Posts Tagged: Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church

Our Growth Part 3

In this final post of this blog series on the growth of The Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church I will be looking at some of the specific things we will be focusing on moving forward in order to place us in the best position to continue to receive & handle the blessings of God’s growth in this community. This blog will probably we a little more specific and not as broad as the other two, but I believe there are still principles that I’ll be sharing that can be applied in any and all settings.

In part 1 we looked at some of the principles behind the growth of the Visalia SDA Church.
In part 2 we looked at some of the reasons why we didn’t grow more over the last five years.

And now for the third and final part (Sorry it took so long, I got sick and then the holidays but here it finally is):

What about the next five years?

Prayer. Yes, I want to start in the exact same spot I started the other two lists. It is vital for our continued growth that we continue our focus and emphasis on the power and importance of prayer. We will continue to look for ways to facilitate more prayer, encourage the participation in corporate prayer, recruit more prayer warriors. I’ve spent quite a ‘bit of time on this subject in the other two posts so I won’t say more here, simply this has to remain a priority. It can’t be something we did and then move on from!

What happens when I’m gone? This has been a question on my mind a lot lately. I’ve observed far too often within our denomination that a church may be doing well, then the pastor leaves and everything slows way down or even ceases completely until the next pastor rolls around. Attendance drops, evangelism is nonexistent, the church goes into maintenance mode. I am asking myself heading into 2014 and beyond, “if this is my last year at this church are we in a position to thrive in the absence of a Senior Pastor or under the leadership of a new Senior Pastor?” I want to be thinking and working on behalf of my successor. I want to make sure that when I’m gone systems are in place that are not pastor dependent. That a clear vision is established which is owned by the membership of the church and not just in the heart of the leader, a vision though that is based on principles that should be universal and embraced by all Seventh-day Adventist ministers, thus flexible to the ideas of the new leader. As leaders I think it is our responsibility to think about the well being of our churches not just when we are here but after we are gone as well. We need to think about our colleagues that will come after us and what we are leaving behind. So this is a goal we’ll be working towards.

Sabbath School: Sabbath School, you know that time that is the least attended activity at church (in North America)…oh wait sorry, that is the prayer meeting, the second least attended activity at church (how depressing and pathetic both those realities are!), it has been a burden on my heart recently. The scriptures say this, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. This text of course has been applied almost exclusively to the idea of personal Bible study, and personal Bible study is very important! But as I was taught in Seminary and as I have read in Christian literature, most of what was learned and understood Biblically in the Biblical era was not done in isolation! In fact Jesus when He was a boy in the temple was participating in a Bible study. A discussion on the scriptures, questions asked, answered, leading to more questions (“Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Luke 2:46, 47). We don’t do enough of this anymore! Sabbath School is a venue in which this should be done. I’ve also been convicted about this based on the reality of where the Seventh-day Adventist Church is growing significantly in the world. As I’ve had privilege to do a little traveling, what I have observed is that Sabbath School is well attended in the countries where our church is really thriving, in fact in some of these places Sabbath School attendance is higher than church attendance. Our Sabbath Schools in the United States may not look like theirs overseas, but the principle I believe still can be applied. Good things happen when folk get together to study the Word of God, emphasis on together, and the sermon time does not count, that is one person who has studied sharing with others what he or she studied, upon which most will go home and still not study it out for themselves to see if he or she was accurate in their studies. We need Sabbath School and I have a desire to see it thrive in my churches (The Ark & Visalia SDA). I’m not sure how yet, but this will be a focus!

Lost Sheep: I’ve heard it said that if we reclaimed all those that have simply stopped associating with the Adventist church our membership would be double in the United States. Here is the sad truth if we reclaimed those that just don’t attend, then our attendance would be double for sure (yep only 50% actually much less on average of the Seventh-day Adventist Church membership attend church from week to week). Here is something Jesus said, “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying:

“Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” –Matthew 10:5-7.

We know that Jesus had a passion for the Gentiles, we know that He had a special plan for reaching them (read the book of Acts), but I also see in scripture that Jesus had a special burden in His heart for those that were raised in the truth, had known the truth, and yet were not walking with Jesus. I haven’t, in fact I still struggle with this burden, but I want to be like Jesus and I feel that I should have a deeper commitment to reaching this group of folk, “the lost sheep of Israel” aka former or inactive Adventists. This will be a special focus for us in the years ahead. We have already seen some success in this area without being intentional about it, I want us to be intentional and see what happens!

Getting beyond 10%: You may have heard the statistic, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. The new reality in churches is that 10% of the people do 100% of the work. We must help folk to understand that one of the privileges of membership is responsibility! I don’t find a single story in all of scripture about a true disciple of Jesus that went to church once a week and then went home, had lunch, took a nap, did yard work on Sunday, went to their paying job during the week, clean the house Friday, and back to church Sabbath and considered this an acceptable pattern for a follower of Jesus. There is not a story in scripture that even remotely follows that pattern, then why on earth do so many of our members find this type of Christianity acceptable blows my mind! Yes that is a rebuke to any that may be reading this and saying, “hey that sounds like me.” Jesus said very clearly, we are to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless. He also said we are to “GO” and witness. Paul said that we are all members of one body, and just as one body has many parts we are all separate parts to the same body and that a part is not actually part of the body if it is not functioning. And James said, that if our faith doesn’t display itself in actual works for the Lord then we really don’t have any faith. And in the book of Revelation the folk that are the marturos–witnesses. I want to know exactly how many of our members are actually serving Jesus in a proactive intentional way and then I want to grow each year on that 10% or so that it is and see lives saved and thus the church grow!

Small Groups: This is different than Sabbath School, though part of this can occur at Sabbath School time. But if we’re going to get bigger then we must simultaneously get smaller or more connected, this will only happen through Small Groups. The book of Acts is very clear, there were two aspects of the early Christian Church “house to house” gatherings and larger “temple” (corporate) gatherings (Acts 2:46). Ellen White wrote this,

“The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who cannot err. If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members but for unbelievers also.” (Evangelism p. 115).

A church will grow if the members are split into small groups to worship and serve together. I have yet to see a thriving small group ministry in a Seventh-day Adventist church. If you are reading this and you are in an Adventist church with a “thriving” small group ministry, please contact me! But we will continue to work at it. I believe there is plenty of evidence Small Groups are Biblical!

I am sure there are a million more things we could work on, but if this is my last year in Visalia (which I pray it is not) this is the direction I pray God will get us moving in.

