At Seeds Conference 2012, Willie George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK) discussed why Church on the Move changed, what they changed, and how it changed their people.
I (Willie) cannot tell you how to run your church, but I can tell you what Church on the Move has done. There are many remarkable churches that do things different than us. There has never been a finer hour for the local church.
The more success that a ministry has in reaching one generation, the harder it is often for them to change in reaching the next generation. It is so hard to give up an old strategy, especially one that has brought you everything you have.
1 Kings 17:2-15 (ESV)
2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
A God ordained strategy may be something God tells you to do for awhile, but it may change. A lot of us are afraid to change because we are afraid to lose some people, and the people we gain, we aren’t sure how they will pay us back.
There are unreached people in your town who have little or no resources right now that will become the biggest supporters of your ministry. Don’t look for big donors. Look for people with a willing heart. Resources aren’t the problem – it is the willing heart.
Other churches in your city aren’t your enemy; recreation is the enemy. There are more sinners in the city than your church building can hold.
There are people out there that we have the ability to reach, but you are going to have to change because your people are going to change.
When you enter transition periods, Christians start to act like teenagers and become restless and no longer like things. They say, “Pastor’s preaching has lost the anointing,” when reality is nothing has changed. So many believers jump from place to place to place to place because they try to recapture the feeling they want, but they run at the first sign of transition even though that transition will take them to the next level.
Some churches are structured for failure. Our church was!
Why We Changed
Our church culture had placed more emphasis on abundant life (life enhancement) and emotional release for the believer than we did on reaching the lost. The people we had were the focus of our ministry, but today the people we don’t have are the focus of our ministry.
We emphasized a wide variety of ministries when we needed to make the weekend service the main event.
What We Changed
So I (Willie) had to change my preaching to deal with different issues. We very often preach on things that there aren’t a hunger for. Teach people about marriage, kids, money, hard work, etc. We began focusing on the local church is the hope of the world because Jesus cannot work in people’s lives without the work of the local church. You have to realize that your church is an answer for people. We didn’t change our doctrine but rather how we were communicating.
We shortened our services by talking faster and eliminating needless transitions. We cut endless announcements in the service and communicated them preservice via screens in the auditorium and lobby.
We created a healing room next to the auditorium where people can go before or after the service rather than taking up time during the service.
We realized our offering talks don’t make the giving go up at all, so we cut those. Once a quarter, we teach on tithing and that is when giving goes up.
We coordinate every part of the service to tie into the message.
We got rid of unfriendly people. No more ushers that look for telling people what they can’t do. They made our church an unfriendly face. You have to check up on yourself and see hw you come across.
You must critique your preaching. Go back and listen to your preaching.
Make the weekend service the main event. Everything revolves around the weekend. When the vision for Sunday is weak, a host of auxiliary ministries will spring up that choke the weekend ministry. Our ministers were too focused on areas that weren’t really the DNA of the church. The more you narrow your focus, the more your impact will grow when you swing the axe.
Give your people bringvitations, and create a service where people think it is safe to bring their friends.
Try to explain yourself and why you are doing what you are doing. And justify your changes by celebrating your victories (sometimes it is a testimony). Build a culture of testimony in your church. And everytime you tell a story, ask for a story.
How This Changed Our People
There is a misbelief that if we are doing things right, that everyone will stay until the end. This doesn’t mean you should drive people off, but it is good for people to come and go.
When you make the weekend special, your people are motivated to invite all their friends. Highly motivated people will have a bigger impact than any type of media coverage.
The changes helped bring people face to face with God.
Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train[a] of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”[b] 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Worship is bringing people face to face with God.
Special thanks to Skylark Audio Video for covering my travel expenses so that I can live blog the conference for you. They love churches and are currently offering free AVL consulting.
2012 Church Conference Calendar