“How do we get to the next level?” is a question that I hear along the way, usually from younger men who are hungry to see God work in their church and city and who have a genuine desire to see many people saved. It is a valid question, and I always appreciate and applaud the desire to reach more people for Christ. As an evangelist, and a friend to so many pastors, can I offer some simple suggestions?
Make soul-winning the priority it has been and/or should be.
Have you ever watched a church aggressively win souls and experience rapid growth. It is always amazing and glorious to see and is often a genuine time of revival! However, as more and more converts are added to the church, two things inevitably seem to happen. First, it attracts believers who long to be in a church that is “alive.” This can be a blessing but also a problem. They can sometimes simply transfer their previous church’s problems to yours. I say it gently, but it could be that if their church wasn’t growing before they came to yours, they will not help your church to grow either, especially if they weren’t reaching people “over there.” The second thing that will inevitably happen is that the new converts will demand much attention if they are going to be “discipled” as they should be. Combine these two matters together, and the church will quite naturally become more inwardly focused. Programs will become a greater focus. The church can tend to focus on issues at this point. For instance, many will focus on music, especially if it begins to use music as part of its “attraction.” It may begin to focus that way simply because it needs to do so! If the pastor is younger, he can even begin to head in new directions theologically, practically, and even personally. Theologically the church may become more reformed or more Calvinistic. They may become very program oriented. The pastor himself may begin to change as he seeks to grow and reach more people. He will be pressured from all sides to try new things and adopt new methods and even embrace new systems of theology. Perhaps he and his wife will start a family and he will also need to focus on his children. And so forth.
I have often thought that once many churches get to this level, their focus shifts considerably and they lose the focus they once had on winning souls. It is natural, in a sense, but it can also be deadly in the long run. So what is my suggestion? Make soul-winning the priority is has been and/or should be. Love people Knock on doors. Believe that everyone is a candidate for the gospel. Believe that Jesus can save anyone and wants to do so. Look for weekly and daily opportunities to give the gospel. Train and encourage the church to reach others. Preach the gospel. Tell the gospel. Schedule gospel services. Add gospel ministries – addiction ministries, jail ministries, rescue mission ministries, and so forth. Make soul-winning the priority. I know, that statement is pretty simple. I also know it works. It was why the church grew in the first place. It was the method that was used to attain the level where you are. Return to it. Stay with it. It works!
Here is how Paul said it:
For Christ, sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel . . . (I Cor. 1:17)
But we preach Christ crucified, . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Cor. 1: 23-24)
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (I Cor. 2:4)
Jesus said it like this:
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
Pray fervently, often, and continually regarding souls.
Kneel. Fast. Cry. Weep. Ask. Pray alone. Pray with your staff. Pray with your church. Ask for God’s power. Ask for God’s strength. Ask for God’s favor and blessing. Ask for the Holy Spirit to do His work of reproving of sin, and righteousness, and judgement. Ask God to lead you. Ask Him to grow your church. I urge you to prayerfully read the book of Acts and consider how that their prayers made a difference. They were Spirit-filled (over and over and over again) and spake the gospel boldly and many, many believed and were added to their number. And isn’t that what we are talking about? Of course it is!
Whatever you do, don’t miss these first two thoughts. Make soul-winning your priority and pray up a storm! We must have these two.
Please bear with me on this one. It is normal, especially for my younger pastor friends, to want to hire really “sharp” people. I have observed however, that sometimes we can become so focused on the “hip” or “cool” or “talented” that we miss the “Godly” and the “committed.” Have you ever noticed, if a church-planter isn’t much of a soul-winner before we send him to start a church, he likely will not do super well winning souls in the town where we are sending him? If our new staff member isn’t even faithful to his former church and never won anybody there, he likely will not do much to help your church to grow either. I remember hearing Dr. Wayne VanGelderen, Sr years ago when I was a college student. He said that when he hired a staff member, part of their staff requirements were to reach at least 10 new families. I had never heard of that before, but the older I get the more I think he may have been on to something there. I say this gently, a person may be very successful in the business realm, but may have no idea how to win souls and reach people in the spiritual realm. He may have money, natural talents, theological positions, and a charismatic personality, yet may have never won souls. My suggestions? Either don’t hire them, or else be prepared to actively train them to do the work of the ministry. If we are going to “reach the next level” we must hire wisely.
Never stop dreaming, longing, and believing.
It is always sad to be a part of a ministry where the fire has died, the crowd is tired, and the church is waning. The causes are numerous aren’t they? Leadership failed. Sin did its damage. A theological shift changed the church. Time has cooled their love for Christ and for souls. They are focused on traditions and are satisfied with the status quo. The church simply stopped praying and winning souls. And so forth. I commend every pastor, younger or older, who doesn’t want to “go there” and who is wanting to reach another level in his church and ministry. I salute you for wanting to win souls. I applaud your heart for God and your desire to see the church grow. I pray that we never, ever lose that desire, that longing, that love! And I certainly hope that my thoughts help you to see the job done.
Pastors, I am on your side! I appreciate your heart for souls! Church members, I urge you to join your pastor in reaching people with the Gospel. Remember the words of Jesus: “Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:35)
Thanks for reading,
Your sincere friend,