Why Great Preaching is Not Enough to Grow Your Church
This is the burden of my heart.
Get out of the office, pastor, and knock on some doors. Later, you can get your people to doing it. But first, you do it.
Do it by yourself, if you must. Or take someone with you. Do it by appointment or cold-turkey. But do it.
That is as profound a way as I know to build a great church.
Visit your church members, visit your leaders, visit them in their places of business. Visit your neighbors, the homes around your church. isit people who visit your church.
Write letters to them. The personal kind. Handwritten, maybe two sentences. Just to say you’re thinking about them, praying for them, thankful for them.
Get out of the office and get with the people.
Pastor Bobby Welch, longtime shepherd of the great First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Florida, was teaching a soul-winning program to several hundred in the chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“You have to knock on doors,” he emphasized. “You have to get out of your building and tell people about Jesus.”
He paused for effect and added, “I will tell you something some of you are not going to like. You are not going to build a great church on your preaching!”
My hunch is that fully half the preachers in the crowd were thinking that very thing, that if I just deliver a good enough sermon–find a way to improve my delivery, develop better outlines with punchier illustrations–the crowds will flock in. Maybe if I practice my mannerisms, have a snappier suit, wear that bow tie. What if I use these gestures, raise my voice here, lower it there?
You mean that’s not going to do the trick?
Consider those words again: You are not going to build a great church on your preaching.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
Okay, it seems to happen just often enough to keep the myth alive. John MacArthur. Charles Stanley. Chuck Swindoll. Andy Stanley. Ed Young. Stuart Briscoe. But the exceptions only prove the rule, as they say.
The point being what?
The point being: The pastor must get into the community and knock on doors. He must be a personal witness for Christ, must share the gospel wherever he goes, must get into the homes of his church members, of prospects who visit his church, and outsiders who need the Lord.
But, someone asks, you don’t mean to imply that the pastor alone is going to get all the visiting and soulwinning done and thus build a great church? Nope, not at all.
But it starts here, with you.
If the pastor is not knocking on doors and sharing the faith, he will not be able to motivate anyone else to do it.
If the pastor is not knocking on doors and sharing the faith, his words will sound hollow when he preaches the gospel on Sunday.
However, if the pastor is knocking on doors and sharing the faith, he will be so thrilled to see in the congregation people he has witnessed to that very week, that he will preach better than he’s ever preached before!
Gene Edwards was pastoring a small-town church in Texas. One day he drove to a nearby large city and went in to see the pastor of the largest church in town. “Tell me,” he said, “how to get my people out knocking on doors and sharing their faith.”
The minister said, “How many people did you tell me were in your town?”
I forget the number, a couple of thousand, probably. “You don’t need your people witnessing,” he said. “You can win those by yourself.”
That was not what Pastor Edwards wanted to hear. But he took the advice to heart and went home and started knocking on doors, leading people to Christ. And then they started coming to church and joining and being baptized. Before long, people were telling the pastor they wanted to learn to share their faith. Out of that came Gene Edwards’ book titled appropriately enough “Here’s How to Win Souls.” It appeared when I was in seminary and was as welcome as any book I’ve ever read.
Why your Great Preaching is Not Going to Build a Great Church
–In most cases your town has a number of sizeable churches, each of which is led by an excellent preacher. So, if it’s good preaching people are looking for, they have lots of choices. And that means you have lots of competition.
And that should bother you. All those other churches are not competition, but fellow team members. And all those other pastors are not competitors, but your brothers (and sometimes sisters). You do not want to be drawing people away from those churches just to build a huge membership for yourself. (Or if you do, that is a sickness and you should get treatment.) What you want to do is reach the people no one else is reaching.
All those other churches, you may assume, are depending on the usual thing to build their membership: the pastor’s good preaching, their various ministries, families bringing their children into the church, etc. But if you are knocking on doors and witnessing, you may have the field to yourself.
Because fewer and fewer churches are doing this.
–If you have been in the homes of people recently and sat across the table from them, sharing and laughing and visiting, when you stand to preach, you have their undivided attention. And if they never see you except during the one hour on Sunday morning, you can forget about having much impact on them.
When was the last time you belonged to a church with a regular weeknight program of visitation?
I can recall my first church after seminary. Emmanuel Baptist Church of Greenville, Mississippi. We were one of a half-dozen similar-sized churches in that community of 30,000. And each of the churches had a visitation program. There would be nights when a team from our church would be in the living room of a prospective family and two other church teams would come by the same evening.
Ever hear of that happening now? You don’t.
How would a pastor get started?
First: Start with the local businesses. Visit the businesses in your church area. Meet the owners or managers, clerks and employees, and do it briefly. “Just wanted to get acquainted.” Leave your card.
Second: Start with the homes around your church. You walk up, knock at the door, and introduce yourself as the pastor of the church down the street. “I’m just walking around meeting our neighbors,” tell them. “I want to make sure we are good neighbors to you. Have you ever had a problem with the church, people parking in your driveway, the noise, etc.?” The idea is to meet people, have conversations, let them feel they know you, and to leave your material.
Third: If the idea of cold-turkey visitation (door to door) scares the daylights out of you, then I have two suggestions. One: Do it anyway. It’s good for you to overcome such fears. And Two: Ask around and find people who know how to do this. Someone does. Keep trying until you find a way that works for you.
Fourth: Visit all your church members. You’d be surprised how many unsaved and unchurched people are in the homes of your own members. Go visit them and then get to know them while you’re there.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Hill Street Studios
Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.