Thanks for taking the time read these three blog posts. I pray that they have been beneficial to you and that you will be able to apply for sure the principles and possibly even some of the specifics that we have been focused on here in Visalia.

Remember The Church is the Body of Christ which means if your church is lifeless, if it isn’t growing, it isn’t functioning, it isn’t reaching the lost, and loving on everyone, well then it is not really the church and it is definitely not the body of Christ. But don’t despair make a decision now to see that begin to change. Even if you are the only one in your church that is committed to see your church become the Body of Christ again, Jesus will honor your commitment and work with you to bring that desire into reality!

Keep praying, keep studying, keep serving. May Jesus be glorified through the Seventh-day Adventist family!

Our Growth Part 2

If you did not read yesterdays post, I would encourage you to go and do so now. Yesterday, I shared with y’all some reasons I believe our church was put in a position to grow over the past five years. I didn’t get too detailed but tried to stay broad enough so that individuals could apply the principles to their own church as needed.

In today’s post I want to share with you the reasons why I believe we didn’t grow MORE. Yep, we had tremendous growth for an English speaking Adventist church in North America, but was there something left on the table? I’m convicted that there was. So here is the underbelly of our church; I pray this post will help y’all to avoid some of our same pitfalls or maybe to be honest with yourselves about where your church is lacking in order that things may be changed and Jesus may be glorified.

Why We Didn’t Grow More:

Prayer! Yep, that is right prayer! I said yesterday that our emphasis on prayer was the primary factor regarding our church growth. How then can prayer also be something that kept us from growing? Well, prayer didn’t keep us from growing, more accurately a lack of prayer I believe kept us from growing. Our prayer ministries has expanded in tremendous ways over the last five years. We’ve moved from a handful of prayer warriors to 70+ prayer warriors. Yet, it still seems like we are so far from where God wants us to be. Read this quote from Ellen White:

As a church, we have received great light. This light the Lord has entrusted to us for the benefit and blessing of the world. To us has been given the ministry of reconciliation. With power from on high we are to beseech men to be reconciled to God. We are encouraged to pray for success, with the divine assurance that our prayers will be heard and answered. “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19, 20). “Ask of Me, and I will answer your requests.” The promise is made on condition that the united prayers of the church are offered, and in answer to these prayers there may be expected a power greater than that which comes in answer to private prayer. The power given will be proportionate to the unity of the members and their love for God and for one another.—Letter 32, 1903, p. 5.

Mrs. White is writing about the growth of The Seventh-day Adventist Church and she says, “The promise is made on condition that the united prayers of the church are offered, and in answer to these prayers there may be expected a power greater than that which comes in answer to private prayer.” This past year I have had the privilege to do ministry on both sides of our country, in the summer I was in New York City and in the fall I was in Hawaii. While visiting both of these places I attended churches that I have read about and heard about…non-Adventist churches. In New York I went to prayer meeting at The Brooklyn Tabernacle, in Hawaii, I attended New Hope. What impresses me so much about both of these churches is their commitment to prayer…not the leadership talking about it, not books being read about prayer, the people actually coming together to pray. While Christina and I were there on the island there was a major issue taking place and New Hope called a prayer meeting…THOUSANDS showed up to pray. In Brooklyn I arrived early, were the stories true? Do people really come out to prayer meeting early just to pray? Yes they do, hundreds and hundreds of people were there starting at 5 p.m. to pray, even though the actual prayer meeting doesn’t start ’till 7 p.m.. I don’t agree with what these two churches teach on several points, I didn’t love the worship style at either, though I was blessed by both, but I would not dare to denigrate their growth because I saw with my own two eyes memberships that were committed to prayer…not the few…the majority. Could it be God is blessing these churches walking in some errors because they are “united in prayer”? I trust what Mrs. White wrote & believe our church would have grown more if the majority, not the minority of our membership were united in prayer!

 

Staff Transitions. When good staff leave, even if those transitions were necessary in some way there is going to be a time of unsettlement within the church. As I stated in my previous post I was blessed the moment I arrived at Visalia to work with people extremely gifted in their areas of ministry. But as is often the case there are differences with transition of leadership and sometimes those differences can not be reconciled. Well we went through that in back to back years and it caused some unease within our church. Which is an absolutely normal response. We saw over the second year of transition our only down year in local giving (this year we’ve recouped what we were behind last year and increased local giving by more than $100,000). We had another transition this past Spring, but that was due to a relocation and transitions like that seem to be much more readily accepted. This probably isn’t one that anyone can necessarily avoid. Staff transitions are a part of life within and without of the church, the previous administration shared with me that in his time as Senior Pastor two individuals that had been here prior to him transitioned out under his leadership, and I’m sure when God decides to move me on there will be other transitions in regards to our team then as well. For the purposes of this blog I would say that in times of transition growth may slow, but don’t panic! Stay the course, be faithful, God will see you through.

 

Our growth. That is right I believe our growth stifled our growth. Let me give you three examples of how I saw our growth stifle growth. First, we were not equipped to handle some of the growth that occurred and thus rather than having opportunities in place for these new people to immediately begin evangelizing their friends and family…they sat and in some cases their enthusiasm waned. This was a leadership failure that we have tried to rectify in our most recent wave of growth. Second, our members became content. There was a time when a large percentage of our members were inviting friends and family to attend our church on a regular basis. I think when we grew & became crowded folk no longer saw “the need” and their evangelistic fervor began to dissipate. Third, we didn’t adjust quickly enough. You may have heard of the 80% rule, if your parking lot or sanctuary is 80% full then growth will be stifled. At the peak of our early growth (we are picking-up momentum again) we didn’t make room for the people quickly enough. We eventually started a second campus & a second service but we did it all, especially the second service about a year too late! Our hesitancy caused our growth to sputter. Y’all if you’re growing and your room is filling-up don’t get scared of the naysayers, ACT quickly and decisively.

 

Sin. Sin has prevented us from growing more in the last five years than we should have. And I won’t point the finger anywhere else on this one as I don’t know anyone else’s heart but my own. I have come to firmly believe that the sins of leader effect the corporate body. Now I’m not talking about occasional misdeed here and there, I’m talking about cherishing pride. Holding resentment & bitterness in ones heart. Neglecting personal private time with God in prayer and Bible study. Not having enough faith in the vision God has placed on my heart. Laziness. Fear. Over the course of the last five years I have gone through stages of these areas, and while I am not consciously aware of these sins influencing my decisions or limiting growth, based on my knowledge of scripture I believe they all have at times. Leaders your church can’t grow unless you’re growing in your relationship and love for Jesus!

