Guest Post by John Martin:
Often times doesn’t it seem that we find the most difficult of solutions to the simplest of problems? Let me give you an example. At the height of the space race during the 1960’s, NASA took on the arduous job of finding a way to write in space. Normal pens wouldn’t work due to the zero gravity the astronauts would face in the space capsules. So scientists embarked on a way to solve the problem. They came up with the Astronaut Pen, after months of research and development, and at a cost of about $1 million. But after all that time and money had been invested NASA’s hard work paid off and they had a means of writing in space.
The Soviet Union also faced the task of writing in space. To solve this weighty problem, they used a pencil.
How often do we as Christians face a problem and we seek out the most difficult of solutions for said problem? I heard of a church that was declining in membership. The numbers were falling and people were becoming less and less satisfied. Some said the problem was the pastor while others said it was the worship. Some even said, “Our church is not a friendly church.” So the church members got together and elected three committees. The first committee was assigned the task of either “pepping up” the pastor or finding a new one. The second committee was instructed to “revamp” the worship services and make them more dynamic and exciting. And the third committee was charged with the task of sprucing up the church’s image and making the church warm and inviting by developing guidelines for being friendlier.
Committee number one worked long and hard and spent a great deal of money on the pastor. They bought him some contemporary clothing so that he would have the “look”. They sent him to school to help him become a more “polished” speaker. They bought him several motivational books and tapes as well as sending him to every “real good, feel good” conference within a 200 mile radius. The pastor, all prim and proper and energetic from his “makeover” resigned the church, wrote a book on living the pastor’s best life now and hit the road telling other pastors how they too could move from the “dull” to the “dynamic”.
Committee number two spent four months visiting various churches and studying each one’s worship service. They would make notes of the number of people in the choir, did the church have a praise team and a band, and whether or not the worship leader wore a robe and did he play an instrument. They conducted surveys within the congregation on the style of music most preferred and if people felt more comfortable with the “raising of hands” in praise or with a more dignified and solemn approach to worship. After several months and more meetings than a person could count they concluded that the church needed to hire a “big-name” artist to be the worship leader. This would cost over 150k per year and they would need to allow the artist 14 weeks per year for “touring”. Also the artist demanded that the sanctuary be renovated and lights installed for a weekly “laser show” set to the music of “How Great Thou Art”. These upgrades would run around 2.5 million but the committee had secured a loan with an interest rate of only 11.8 percent.
The final committee determined that the church must hire a full-time “host and hostess” to take charge of the greeters. This couple organized teams to be in the parking lot before each service handing out full-color programs, coffee and hot chocolate during the winter months and iced tea and lemonade during the summer along with an assortments and cakes and snacks. They sent every greeter to “hospitality university” where they were taught how to greet people with a smile. ‘Hugs for Heavenly Healing” became the church’s new motto and all members were required to take a course in smiling and “warm handshakes”.
After two years the church was bankrupt and most of the members had become disgruntled and left the church altogether. Instead of growing, the membership had continued to decline and ultimately the church doors were closed.
Across town there was another church that was faced with the same dilemma as the first church. Instead of trying to “polish-up” the preacher they began to pray for him. They asked God to give him the ability and boldness to preach the Word and lead them in the right direction. After several weeks of praying the preacher began preaching a simple message: “Love God and love others!” This started to take root.
The worship leader began to choose music, not based on popularity or style, but for the purpose of praise and substance. Folks quit fretting over the size of the choir and the congregation and just joined together to lift high God in praise. As a result God began to “show-up” in those services. People felt free to worship and praise God in their own manner and style without fear of retribution or ridicule. God’s love began to “blossom” within the hearts of that congregation and they truly started loving one another and genuinely caring for one another. Then something spectacular began to happen.
The members of the church started inviting their friends and family to come to church with them. They went out into the community and began to cut the widows’ grass and help the senior adults with their chores. They went out in the community and started ministering and making friends. They would tell folks, “You are always welcome in our church.” They would open the doors of the church and invite the community in for fun and fellowship (and a dose of gospel preaching while they were there). This small church, a church that had become stagnant and was dying, began to grow! They did not form any committees; they did not spend millions of dollars. They kept it sweetly simple and focused on loving God and loving others. And guess what? It worked and the church grew.
Now I know that growing a church is not rocket science. It is really a simple thing. We must love God and love others. If we do these two things and do them well, everything else will fall into place. It may not be as flashy or as exciting as an “astronaut pen”, but you can take a pencil and write anywhere!
- John Martin is Vice President of Development for Next Level Worship, LLC. He is also a dynamic pastor. You may contact John via email: jmartin at nextlevelworship dot com.