vital to helping people come to faith in Jesus.
Shockingly, research for the Season of Invitation (seasonofinvitation.co.uk) has shown that 80 to 95% of Christians have no intention of ever inviting anyone to church. How can we go and ‘make disciples of all people’ (Matt. 28:19) if we never even intend to introduce people to Jesus and His followers? How can we ‘love [our] neighbours as [ourselves]’ (Matt. 22:39), if we have no intention of introducing them to the greatest love in the Universe that we ourselves have discovered?
I am incredibly grateful for all sorts of evangelistic initiatives, but let us not forget that we need to be connecting with people in our communities – and investing in those relationships – if lives (and churches) are to be transformed. There are no quick fixes!
Matt Stone is a Minister in the Norwich Area group of United Reformed Churches.
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