 

Facilities. I already mentioned above the 80% percent rule, Dr. Russell Burrill writes that in the Adventist Church this rule is not just limited to sanctuary seating & parking space, but also to Sabbath School space, especially within the Children’s departments. Well we have more than exceeded the 80% rule. It used to just be our Cradle Roll and Kindergarten classes that were packed to the gills, but now Cradle Roll through youth is full, we have even run out of room for conducive adult studies. If Dr. Burrill’s statement is accurate, which I assume it is as it was based on research, then our growth has been stunted a little from that every single year.

 

A lack of volunteers. We have great volunteers, some of the most amazing people I have ever had the opportunity to serve with, a huge reason for our growth over these years. But we don’t have 100% or even 80% or even 50% of our members volunteering; I would say we are more around 33% of our members regularly volunteering or giving at least 1 hour in a month (it should be 1 hour a week to really thrive). I think this is a fairly simple truth: if you want your church to grow get more people serving! That is easier said then done, at some point it has to be a member standing-up and saying, “here I am Lord send me!” Service to the Lord is a heart thing and since each member is a part of the Body of Christ, if the heart (the members hearts) is not pumping out blood (actively, regularly serving) the body will not operate at maximum efficiency. Most our churches are not operating at maximum efficiency! With each member that gets involved the church has a little better shot of increasing its growth. I’m sure that this is one area that minimizes the growth of every church, because I know of NO church where 100% of the members are involved in service to Jesus. We must not accept this though, we must be committed to the ideal; continuing to struggle, urging, and even pleading when necessary for more help from the laity.

 

These are the reasons I believe over the last five years we have not grown more. I pray that the points made in this blog will help you as you help to put your church in a position to receive the Lord’s blessing of growth! Tomorrow I’ll be posting on what specific things we plan to look at in the years ahead to continue and exceed our current growth.

 

Thanks for reading and please share with your friends and pastors if you think it will be a blessing to them!

 

 

 

 

Our Growth Part 1

I am hesitant to write about the growth of our church, The Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church, for fear that it is arrogant or presumptuous to assume anyone would want to know what is happening here in Visalia, California. There is also the recognition that Jesus ultimately brings the growth and to try and label that growth through any other means is foolishness.

In regards to the first concern I read many blogs, many books, many articles from non-Adventists about why their churches are growing, and I learn from these materials. Within our own denomination there is very little material relating to this topic. (There are a few books, like “The Big Four” by Dr. Joseph Kidder which I would highly recommend, but that is one of few). I believe this reality is unfortunate because there is a danger when we only read non-Adventist church growth materials: We may be tempted to say, “we have to be just like this,” Which I have found in our subculture just does not work. Or we can go to the other extreme and say, “we can’t do any of this,” and thus we never try.

In regards to the second concern I believe with all my heart that Jesus brings the growth of a church and that church growth can actually happen at any time in any place and that church growth can also fail to happen even when all the best things are happening. That said, I see how Jesus uses strategy, focus, vision, intentionality in powerful ways to make a difference for the growth of His Kingdom.

So this blog is an attempt to talk about Church Growth from an Adventist perspective with the recognition that even what I share is not possible unless Jesus brings the harvest!

This in fact will be a three part blog. Today I will look at some of the things that have put our church in a position to grow over the last five years. Tomorrow I will look at why I believe our church hasn’t grown more over the last five years. Then in part 3 on Wednesday I will share with you some of the things we are going to focus on moving forward to further place ourselves in a position to grow.

So what are the credentials of this church that make me believe we are in a position to talk about church growth? I will give you a quick laundry list.

  1. This is not a scientific statement and I have no idea the veracity of this statement but I have been told by a number of individuals within the Pacific Union Conference that our church is one of the fastest if not the fastest growing (Caucasian–more on this later) English speaking churches in this Union.
  2. In the last five years our attendance has grown 133%
  3. Our membership has had a net increase of 243 individuals after you take away transfers out and deaths.
  4. Some have assumed that this growth has been primarily transfer growth, this would be an inaccurate assumption: Transfers In: 165 Baptisms & Professions of Faith: 180 (we’ve baptized more than that but more on this later as well).
  5. Our Giving to the world church has increased since 2008 from $550,000 annually to over $800,000; Our local giving over those same years increased from roughly $370,000 to this year we will go over $600,000 in local giving.

So those are the statistics, for what they’re worth. And now to the focus of this blog post.

What have we done here in Visalia, CA to put ourselves in the position for God to bless and grow this church?

Prayer. I could not start this section without stating that very clearly, so let me say it again. I attribute what has happened at Visalia to the foundation of prayer that has been and is being built. I would love to say that this foundation was due to the deep spirituality of the pastor! 🙂 The truth is I was like I am sure many pastors are, I worked first and prayed later. I gave token platitudes to prayer, but I did not really emphasize prayer. I had however a lady in this church, Katy, that from the first day I arrived in Visalia did some friendly nagging (I know nag is not a nice word, but I can’t think of a better word). She was persistent in encouraging me to focus more on prayer. She practically forced a prayer partner on me. She gave me books to read about prayer. But most of all she prayed that her pastor would pray more. Well, the Lord answered her prayers and prayer–our communication with Jesus & receiving His power has become the foundation of what we do in Visalia. How has this looked? We’ve been intentional about placing prayer partners with our key leaders. We have folk that pray every morning before church starts and another group that prays Sabbath afternoon at our sister campus The Ark before their services begin. We have a ladies group that prays Wednesday mornings together for the prayer requests that come in each Sabbath. Recently we spent 40 days as a church praying every morning at 7:14 a.m. & every evening at 7:14 p.m.. As we came out of those 40 days we decided to continue with our prayer gatherings in the morning and so every single morning our church is open for folk to gather together to pray. Every single person that is connected to our church whether member or not is on a list and is prayed for weekly by one of our 70+ prayer warriors. We preach about prayer regularly. We’ve sent out more than 300+ books on two separate occasions focused on prayer (“Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala & “Draw the Circle” by Mark Batterson). In other words we’ve made prayer foundational to what we do & we try to keep this before our people!

