Rather than telling shy, introverted people who don't have a great deal of biblical knowledge or theological training to lead their loved ones to Christ, I urge my congregation to invite their friends to become part of Cobblestone Church, where they can meet Christ. Our members invite friends not only to our Sunday morning services, but also to our social events.
After one of our church talent shows, in fact, we gained several new members. I had never thought of my Elvis, Bob Dylan, and cast of "Star Trek" impressions as evangelistic before, but the Lord used them nonetheless.
Members of Cobblestone feel comfortable inviting others to our services because they know their friends will get something out of it. And I have had to replenish our supply of booklets quite often.
Work to reduce conflict
Visitors can sense when something's not right. If they do, rarely will they come back.
My early teaching at Cobblestone stressed the church as a fellowship where love, acceptance, forgiveness, and patience are practiced. I tried to practice what I preached in dealing with difficult people. When arguments broke out at board meetings, I reminded everyone that this wasn't the way the church conducted business.
As a result, the atmosphere has greatly improved; visitors almost always characterize us as a "warm, friendly congregation." I came to see that time spent working on reducing tension is really time spent on church growth.
Get people to pray
Will God really cause a church to grow just because people ask him to—even if that church does not have an aggressive evangelism program? At Cobblestone, he has. We continually get visitors who say, "We just felt that it was finally time to check out church and for some reason we were drawn here."
When my daughter, Abigail, was three-and-a-half years old, she asked her mother why she couldn't have a Sunday school class with kids her own age. My wife explained there weren't any children her age in the church and suggested that she pray for some. Abigail began to pray confidently for more kids. New families started coming that summer and by fall, she had her class—with eight students! Although pastors often hear "Everything depends on leadership," in reality, "Everything depends on God." If you can get some of your people to pray seriously and faithfully for growth, you've done a lot!
Steve R. Bierly is pastor of Cobblestone Church in Schenectady, New York.
Copyright 1997 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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