Contagious Churches by Jim Graff

Are you praying for insight about how your church can impact the unchurched?  I remember thinking – “If our church ever becomes popular among the unchurched, we’ll sure be able to do lots of good.  After all, there are lots of people needing redemption in our community.”

Think about this, do you remember who led you to faith in Christ?  Numerous surveys say it was probably a relative, a friend, or a close co-worker.  One survey even claims that 97% of people who come to Christ do so through an existing relationship.

I think that’s why the church had such a strange but revealing experience on the day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, the day the New Testament Church began. 

Each believer saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  These tongues of fire enabled them to speak the redemptive message in a language somebody in their community understood (Acts 2:4).

In just one day three thousand people were added to the church – what an amazing experience that must have been.  But I think God made the reason for their effectiveness clear – people are reached when someone speaks their language well.

Perhaps the wrong question to ask is “How big can our church grow?”  Maybe a better one is, “How many languages can our church effectively speak in our community?”

For instance, my athletic background makes it easy for me to get into the world of other athletes and to speak their language.  Business people know how to speak the language of other business people.  Young moms can easily relate to other young moms.  I don’t personally know what its like to gaze at unwanted stretch marks or to lock myself in a bathroom for five minutes of peace.

But I do know relational evangelism is essential for churches desiring to reach the unchurched. 

So how can we help our members to connect better in their relational worlds? 

That was my question early in my pastorate.  As I prayed about this God led me to a passage in Luke 14:16-24 where Jesus clearly shows us why God’s house is filled. 

First of all He enlightens us about the part each of us play.  As I work hard to prepare relevant messages as a pastor my people have to work hard to get the ones there that need it.

If I’m sharing on relationships, I want them to find the woman out there that’s been married five times and has given up on trying again.  If I have a message on purpose, I want them to invite the one like the apostle Paul, passionately moving but in the wrong direction.  We have to be a team working together to reach those outside the walls of our church.

Secondly Jesus encourages us that our life experiences can help to make us effective witnesses in some avenue of our world.

We can see this in the life of Gideon who grew up in one of Israel’s most decadent times.  His people had turned from God to the worship of Baal.  His father was the leader of Baal worship which consisted of orgies and drunkenness and took place in Gideon’s own backyard.  Perhaps the motto was, “What happens in Gideon’s backyard stays in Gideon’s backyard.”  Yet amidst all of this God saw Gideon as a hopeful candidate to lead Israel back to a faith in God.

Our experiences can birth in us both a confidence in God’s ability as well as a compassion for others in need.

Lastly, Jesus urges us that reaching the unchurched takes us removing the excuses that keep us from making God’s work a priority.  Certainly we all have business to tend to, but are we putting God’s business first?  We all have houses and families to care for but doesn’t God want us to care about His house and His family too?

Nothing is more valuable than people and nothing is more fulfilling than working together to see hearts opened and lives changed around us.

Pastor, know that God appreciates your efforts to love and impact the unchurched in the community where He has placed you!