Ellen G. White’s strategy for church growth. Specifically the books, “Gospel Workers” & “Evangelism” have been books that I constantly go back to to discover principles on reaching people for Jesus! I heard the story when I was in Seminary and you may have heard it too: There was an Adventist doctoral student from Fuller Theological Seminary that was doing some research and he went to visit Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho (formerly David Yungi Cho) in South Korea. Cho is the founding pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church the largest church in the world with close to 1 million members. While this doctoral student was discussing with Pastor Cho the phenomenal growth of his church, Pastor Cho discovered that the student was a Seventh-day Adventist, he dismissed himself went back into his personal office and returned with two books in hand, the books were “Gospel Workers” & “Evangelism” by Ellen G. White. He told the student that he should be familiar with the principles of church growth applied at Yoido Full Gospel Church as they were taught by Ellen White. (On a side note I’ve always wondered how Pastor Cho came upon these books, this past summer a pastor I work with here in Central California Conference that is from South Korea informed me that Pastor Cho for a short time attended our Adventist University in Korea, which is surely where he came across those books). I recalled this story I had learned years ago and I began to thoroughly go through these books & to apply the principles that I learn in them. The methods don’t always work, it was a different culture that she wrote in, but the principles still are from God and still will bless your church. Something else I discovered as I went through these books is that I see the principles of the “Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren (a book I read and have been blessed by) in Mrs. White’s writings. This should teach us something; we should be careful not to condemn everything outside our own walls…we may find ourselves condemning the very things Jesus affirmed through our prophet over a hundred years ago. If our churches aren’t growing shouldn’t it make us sit-up and take notice that the largest church in the world is using principles from our prophet to grow & that the number one church growth book in our nation, “The Purpose Driven Church” is also writing about those very same principles Mrs. White wrote about so long ago. Why then are we not digging into these two books to learn more? That is something we have done and it is blessing our church!

Staff. I was blessed when I arrived here in Visalia to immediately be surrounded by gifted individuals that were doing a tremendous job in their particular areas of ministry. We have since had some transitions, yet we as a church have made an intentional effort to continue to staff our church with a tremendous group of individuals and we do all that we can to allow them to thrive in their particular ministry areas. Now I know this is a more challenging task for most churches since they are not in a position to have “staff.” So for those churches that are unable to have “staff” I would recommend at least one specific team member that you hire. And that would be a prayerful “true” Bible Worker. I say prayerful because Bible Working is tough work, rejection is more common than success, and thus an individual truly needs to be in continual prayer to have real success in their endeavors. I say “true” because there are a lot of individuals that have gone through Bible Worker training but their real objective is to be the next David Asscherick, Nathan Renner, or Taj Pacleb. All great guys, all friends of mine, all tremendous soul winners. But for a Bible Worker in your church you don’t want copy cats of these men. You want someone that wants to be a Bible Worker! They are individuals that want to be out there knocking on doors, giving one on one Bible studies, connecting with all your guests, pestering your members to go on studies with them. There are a number of churches here within my own conference that baptize one or less than one on a consistent year by year basis. To all those churches I would say, “hire a Bible worker.” Cut whatever else you need to in your budget and hire a Bible Worker. Most Bible Workers are willing to work for $1500 a month plus a roof over their heads and some help with gas. A lot of conferences will help churches that are wanting to make this step as well. If I were to move to another church and I was the lone pastor the first hire I would make is a Bible Worker!

Quality. A fourth area I see that has put us in a position for such positive growth is that we are intentional about doing things well. We don’t always do things well, but it is not because we don’t try. I believe within Adventism there is a dearth of excellence or worse yet, there is a dearth even at the attempt of excellence. I don’t say this to be critical…yes I do…I think it is shameful that we are worshiping the God of the universe Sabbath after Sabbath and so many throw together worship services at the last minute without much thought or prayer. This is NOT Biblical! Read the Old Testament particularly the last four books of the Pentateuch and it is obvious that God cares very much about the details of worship! This doesn’t mean that services need to be elaborate, but the first time someone plays a hymn or sings a song shouldn’t be Sabbath morning as they are standing in front of the congregation. The person that is praying shouldn’t be an elder that happened to be early for church that Sabbath and was thus dragged up to fill in the role. And pastors we should NEVER wing it! Okay, I’ll get off my soap box. I am really passionate about this though and I believe that little things done right or at least an attempt at doing right make a huge difference.

It’s Not About Visalia Only! I mentioned above that we had baptized more than the 180 that are on our record books. The “more” that we have baptized have been individuals that have come to accept Jesus through the ministries of the Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church or by studying with one of our team or one of our members, but have chosen to be members at another Seventh-day Adventist Church for whatever reason. There have been more than a dozen folk that would fit into this category. I praise the Lord for this! Because we don’t want our growth to be only about us. My hearts desire is to see the Gospel to be spread far and wide and for all our Adventist churches to grow. Having this attitude has allowed us to say goodbye with grace to other members when they feel that God is calling them to serve in another church. Having this attitude has given us the opportunity to encourage our team and our Elders that are gifted in speaking to share their skills at other churches. Having this attitude has helped us to think valley wide when planning ministries. I believe having this attitude has opened the door for Jesus to bless us even more, because Jesus isn’t worried about just Visalia SDA growing, He cares about His Kingdom growing by whomever, wherever and He blesses those that feel and practice the same!

Demographics. We have also grown because our church has started to look more like our community. Our community is only 50% Caucasian in such an environment it would be foolish and unChristian to attempt to remain homogenous. I am firmly committed to the idea that a church that fails to look like its community will fail to grow. 

A willingness to change and endure the resulting conflict. In the last five years there have been a number of changes. Staff changes, adding a service, adding an entirely new campus. Changes in music. Changes in nominating committee process. Changes in the board structure. Changes in expectations of volunteers. Lots and lots of changes. Some have stuck, some have failed but in every change there has been push back. Just like in nature that which does not change, does not grow. In fact growth in and of itself is a change which has brought some challenges and conflict. A church that would rather stay the same than grow is not a church it is a country club, and last time I checked country clubs were not the body of Christ! Conflict is inevitable, I believe if our goal is to avoid conflict then growth is nearly impossible.

Intentionality. Doing things with purpose. Too much is done in churches without a true purpose. “Why is your children’s program run that way?” “Why do you start your church service at that time?” “Why is that person the leader of that ministry?” “Why do you have Pathfinders?” If the answer to any of these questions is, “because that is the way it has always been.” Then that is not intentionality. To be intentional is to have a reason for everything that you do. We have greeters trainings and elders retreats. We have a stewardship system that functions from week to week in a specific way for a specific purpose. Family Night. Friday Night Vespers. Whatever we do, there is a purpose behind it and when those things start to lose their purpose/impact, then we become “intentional” about closing them down or changing them. Most of us think through our lives with a lot more intentionality than we do our work for Jesus, even though our work for Jesus is the most important task we have on this earth.

