As of last Sunday I’ve been at St. John’s UMC about 100 days. I started my message Sunday with this statement: “Today we are launching a new building program.” Then I paused for about 45 seconds or so to let the words sink in. Yes. It had a dramatic affect on the congregation. Of course they felt much better when I told them that I was NOT talking about facilities. Instead I was talking about the need for St. John’s to be building new relationships so that the kingdom of God might expand around us; so the circle might be widening around us.
Recommendation – don’t start a message with that line unless you are talking about connections with each other and/or your neighbors. When and if the time comes in the future to talk about buildings, I won’t be using this line to start a message. Just sayin’!
There is a need to jump-start, ignite, or even shock our systems into a new reality; an environment of being relational. I shared a couple of interesting quotes from Bill Easum that I will also share with you.
“After 3 years of attending a church, most members have no solid connections with anyone who is unchurched or even an unbeliever.” In other words, our circle of friends and acquaintances are people who attend worship somewhere.
“It takes an average of 85 church members to reach one new follower of Jesus Christ per year.” St. John’s runs almost 160 or so per Sunday. Statistically we should see 2 new followers of Jesus Christ each year however if we have 3 deaths in a year, then we are in decline.
We have to break the tradition and practice of being an open community who passively waits for guests to show up. The church is like a couple who fixes a wonderful Thanksgiving meal that would feed 20 people BUT you invite no one to the meal. Instead they open their front doors and hope that someone shows up. Silly, right?
But this is how we play church. Hang out a sign that says worship at 830am and 1045am, fix a great “feast on the Word of God” and then open the doors hoping guests show up.
Anyone planning a wonderful Thanksgiving meal would be planning a guest list and sending out invitations. We need to be more intentional about this in relationship to our weekly feast. We need to form relationships with new people and then invite them to join us for the meal that will be served in worship.
So how long has it been since you initiated, formed a new relationship with someone who does not attend worship anywhere and maybe is even against organized religion?
Jesus ate dinner with sinners and tax collectors – the most despised people in his day. I would say that following Jesus today means that we need to be willing to eat with some people that we might be uncomfortable being around. A new relationship might start there. We might get the chance to invite them to the ‘feast!”
Blessings for the journey.