"We have to face reality," I announced to the congregation one bright October Sunday morning. "We are not bringing people to Christ."
Before me, seated on stacking chairs in a grade-school gym, were our fifty adults and a few children, appearing as civilized as landed gentry (toddlers excluded).
"The Great Commission is our mission," I continued. "We have to do whatever it takes to become a church that leads people to Christ."
Our church was nine years old, and I had now been the pastor for two years. We had grown from 35 to 80 on a bang-up Sunday, but I wasn't satisfied: it was transfer growth. We weren't reaching unchurched people.
I took responsibility and resolved to do something about it. I blocked out time in my schedule, prayed intensely about the problem, and birthed an idea-a seven-step strategy for breaking out of our shell.
Confidently and with great expectations, I handed the congregation my baby.
The Coming-Out Party
The first step was prayer, and on this Sunday morning, I was using my sermon to introduce it.
"James 4:2 says, 'You do not have because you do not ask God,' " I said. "We must base our outreach on prayer." For the next thirty minutes, I introduced three key prayer requests based on three Scriptures.
As we drove home after the service, my gentle wife didn't say anything about my sermon on this watershed day in our church's epic history. Finally, hoping that things had gone better than I had sensed, I asked, "How did it go?"
"Three Scriptures, and they're confused?" I said incredulously. I had felt insecure, now I was burned. I had offered a clearly biblical message, ...