Everything is evangelism! Finally, we have made it a point to keep before our people that the most important thing about a church is, “seeking and saving the lost.” We spend our money with this in mind. We shape our calendar with this in mind. We preach this. We urge this reality in the life of each person that joins our family. If you spend, work, and talk reaching people for Jesus, well then you’ll be more likely to reach people for Jesus.

As I was writing this blog I began to realize this list could go on and on (you may feel it already did:) ). We could talk about our Children’s Ministries, our local Adventist schools, our hospitality ministries, health ministries, etc.. But rather than get into specifics I wanted to focus on some things all churches no matter how big or small could do to help reach more people for Jesus’ family.

Tomorrow I will focus on some reasons why we didn’t grow more over the last five years.

I hope you’ll join me!

The Four Most Important Evangelists in The Adventist Church

If you follow the world of Adventist Evangelism you are familiar with ministries such as It Is Written, Amazing Facts, Breath of Life, & Voice of Prophecy. You’re also familiar with the great evangelists of Adventism, some of y’all have seen them so many times on 3ABN or The Hope Channel that you almost feel like they are your own personal friends, Doug Batchelor, Shawn Boonstra, Mark Finley, Alejandro Bullon, John Bradshaw, Carlton Byrd, and more. But of all the evangelists in our denomination, The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which ones are the most important, the most vital to the growth of our church?

I’m going to give you my top four. They are…

  1. Parking Lot
  2. Groundskeeper
  3. Janitor
  4. Greeter

These three individuals & one inanimate object are far more important to the growth of your church and thus the growth of Adventism at least here in North America than any of the names I mentioned above. Why do I say that? Because these three evangelists have a weekly impact on the growth of your church that the other three do not have (unless of course one of them is your Pastor:)).

Pastor Nelson Searcy and other church growth surveyors report that churches have roughly 7 minutes from the time a guest pulls into your church parking lot to make them feel welcome and give them a compelling reason to come back. Now a lot of folk may be skeptical about that statement, but if you’re a church goer then that disqualifies you from being able to speculate on the mind of the un-churched. The un-churched don’t think like church folk or act like church folk or talk like church folk, but they are the folk we need to reach, which is why these four evangelists, parking lot, groundskeeper, janitor, and greeter are so important to the life and growth of a local church!

Let me tell you about the value of each one:

Parking Lot

Church growth studies state that if a parking lot that is more than 80% it is a deterrent to guests. When I first read this in a book by Russell Burrill I was skeptical, but I’m a pastor which makes me even less qualified than the average member in the pew to analyze the thoughts of an individual searching for a church, so I took the study to the church Elders and there in our meeting one of our Elders raised his hand. He said, “Pastor 8 years ago when my wife and I first move to the area we came to this church; we pulled into the parking lot and didn’t see many openings. The place seemed too crowded so we drove to another church in town.” They weren’t even here 7 minutes and they left. Praise the Lord they gave us another chance, they have been a great asset to our church! But we could have lost them because the evangelism of our parking lot dropped the ball! How can we help with the evangelism of the parking lot? Well first off pastors we can actually pay attention to it. One thing we did prior to moving to two services in Visalia, as our church grew, we not only paid attention to how many people were sitting in the seats but we also sent a Deacon to count the empty spots in the parking lot. When we were getting to full we began to ask our members to park elsewhere. There was a parking lot next door and we got permission to use it, we also had members park out on the street at the curb. Our church having the evangelistic heart that they do complied and our parking lot was once again ready to be an evangelist to our guests.

Groundskeeper

Are your bushes trimmed, is your lawn mowed & green, do you have flowers blooming? The first thing that people see when they pull up to your church are these things and whether we pay attention to it or not, it is noticed by guests. If you don’t believe me think about the last time you pulled up to a persons house whose yard was falling apart. Did you notice? Of course you did! Especially if you were about to go inside. In fact you probably thought in your head, “If this is what the outside of their house looks like, I wonder what the inside looks like?” We’ve all thought it (if you haven’t you may be the one with the ultra shabby yard:)). Well do you think folk pulling into a church think any different? NO! And what is one of the most important rules of evangelism? Start by focusing on the positive. What do most our main stream evangelists start their meetings with? Daniel 2. Why? Because they want folk to see the credibility of the scriptures and honestly probably the credibility of us, in that we were so “smart” to show them the meaning of Daniel 2 (sorry mild sarcasm there:)). But this is a positive message for a positive start. It is no different each Sabbath morning, we want to start things off on the positive. And the positive is a green mowed lawn, trimmed bushes, and flowers blooming. Pastors are you paying attention to the evangelism provided by your groundskeeper?

Janitor

Really this evangelist follows in the same line as the previous. If your church is unkempt and dirty you are communicating a message you don’t want to communicate. Bathrooms need to be clean! If they are like ours in Visalia (literally the worst church bathrooms ever) then you really have to go out of your way to make them as useable as possible! Papers should not be lying around, the walls should be clean, the tables at potluck should be clean. I was once speaking at a small church in the Southern parts of these here United States. I was the guest so I showed-up early that gave me the opportunity to stand in the foyer and look around while I waited for the Sabbath Schools to finish, what I noticed made me wonder how many guests came back. There was a coat rack that probably had half the coats hanging on the rack and the other half were lying in a heap on the floor. Sitting on top of the coat rack were stacks of what appeared to be old Adventist Review magazines along with other various papers. Everything just looked disheveled. We don’t get points if the outside is beautiful but the inside it is a filthy mess, either Spiritually or as a literal church structure. Your janitor evangelist is important!

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Greeters

This evangelist may be the most overlooked because most people consider their church friendly. But just because we as members think our church is friendly doesn’t mean that is what your guests experience. And unfortunately what has been discovered is that members almost always rate themselves higher on the “friendly” meter than guests do. All the other 6 1/2 minutes of a guests first encounter with your church are important but the first 30 seconds that a guest steps inside your church are the most vital and will leave an impression of your church that can be very hard to shake! I’ve found within Adventism that most greeting ministries are the same. Hand-out a bulletin and be done with it. In some churches that is even an overreach of expectation. One of my associates went to preach at another church in our area, when he walked into the church foyer there was no greeter. There was a table though with a stack of bulletins. My associate greeted the table and took a bulletin 🙂 To be a greeter is not to be a bulletin dispenser. A greeter is an evangelist! Every pastor should do training sessions with their greeters. Have a plan for how to greet and where to greet. Yes, where matters. Guests should not have to come to the greeters, I can not count how many times I have had to tap a greeter on a shoulder in a church I was visiting and ask for a bulletin. One pastor friend told me how at a church he was serving at the greeters refused to come out from behind the hospitality table, they said if the people wanted something it was clear where they needed to go. Sounds so hospitable! 🙂 I find the greeting ministry of our church to be one of the ministries I spend the most time thinking about and praying over!

