It's All About People
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Anyway you look at it, growing churches is hard work! Those who have never held a church office or served as a ministry leader may not realize the many meetings, concerns, phone calls, and prayers that go into to pulling it all together. Every week pastors run through a gauntlet of details to help organize facilities, people and money to bring blessing, healing and hope to those who attend. To be sure, the blessings come from God, but pastors and church leaders are key players who help make it happen.
Of course our success in church ministry is directly related to our commitment to God and our willingness to follow his leading. The value and rewards of spending time with God each day should be obvious.
In a more practical way, your work as a pastor or leader is probably about 20% cerebral and 80% relational. The role of a pastor is to spend time with people--to visit, nurture, encourage, enlist and train those who are willing to serve. Good basketball coaches spend the bulk of their time with their teams on the court practicing and planning. If you are a church leader who can't stand being around people you're in the wrong profession. Ministry is all about people--about finding ways to lead them into a deeper experience with God.
Connecting with People
Churches are people places--at least they should be. Each church represents a group of people who share common values and beliefs. Seventh-day Adventists Christians are committed to sharing a message of hope with a troubled age. Unfortunately, some people think that having (or knowing) "truth" is enough. They have yet to discover how to value people and love them unconditionally. Adventism's message endears many hearts to it because it is logical and biblically based. But if what we believe doesn't somehow show up in a working laboratory of warm personal relations where fellow believers demonstrate compassion and respect for one another, it becomes extremely hard to justify all the effort.
John said, "This is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another..." (1 John 3:11, NASB).
"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20, NASB).
Every Adventist church could benefit from initiating some kind of on-going member training on how to treat other people. You could call it "Relationships 101," or "People Skills," or whatever. The training should be focused on things like:
(1) Building relationships that last
(2) Conflict resolution
(3) Personal ethics
(4) Practicing common courtesies
(5) Gaining respect through honesty
No doubt many other topics could be added to the list.
Why Some Churches Stagnate
I've visited many churches where most of the people did not know who I was. The friendliness of some was outstanding. In one church several people came up to my wife and I as soon as we walked in the door. In that same church we were invited to someone's home for lunch within the first 5 minutes we were there. Other churches were extremely cold and reserved. Not surpisingly, the churches that were warm and friendly had more people. Ellen White once said,
"If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tender-hearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one" (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 9 p. 189).
Whether you are a pastor, local church leader, or member, it is critical that you be a warm, positive influence that beckons people into your circle of friendship and worship.