Today, we come to the conclusion of our journey through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation.
Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helps 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.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve engaged our final question, How will we help them connect with God? by looking at some of the essential steps for pursuing God–to stop pursuing everything else through solitude and Sabbath, connect with what God has already spoken through Bible reading and reflection, learn to listen to God as He is the Initiator of all true spiritual connection, and discover the power and purity of daily obedience to God’s direction.
The last piece of connecting with God that we’ll consider is His plan for us to connect with others. Now, you may wonder at first whether or not relationship with others has any place in a discussion of relationship with God, but you must understand His proven priority for those who follow Him. He wants us to be together!
The “new” command Jesus gave His disciples was to “love one another.” In fact, He told them that this would be the trait that most clearly connected them to Him. He, further, insisted that when two or three of them gathered in His name, He would be right there with them. Like He was for the three Hebrew men in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, He would never miss those moments when they rallied together, no matter what the challenge.
A few years back, I toured Israel with Marc Turnage, the Director of the Center for Holy Land Studies. Marc explained to me that when Jesus identified the greatest commandment–to love the Lord your God…and to love your neighbor–He wasn’t melting the Old Testament Law into two commands. In fact, His disciples would have understood that those two directives were inseparable. Literally, you love God by loving your neighbor.
Later, Paul would tell us that all the trappings of spirituality we might accumulate mean nothing without love. John would insist that if you don’t love the people you can see, there’s no way you’re truly loving the One you can’t see. It’s very clear from each of the primary New Testament voices that there’s no loving God without loving others; therefore, we can conclude that relationships with others are a major piece of a real relationship with God.
So how are we helping our people embrace that truth? Are we prioritizing such love? Are we holding one another accountable for behavior in relationships? Are we allowing people to “seem spiritual” while they are careless in their treatment of others?
Further, do people understand that sitting by the bedside of a sick friend might be the greatest way they can love God today? Do they know that everything they sacrifice for others is really a gift to God? Remember Jesus’ “least of these” statement? This is what He wants each of us to understand–you love God by loving those around you.
That’s why a deep relationship with God cannot be lived in isolation. Yes, we need times of Sabbath and solitude to separate us from the busyness of life, but we can’t live in such seclusion on the other six days each week. Loving God is all about loving people, so what’s your strategy to help people discover this truth?
Over the past five months, we’ve broken down five questions that every church needs to be asking. These five questions will open the door to greater effectiveness. When you answer them well, you will see your church become stronger and healthier, and you will give God yet another location to aim His harvest.