So there are your four “most important” evangelists in Adventism! From personal experience and observation I believe if a pastor will take a little more time focusing on even just these four areas, he or she will see the retention of their guests increase.

 

Faster Pastor

Greetings Y’all–

Here is a little project my friend Albert Handal, Pastor of the Stonehill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Austin, TX came up with and invited me to be a part of. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn through collaboration and to help network folk which are working towards & for the great day of Lord’s soon return! I hope everyone will enjoy and be blessed, especially our fellow Pastors!

Introducing Speiro Media Ministries

What would happen if there were a healthy, vibrant, multiplying Adventist church in every city, in every county, in every state in the North American Division?

What if there was one healthy, vibrant, & multiplying Adventist church for every 10,000 individuals in the North American Division?

There would be a lot of churches!

In fact if we had one healthy, vibrant, & multipling Adventist church for every 10,000 individuals there would be 35,000 churches throughout the United States and Canada.

Some one may ask: “Why would we want that many churches?”

The simple answer would be, “Because we are called to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ & His soon coming in the context of the Three Angels Messages with all 350,000,000 persons in our Division (and beyond) Matt. 28:18-20.”

You may ask, “why 1 for every 10k?” I would encourage you to read my blog post by just said title: 1 For Every 10k, but to answer quickly and succintly studies have found that a church of 200 individuals can realisitically only have an impact on 10,000 persons.

So how are we doing with this goal, this need of 35,000 churches?

Well we are a little behind? We currenly have 5326 churches.

But wait at the top we said we are in need of 35,000 healthy, vibrant, multiplying Adventist churches in the North American Division.

Dr. Joseph Kidder in his excellent book, “The Big Four” points out that in Adventism 80% of all churches in North America are Plateauing or in decline. That means that out of the 5326 churches that we already have in existence only 1,066 of those are healthy, vibrant, multiplying churches, while 4,260 churches have stopped growing and are whithering.

Which is why we Jason Lombard–a marketing, web design, creative type–& myself–a pastor, talks a lot type–started Speiro Media Ministries.

To plant new churches & re-plant the churches that have lost their health, their vibrancy, & their ability to multiply.

Speiro Media Ministries is a ministry with a deep commitment to seeing local churches change lives for eternity, a deep belief that God will still do the impossible (even plant 30,000 Adventist churches and revive 4,260 others), and the deep conviction that as believers in Christ we have no other option than to give our lives for the salvation of others!

So how will Speiro work?

The best way to understand how Speiro will work is simply to take you through our intended process & to do that I will use a local town that has been on our radar ever since this conviction and dream began to formulate in our hearts.

Kingsburg, CA.

In Kingsburg, CA a city of 11,537 persons there is currently no Seventh-day Adventist Church. We believe this must change, so what do we do about it?

  1. We establish connections in Kingsburg through media content. How? Through direct mailing, google ads, Facebook ads, hard print ads, and various other marketing techniques. All of these things would direct people to our website. On this site people would be able to hear messages, full length & devotional length. They would be able to read blogs, sign-up for interactive Bible studies, and receive prayer support. In many ways your typical media ministry website content in a new & updated package. 
  2. When, through the analysis of data, we see that we have a decent following within Kingsburg we will then advertise & hold a series of meetings, aka public evangelism, though with a twist.
  3. The twist to these meetings is that almost simultaneously we will begin, through media provided to meeting attenders, & through short training sessions held in conjunction with the meetings train people for what it means to be part of a church. The meetings will not just be evangelistic or doctrinal, but they will be practical as well.
  4. One of the key differences with Speiro is that at the end of the meetings, rather than just baptizing and leaving, we will seek to establish a “permanent work” a church plant in the city of Kingsburg. (This of course will be done in accordance and in conjunction with the local Seventh-day Adventist Conference).
  5. Speiro to unburden the conference will initially provide resources to the local body for a Bible worker to help oversee the church as a local elder.
  6. The evangelist, right now that is me:), will continue to preach to the local body on a weekly basis. How? Through a satellite feed from the Visalia Seventh-day Adventist & or The Ark Seventh-day Adventist Church. 
  7. Continued training will continue to take place in the new church plant, and a continued proactive media presence will remain in Kingsburg to support the new believers as they take on the responsibility of reaching their family, friends, coworkers, & neighbors to grow their church.
  8. End result: A healthy, vibrant, multiplying Adventist church.

Ellen White wrote:

“In every city that is entered, a solid foundation is to be laid for permanent work.”   –Testimonies for the Church, p. 38.

We want to be faithful to that counsel! Our media ministry will not be the typical big coverage, TV, expansive meetings, famous speakers. It will follow more in the steps of the greatest church planter ever, Paul. Ours will be a missionary journey to go from city to city through modern technology seeking to establish churches that the good news of Jesus & His soon coming will be more widely spread through.

One of the other components of Speiro is helping to revitalize plateaued or dying churches. What is our intended plan to accomplish this agenda?

Well it is three fold:

  1. Quality Content–For churches that are plateaued and dead without a consistent pastor, there is often a lack of consistent, cohesive, & quality preaching.  This prevents growth in the local church, because the #1 reason given by people, even in this post-modern world, for why they choose to attend a church is the Preaching! (90%). Speiro through satellite will provide a consistent, cohesive message that was written with the knowledge of that specific church in mind. Some people ask, will people really come to see a preacher on a screen, the overwhelming answer is YES! Hundreds if not thousands of churches are utilizing this method of providing quality preaching, and sometimes even quality worship to other venues.
  2. Experienced Training–Our team will take the things we have learned in turning a plateaued church into a growing church, combine them with the things we have learned through our church plant and provide training for these churches. Simple things that won’t cost money, just a love for reaching people, and a desire to grow. The reason this training is so important is because although preaching will get people to choose your church, if we want to keep them in the church we must love them, care for them, and get them involved! If not they will eventually go out the back door.
  3. Evangelistic Support–Speiro will, like with the church plants flood the area with content, seeking to make connections, and leading them to their local church. We will also in time provide a live evangelistic series, and help offset the costs of Bible Worker that will assist with continued evangelistic growth.

