Nine years ago, on my first Sunday at New Hope Church of the Nazarene, I was excited as I surveyed the "crowd" of 20 people attending that service. Except for my family of four, everyone was older than 55. Much has changed in these ensuing years. Our congregation's growth didn't happen overnight, but God has changed lives and has given hope to a church family that wasn't sure if it could ever draw more people.
We prayed for a passion for lost people.
I told those 20 people that the next 100 people we would win to the Lord may not look or think as we did, or have any idea what "entire sanctification" meant. But we needed to be ready to love them into God's family. One important ingredient of growth is getting a church healthy enough to love the lost with all of their baggage.
We were willing to change.
Over time, we changed our church name, started a daycare, added a worship band, revamped our Sunday night format from preaching to discipleship training, went from a single Wednesday night Bible Study to "Life Groups," and added a discipleship pastor. All of these changes helped us better fulfill our mission to be a church that follows the Great Commission.
We had fun.
In my desire to find more men for the congregation, I wanted to start a softball team (I was the only available player). God led me to a neighbor whom I barely knew. He was thrilled when I gave him the "pitch" and invited him to be part of the team. Miracles have occurred from that encounter. After that first softball season, this family was saved and brought more than 20 family members, friends, and coworkers into our fellowship! Our softball team helped produce leaders, Sunday School teachers, and one who has been called into missions.
We were committed to the community.
If a congregation senses that a pastor is waiting for a better opportunity, he or she will be an ineffective leader.
As pastors, we must be willing to have an influence in our communities. Our people deserve to know that we are in this with them for the long haul. Congregations with creativity and commitment can minister to those who are already in our doors and are better prepared to affect those who have not yet entered our doors.
Glenn Newton pastors Clarksville, Arkansas, New Hope Church of the Nazarene.