For nearly four months of Mondays now, we’ve been walking through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation. Before we take our next step into our final question–How will we teach people to pursue God?–let’s quickly glance back at where we’ve been.
Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!
Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.
Next, we tackled–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we looked at both the content and the settings where discipleship teaching is delivered. You must have a plan for people to engage, and then, of course, you’ll need to encourage them to engage that plan.
Our fourth question asked, How will we help them find a place to serve? Here, we worked our way through helping people find their gifts and find a place to use them, how we will go about training them and providing the evaluation that can help people find real success and satisfaction in their ministry efforts. And, we made a final stop considering what it’s like to be on the team–a discussion that focused on how we are investing in them and their ministry experience.
Last week, we got started with our final question by looking at the essential first step of pursuing God–to stop pursuing everything else. The idea of solitude and Sabbath is a necessary focus so we can begin to hear what God might be speaking to us and respond accordingly.
Once people begin to give God a bit of their undivided attention, they will need some direction as to how they can engage Him. I think the first way to do so is to dive into what He has already spoken. Yes, it’s that book on the coffee table–the one they might tuck under an arm each Sunday. After centuries where people had no real access to God’s Word, those today who own multiple copies often fail to value this book enough to open it. How will you help your people move beyond such carelessness into the meaningful encounter they truly need?
Be careful assuming that even the long-term members of your congregation know how to do this. Many don’t. While they may have accumulated a few favorite passages, understand the differences between the testaments, and gained a basic knowledge of core characters, few have managed to locate a daily impact for their lives.
One practice that can help would be a reading plan we can engage together. Many churches post Scripture passages for daily reading in their weekly bulletin or on their website. If you add some follow-up such as preaching from these passages or an accountability/celebration plan for those who are reading with you, you can enhance their participation. Just telling people to open the Book each day presumes they are confident enough to decide where to read and understand what they are reading. A few less-than-satisfying experiences can begin to shape a too-hard-for-me attitude toward the Bible, so build a plan to help.
If and when Western-world people read, their goal is typically to gain knowledge. But we know that the Bible can do far more than just add content to our brain cells. As you get your people reading this amazing book, help them develop new patterns of response. If they’re reading the Psalms, have them identify the feelings they sense in the writer, and even in the reader. If a historical passage dominates today’s reading, help your people imagine living in that moment or consider how they might have responded in such circumstances. The Bible isn’t just a textbook or story book. It’s designed to be engaged at the deepest levels. But, most folks will need some help if they will learn to respond in that way.
Finally, share how God’s amazing book has transformed your life. Be specific! Don’t let generalized platitudes about the Bible dominate your encouraging words. Share the real stories of your own engagement. Express how a passage has affected you. Reveal some of your own devotional discovery and how you connect the dots to daily living. Be honest about hard passages. Be authentic concerning your own challenges. If you paint yourself as a super Christian who shouts and dances over every verse, don’t expect your people to find much in your apparent experience that might encourage theirs. Remember that the goal is to pursue God–not you or your level of experience.
Bible-reading believers are growing believers. If people become solely dependent on your weekly exposition for their spiritual growth, there won’t really be much of that. God wants to reveal Himself directly to them too and grow them in their real-world impact as well. So find a few ways to encourage the pursuit of God through His Word and you’ll begin to see a new level of “fruit” begin to burst forth from the lives of those He’s given you to guide.