In time we believe that Speiro will provide many levels of content for all people, but these two objectives will remain the consistent focus of Speiro. We are not trying to be big, we are trying to be faithful missionaries, journeying from town to town, leaving a lasting legacy in each town the Three Angels’ Messages are preached!

This missionary journey is already underway in many steps of faith, but to move forward even further we need your support! Speiro is in need of $10,000 seed money. This money will help provide the quality camera for filming and producing content (our one video thus far was filmed on an iphone:)) and the beginnings of the equipment we will need to establish a quality live stream to the churches that are already wanting to join us in this endeavor.  Would you prayerfully ask God what He may desire you to give to this ministry. Please we ask that you not give us your tithe, that should go to your local conference, through your local church, but if God is calling you to give a gift above and beyond your monthly 10% we would greatly appreciate the support.

You can give at our website Speiro, & in advance I thank you for your generosity!

(Speiro is a non-profit 501c3 and all gifts are tax-deductible).

 

The Most Exciting Numbers!

I look at a lot of numbers. If you follow this blog, you know that “Church Growth” is the most tagged topic, and that naturally is about NUMBERS.

But of all the numbers I have written about I believe the numbers I am going to share with you in this blog are the most exciting thus far.

At the end of 2011 we decided to be a host site for the John Bradshaw/It Is Written evangelistic meetings being broadcast from Las Vegas.

One of our prayer warriors came to me with the idea that we get folk from in our church to pray for every single name on our membership roster and any others that we have in our “friends” list. That was a list of over 750 persons. I thought it was a great idea and so we went to our Prayer Director Kristin to see if something could be set-up. The decision was made to call folk to see if they would take a list of names to pray over.

After much calling & some emails Kristin had 7 individuals, not the number we were looking for :),  that agreed to take a list of names to daily pray for. So they started with praying for all our active members.

But maybe more importantly, we began to pray for more prayer warriors!

That is a prayer we knew God wanted to answer in the affirmative, and He definitely has!

Today (ALL) just shy of 800 folk connected with our church are being prayed for daily by at last check 60 prayer warriors!

We started with 7 and we asked God to send more prayer warriors and now 5 months later we have 60 folks hitting their knees daily for their church & their church family!

I believe we have seen the difference. Between the Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church & our northside church plant The Ark we’ve had 20 baptisms, 2 Professions of Faith (so 22 new Adventists), & 7 rebaptisms. An entire family is attending our church because they were led to do so in a dream, and 12+ more are in Bible studies.

In the past those are the things we have primarily prayed for, this year, while we have still prayed for decisions for Jesus, without much forethought our primary prayers and emphasis in church have been, “Jesus give us a greater spirit for prayer.”

The numbers the conference will look at & the numbers church growth statisticians look at are nice, but I believe that all those numbers are a direct result of the most exciting number of this year–SIXTY–60 interceding on behalf of the names on their lists.

I am so thankful for those 60 and I praise the Lord for the many more He will convict to be warriors in prayer for His people and for the city of Visalia.

Where do you live? What do your prayer warriors pray for? What would happen if you started praying less for church growth and more for prayer growth? Would your church grow anyway?

“It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the PRAYER of faith, that which he would not bestow, did we not thus ask.” –Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 348.

 

 

1 For Every 10k

That is not a 10k race…for those runner friends out there. I am writing of 10k as in 10,000, & the 1 is representative of 1 church.

We need 1 church for every 10,000 people, to be precise we need 1 church of 200 active members for every 10,000 people. This is the conclusion many have come to, including those in the North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Why? Well let the folks at NPUC explain:

“A typical church of 200 active members will impact a maximum of 10k people (200 members x 50 contacts = 10k if there is no overlap).”

Now let me throw in this caveat that I believe to be absolutely 100% truth, and definitely verifiable through the stories of scripture. God could reach everyone with just 1 person. I don’t know how, but He could do it. And although that is true that is not the way God seems to work. In fact He seems to work in the way we would typically think of working, at least when it comes to numbers.

More people reach more people!

“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” –Matthew 9:37-38

The idea is MORE laborers MORE reaping!

So yes God could reach everyone with just 1 person, but He has chosen to use people and to call for more people to help Him in reaching everyone. Which is the very reason why the statistic above is significant. For a church to truly impact 10,000 people it must have 200 soul winners, engaged members in its midst.

In most communities where there is an Adventist church of 500 or more folk will often ask, “Why do we need another church?” It doesn’t matter if the city is 20,000, 50,000, or 100,000+. A church of 500 or more is usually quite satisfactory to folk and again people ask, “Why do we need another church?” How do I know this? Because we have recently started another church (in my mind it is a campus, but to the community it is another church) The Ark a Seventh-day Adventist Christian Church, & because there is already a significant size church in our community, The Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church, (740 members and growing) I have heard many times, “Why  another church pastor?”

My answer is this:

Because 1 church cannot reach 125,000 people quick enough with the Adventist message (and yes I do believe in proselytizing) That is how many people there are in my city. Which would mean we need at least 12 churches of 200 soul winners to reach all 125,000+ people in our community.

What about in your community? How big is your city? Does your city have a population of 10,000 or more?

And if so…

Do you have an Adventist church? Are there 200 engaged–on fire, Jesus loving, people serving, Good News spreading–members in your church? Do you have enough churches & or enough members if your city is 20 thousand, 30 thousand, 40 thousand, 100,000, 500,000 people?

For most of you the answer will be NO!

How do I know? Because in the United States the mean size of a typical Adventist church is 215 members. That is good, except…there are only 4950 churches which in comparison to the population of the United States computes to just 1 church for every 63,267 people.

(Even if we took our total Adventist membership in the U.S. and divided it by 200 we would still only have 1 set of 200 people for every 58,900 people. Now probably wouldn’t be the right time to mention that only about half of all professed Adventists are “active” in their local churches right? Yeah that would be a much more dismal picture, so let’s at least let something be rose colored:)).

Back to our situation. In order to have 1 church for every 10k in the United States, we need 31,317 Adventist churches of at least 200 in the United States. So roughly, 26,350 more of our mean size (215) church.

So do we throw-up our hands and say impossible? Can’t be done? Do you remember that God that could reach everyone with just 1 that you were defending earlier when I was throwing-out numbers? Yes, He is still on the throne and He can very well do this! And He can very well do this through us!

Based on some quick adding and some quick math on my part. Let us state that there are about 750 churches with 300 members or more.

