I’ve had this asked more than a few times. “So, you’re pastor of that new church?” My response, “No, we’re actually pretty old school. We just looked back at the Book of Acts and copied the early church. They worked together, operated unselfishly, and did everything they could to reach as many souls as possible.”
Over two years ago, my wife and I prayerfully started a new church in Colleton County called Refuge. This church is not designed to compete with other churches. Instead, it was started to reach the countless number of unchurched and lost throughout our county. Research revealed to me that nearly 75% of Colleton County alone was unchurched. That’s nearly 30,000 folks that are not connected to any local church.
Too many folks living in the southeast assume that most people around them go to church. When in reality, church attendance has been on the decline for quite some time. God put it on my heart to do everything possible to change that. So, we started a church that exists to change the way people think about church. We do this by removing many of the barriers that keep many unchurched.
One, we don’t expect the unchurched to run to us, so we run to them. We look for windows to show God’s love. Why? Because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We aim to love people with no strings attached on the outside and then invite them to join us on the inside.
Two, we create genuine environments where everyone feels loved. There is nothing worse than showing up at God’s house and feeling like you’re on the outside looking in. God never called us to start country clubs. He has called every church and believer to love their neighbor as themselves. Love is more than words, but its doing everything you can to make someone feel important. Trust me, people know when they don’t matter.
Three, we simply do church differently in hopes of reaching as many souls as possible. It takes nearly 20 volunteers a month just to provide ministry to our birth to fifth graders during our two Sunday worship services. We can’t expect young families to come if all we do is cater to old folks. We make sure hot coffee, water, and refreshments are waiting for all who attend. Who knows, not being able to get breakfast beforehand may just keep someone from seeing us. We’ve actually never passed around an offering plate. Why? Because we don’t want anyone letting a dollar bill keep them from walking into God’s house. Our dress is casual, our music is contemporary and our messages connect with people’s everyday lives. We’re not inviting people to just come to church, we’re inviting them to a worship experience that we believe will be life changing.
Finally, we are a church family. Growing up a preacher’s son I’ve learned that it’s critical we maintain unity, operate with a clear vision and bring people together for a greater mission. All of our people are challenged weekly to “Love, Lift, & Lead” people to Jesus. I tell them there should not be a day that goes by they don’t tells others what God is doing in their life and in their church.
Now, I’m not saying that dealing with people is easy, but reaching out to people is a pretty simple process. You simply love them as they are, lift Jesus in all you do, and leave the results to God. This past Sunday we baptized 24 folks who were previously unchurched. As I pondered their journey I was reminded that people reach people. Many who were getting baptized led others to Jesus that were getting baptized that same day as a result.
My friends, I believe ministry is easier than it’s ever been. The needs are great, people are hurting and God is still in the business of changing lives. Let’s make sure we’re all doing our part to love, lift, and lead others to Jesus. Because when we’re not, somebody is going unreached. It could be your neighbors, friends, or family.