I was ordained in a faith tradition of spiritual fathers and sons. As I was going through my ordination process, my elders would frequently use terminology like reaching the “lost” or “fallen.” Over time that changed to reaching the “unchurched”, “de-churched”, “re-churched” or “under-churched.” The former felt hyperbolic to me and the latter felt too businesslike.
In the United States, who hasn’t heard the name of Jesus? Even evil spirits know who Jesus is and call him the Son of God (Mark 3:11). I have colleagues who have not been to church in 20 years but still call themselves Christians. In fact the Pew Research Center estimates that 70.6% of Americans if asked, would call themselves “Christian”. Then why do so many churches struggle to keep their doors open?
If you want to grow your church, you have to introduce people who live far from Jesus to people who live for Jesus. You have to connect people. This is not a secret. This is not new. But how we connect the Church with the neighborhood and community around us has changed dramatically over the last forty years.
In my new book Connect, I talk about the groups of people in and around the Church a little differently. I break them down into five groups throughout the book: the saints, the disciples, the undiscipled, the community, and the neighborhood.
- The “saints” are the people who have accepted for themselves the responsibility of making people into disciples. The saints are the children’s leaders, pastors, elders, deacons, and Bible study leaders, the ones who understand the Bible and do most of the disciple-making in your ministry.
- The “disciples” are the people who joined your community of faith, made a decision for Christ, and proactively seek to grow in their faith. They have accepted the responsibility of their own discipleship. They bring their children to Sunday school, live generously, attend the studies of Scripture, do the work of the Church, and serve others in mission.
- The “community” is anyone whose contact information you possess. You might not know their names, but you have at least their e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers on record.
- The “neighborhood” are those people who live around your church, but for whom you have no connection whatsoever and possess no contact information.
- The “undiscipled” are people who may or may not identify as a Christian, but did not grow up in a church. Undiscipled people do not have an experiential context or learned precept for Christian living. They have yet to accept the personal responsibility of their own discipleship. Undiscipled people are the raw material of disciple making.
The mission of going and making disciples has not changed in 2,000 years. How the church makes a disciple has not changed much either. But how we “go” and how we “connect” with undiscipled people in the 21st century has changed dramatically. Churches who do not embrace this truth and change the way they connect with undiscipled people do so at their peril. Unfortunately, most churches have not embraced this truth.
In Connect you will walk through a process of connecting with the neighborhood and community around your church and then integrating them into the disciple-making process of your ministry. Understanding how these different groups make connection decisions and connect with people and institutions is an important and often neglected component of growing a church in the twenty-first century. If you are interested in learning more. Order a copy and see how it will bless you and your ministry.