In an age where church growth success stories catapult pastors into national speaking tours, book signings, how-to podcasts and celebrity status among church leaders, it’s easy to think size equals influence. I’m not against growth – I believe every church should grow numerically. I’m also not against being a speaker, sharing what works and offering resources. I think leaders who have found something that works ought to give witness to how God is using them during their interim in His Church. I have benefited greatly from such leaders!
But I want to make sure the millions of nationally unknown churches and pastors aren’t stifled but encouraged. As I once heard Elmer Towns say, “A church doesn’t have to be large or well known to be influential.” And this is good news – since a majority of Christians worship in a churches that wouldn’t be considered large.
What does it take to be influential? Miriam Webster defines influential in this way: having the power to cause changes. Every church, no matter the style, size or situations can do this. Every church can be influential in the lives of people! Jesus has equipped each church to be a faithful light in their region. You have everything you need to be very influential.
Here are six ways your church can be influential right where you are:
Treat Pastors and Staff Well – Send Them Off Strong
When a church body treats their pastors well, pastors and churches leaders are encouraged, shaped and formed. As you send them off well, they go on to help lead and shape the church in future areas of ministry. Suppose you have a pastor for three or four years, and through a process of relationship, give and take, grace and truth, your pastor helps grow the church and then moves on to other ministries that become just as successful. In a real and tangible way, your church is part of that future success. Treat pastors and staff fairly, with love and hospitality. Give proper compensation and benefits and as transitions come, take the high road sending them off well – with lots of love (even if the ending has come due to lack of performance). In doing this, your church will become known as a place people want to be. Stories will be told, with fondness, about your church and heart for supporting leaders well.
Give to and Support missions
Want to be influential in the world? Then support missionaries. Build relationships with people who feel called to serve in other areas around the country or globe. Generously send money. Giving to a person or a family with whom you have a relationship is more effective than giving to a budget. Write about those people in your publications and promote them. Invite them to your church as often as possible – give them a place to stay if needed, be their home base if you can, and in all ways possible, create a partnership. In this way, you are a major part of God’s Kingdom work around the world.
Plan to be Part of a Grown Child’s Testimony
This is a bit of a long term effort, but as you minister to children today, you may wind up being in their “testimony” someday. You may ever hear it. As they say, if you have a strong ministry with youth and children, you are building another church somewhere. But I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard preachers and other business leaders stand up to speak and mention the church where they were “taken in” as a young child, maybe with their family or in spite of them. Congregations of all sizes have an opportunity to reach out to kids – especially those who have few other places to turn. Love them, care for them, provide for them and partner as much as possible with their families to nurture them. Seek to make such an impact as a loving church, that you become part of this child’s faith journey.
Make ‘Reaching Out’ Part of Your Culture
What are your announcements like? What do you promote? What do you talk about and get excited about around your church? Name your three or four annual big events. Answering these questions will give you an idea of whether or not your church culture is about reaching out. Do you have opportunities for people to engage? Is there is a spirit of people taking initiative to reach and serve in the community? Help create this heart in your congregation by taking on opportunities to reach out. Never forget the power of invitation. Encourage your people, on a regular basis, to invite. The potential change that can come for generations in a family can start with a person being invited to church and experiencing transformation in Christ. Churches have to make reaching out a part of who they are.
Strong Systems, Strong Leadership
Any church – whether you have lots of full time staff or just one part-time pastor can help create strong leaders by inviting people in and setting expectations. Systems for recognizing leaders, developing leaders, equipping leaders, and deploying leaders to take ownership and serve will cause your church to become influential. These leaders, shaped and formed by strong systems in the church, will help take ministries to new heights. The church ought to be one place people can give their lives and serve in ways that make a huge difference. Too often, we sugar coat commitment, thinking no one has time to give. People will invest everything they can when they believe in it and see success from it.
Keep Going, Persevere, Plow Through
Perseverance, even during rough seasons, is one important way for a church to be influential. Keep at it. Keep praying, dreaming and trusting. Keep an eye on Christ and on his mission. Jesus owns the church and calls on us to be faithful stewards. Don’t give up. Keep sowing and in time, the harvest will come. We must be ready for this. I love the simplicity of Romans 12:12: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. This is one way to keep going no matter what.
I would love to hear from you! Share one or two ways your church is influential in your community. Celebrate it by sharing and giving God praise.
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