The Congregational Development Corner: Raise the Bar

9/19/2016

The Congregational Development Corner: 10 for 10 (10 steps for 10 percent growth)

During the 2016 Annual Conference session, action steps for congregational growth were shared during a Fruitfulness in Evangelism panel discussion, moderated by Rev. Jay Hanson, director of Congregational Development. Five clergy – Rev. Antonie Walker, Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor, Rev. Hale Bishop, Rev. Matt Hearn, and Rev. Jim Cowart – each shared two key tools for evangelism and growth and together gave clergy and lay attendees 10 action steps for 10 percent growth.

In the next several Advocate issues Congregational Development will share articles to give you and your congregation practical steps for church growth and development.

Raise the Bar

By Rev. Hale Bishop

Prior to my entry into the ministry, there was an issue in the workplace that caused me some frustration. One particular employee did as little work as possible, came in late, left early, and shirked responsibility whenever possible. I brought the matter to the boss. When he heard my complaint, he simply said, “he makes less money than you do; I expect less of him.”

I always believed that we sold this employee short by not expecting excellence. If we expect little, then little is exactly what we will get. The same is true in our expectation level in the church. If we expect little, we will get little.

When it comes to growing the numbers in our pews and in our family of faith, let us set our expectations high! Ultimately I believe we will be amazed at how much more we can do. We also must remember that we have help. In Matthew 19:26 Jesus said “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Let us set our goals with the awareness that we have the power of God with us. With God, all things are possible, so set your expectations high. You may just reach them.

Once our expectations have been positively and appropriately put in place, there will be an excitement that will join in as well. This anticipated excitement reminds me of an incident that happened to me when I had just returned to Valdosta as pastor of Park Avenue UMC. Every Sunday morning, I had three sermons to preach. Not long after returning to town I ran into a friend who goes to a large church down the street. As we were catching up, he invited me to try to run down the street between my sermons to catch a bit of their service. Now that is excitement and those are great expectations! When we are so excited about our church and our vision for bringing people into our fellowship that we invite preachers, then we are on the right track.

We should have greater expectations of growth. The pulpit and newsletters are a great place to share not only our expectations but also to stoke the excitement of the church. Too often, our pastoral peers are presenting a sinking ship that is hemorrhaging membership year by year. Eddie Fox has spent 25 years doing the exact opposite. He has become famous for invigorating crowds of Christians with the stories of the exciting growth of Christianity and Wesleyan belief throughout the world. He focused on our victories and expected more. I am sure that even in retirement, Eddie never tires of sharing the Good News!

Our next step in this process is to identify victories in our churches. We then can rally around these areas and use this excitement to reach others. I have never known a church that didn’t do anything well. The Good News of Jesus is found in every church. The Good News of Jesus has changed lives and the stories of these changed lives will change the world. We must speak of this life, hope, and Good News of Jesus to a world that is drowning in hopelessness. That is my expectation, not that we win one but that we win them all.
Take the name of Jesus with you as the song says, “Precious name! Oh, how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of heaven.”

There is power in the name of Jesus and that power makes all things possible. Ephesians 3:20,21 speaks to His power that is at work within us and that with that power we can do more than we ever imagined. We need to have better imaginations. The word “power” in that passage is the basis of our word “dynamite.” We are to be explosive with our faith and message.

  • The power of the Word of God is dynamite.
  • The witness of those who have experienced life change is dynamite.
  • The work of the church (your church) in this world is dynamite.
It is time for us to explode on the scene with the LOVE of Christ for a world that needs hope.

I encourage each of us to pray that our expectations grow, that our excitement multiplies, and that our power-infused message changes the world. To make a difference we must also remember that there is work to be done. We cannot sit comfortably in our pews, behind the walls of the church and in our Sunday finery and expect people to come ask us about Jesus. We must explode on the world with our stories of life change, our call to worship God, and our desire to bring as many as possible to the wedding feast with us.

If I had a free ticket for a cruise, could you find someone who could use it? Well, I have a free ticket to heaven. I do not know what all heaven has in store, but the description we see in the Bible, as fanciful as it may seem, pales in comparison to the reality. Invite someone on your cruise of eternity on the S.S. Salvation.

Hale Bishop serves as senior pastor at Park Avenue UMC in Valdosta. Contact him at halebishop@paumc.com.