What if every church with at least 300 members, encouraged, taught, made a part of their culture, a membership tithe from the church. In other words if a church has 300 members they would ask 30 members to step out in faith and plant a church. If they have 400 members, 40, 500, 50…600 they plant two churches and send out two groups of 30.

What if a church such as Loma Linda University church made the decision to tithe their members. To call for 600 members to step out in faith and plant churches…what if they sent out 6 different teams of 100 to plant a church. 6 churches in 1 year. The same could be true for Pioneer Memorial Church, Pastor Dwight Nelson if he were to stand-up every year and teach every year his congregation to tithe themselves? Could they plant 3 churches of a 100 members every year? Why not? On faith they could!

Here is what I know about tithing financially. With an honest tithe I am never found in need! I believe the same would be true for our churches. If we stepped out in faith and said “we will not be satisfied with the inability to reach more people; we will not ignore the call to pray for more workers, we will actually send out more workers.”

If we were to do this, our churches would never be found wanting and the Adventist message would spread like wildfire!

Are you a Seventh-day Adventist believer? Then the above scenario is not something nice to throw around it is your calling!

“Upon ALL who believe, God has placed a burden of raising up churches.”

–Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry, p. 315


 

 

 

 

Bittersweet Moving

I have just learned that some dear friends and folk in our church are going to be moving from the area in the next 6 months.

I’ve known actually for some time that they were moving, but now that a house has been sold and a house has been bought reality sinks in!

This is bittersweet for me! As a friend I am extremely happy for them because they are moving to be close to kids and grandkids. But as a friend and also as a young pastor my heart aches! Since my arrival at The Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church Chuck & Darlene have been true mentors & friends to me in my ministry.

Yes they are in their 70’s–

But I feel like they have as much joy and enthusiasm for ministry and my ministry success as I ever have! Many, many a time I have enjoyed sitting at their feet soaking up their wisdom.

They have always encouraged me even when disagreeing and at times gently correcting me.

They have modeled for me an openness to the will of God in all things, even when that will may push them out of their comfort zone.

They have modeled for me unconditional support to the cause of our Lord through their weekly service to the church, their generous giving to their church, and their unendning love for the people in the church.

A church that has a Chuck and Darlene is far the richer for it.

I think of the young pastors that don’t have Chuck & Darlene in their congregation. I wonder what struggles they face and what challenges they fall to, because of not having the wisdom of years?

I dread to think of ministry here without them and pray for God to send someone in their stead!

As I think tonight about Chuck and Darlene I would give this word of advice to folk out there.

First to young pastors: If you have a Chuck or Darlene in your midst spend time with them. Learn from them, if they rebuke you in love, accept the rebuke. If they disagree with you find out why and see what steps you should have taken so you won’t repeat the mistake in the future. Include them in your leadership team (Darlene is one of my Elders & Chuck sits on our finance team). If they have been at that church for some time, Chuck and Darlene have been in Visalia for almost 40 years, ask them about the history and how things have moved and shook in the past. Most of all thank them as they encourage you and help you to grow as a pastor.

To the elderly in the church: Be gentle counselors to your pastors. Be appropriately critical, but not overly so. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Defend your pastor against the attacks of others in your generation who don’t like things simply because they are “new” and “different.” Embrace change and support your young pastor in that change. And most of all pray for your pastor and let him/her know you are doing so in love!

Chuck and Darlene I’ll miss y’all! If it wasn’t a sin I would covet the new young pastor you will be mentoring!

I love you both, thanks for making the Visalia SDA church and my ministry so rich by gracing us with your love!

People Need the Lord: A Guest Post by Noemi Roman

Noemi Roman is the Bible worker of the Visalia Seventh-day Adventist church and she is also working with our team to plant our new campus/church The Ark.  Yesterday she was out inviting community people to The Ark’s Cookout, a connecting event this Sunday. The following is the story of an encounter she had with a lady by the name of Victoria:

Last night my sister and I while knocking on doors inviting people to the new church, knocked on a door of a lady who was on the phone.  Not wanting to bother her, I was about to just leave the flyer on the door, but before I could pull it from my hand, she motioned for me to  open the door and come inside. By the time we were through the front door,  she had us two cold  Pepsi’s and a apple apple juice (for Isaiah) in our hands motioning for us to sit down on the sofa. As we talked she told us that she needed to be saved and was scared she was lost. She questioned what was different about our church and said that even though we were nice, she probably wouldn’t attend because she felt like such a sinner, and had no knowledge of God. All she knew of Him was from what she had seen from The Passion of the Christ, she told us that if any of that was true and if He was willing to endure all that for us then she really wanted to be saved. We told her that God loved her and that it was by Grace alone, through faith, to the Glory of God alone that we are saved. Yvonne  was so loving to her and asked her if she had ever considered bible studies. Her answer was no, because she felt embarrassed because she hadn’t read the bible and didn’t think she could understand it. She explained that her life  had been spent making bad choices and that  if we only knew, it would make us think different of her.  WOW! I told her that God loved her and despite OUR failure, His love continues and will always continue.  She looked at us so puzzled and said she had never heard such things. I thought how could someone not know that God loves them? God loves us so much and yet the Devil tries to blind people into not seeing who God really is~ A loving compassionate Father who at the thought of not spending eternity with us,  jumped off a throne and land on cross just to save us and show us how much He values us. Giving up His life shows us our value. I praised God that she had seen The Passion of the Christ, that if that was the only knowledge she had of Him, PTL because that is the Gospel! (Despite some of the different portrayals of Christ in the movie vs bible). 

 As we were leaving she walked us out and I felt impressed to ask her if I could pray with her. Her eyes began to fill with tears and she asked if we could go back inside just the two of us. We went to her room and I grabbed her hand and prayed for her, I asked God to pour His Spirit on her and show her that He died to save especially her, that her name Victoria is engraved in the palm of His hands and that despite whom she sees, God sees a beautiful daughter whom He loves. I poured out my heart because I wanted her to know that she was loved and that we weren’t there by chance, God had led us to her house specifically.  She cried the entire prayer. As I was leaving she hugged me and asked what she could bring on Sunday. 

 

God is so good and meeting Victoria yesterday reminded me just how much God loves us. I left so blessed and so encouraged. There are so many people out in this world that don’t really know who God really is and how much He loves them. Thank you God for leading us to Victoria yesterday. Our group knocked on over 100 other doors and personally invited each of them. Please keep this Sunday’s event in prayer, pray for the last 200 invitations that were personally asked to come in prayer.