Reaching New People with Dave Ferguson, Chris Hodges, and More – Episode 235 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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“There’s endless opportunity in this season to reach people for Christ. It’s sitting right in front of us. We have the best message to share, hands down, in the entire world, and there’s millions of people waiting to hear it.”

In the Q1 2022 edition of the Unstuck Church Report, our research found that church attendance has declined by an average of 30% in the last year. Pew Research also found that about 45 million less Americans identify as Christian today than they did a decade ago.

All in all, the data confirms that churches are facing significant challenges in accomplishing their mission of reaching new people for Christ.

WEBINAR REPLAY: 3 STRATEGIES FOR REACHING NEW PEOPLE

To help give practical advice and encouragement to church leaders ready to reach outward and engage their community, I recently invited Dave Ferguson (Community Christian Church), Chris Hodges (Church of the Highlands), and Jerry Sen (OneChurch.to) to join me for a conversation around three strategies for reaching new people. We discussed:

  • The B.L.E.S.S. outreach model
  • Is putting your service online enough?
  • Digital strategies for reaching new people
  • Designing your services with new people in mind
"Jesus told us to go: go outside of the church, go into the cities, go into the towns. And in today's world, that means our phones, computers, and digital media." [episode 235] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "A smartphone is probably the greatest discipleship tool of our lifetime, and maybe in history. We have all of our people and the people we want to reach carrying this thing around with them every waking moment." [episode 235] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "At the end of the day, the right way is the way that works. I'm yes to digital. I'm yes to relational. I'm yes to in-person. Don't think one is the solution—let's do the best we can at every single one of them." [episode 235] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet

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Transcript

Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. In the most recent Unstuck Church Report, our research found that church attendance has declined by an average of 30% from 2021. Paired with that is the research from Pew that about 45 million less Americans identify as Christian than they did a decade ago. It seems that the data confirms that churches are facing significant challenges accomplishing their mission. On this week’s podcast, we’re sharing a recent conversation Tony had with Dave Ferguson, lead pastor at Community Christian Church, Chris Hodges, lead pastor of Church of the Highlands, and Jerry Sen, digital director at OneChurch.to on some practical strategies their churches are using to reach new people. Before we go there, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes. Each week, you’ll get resources to go along with that week’s episode including our leader conversation guide, bonus resources, and access to our podcast resource archive. Just go to the unstuck group.com/podcast to subscribe. Now let’s join Tony and our panel for this conversation on reaching new people.

Tony (01:19):

I want to begin with a relational evangelism. I think deep in my heart, my sense is this should be the primary way that we’re carrying out the mission that God’s called us to. And so this is all about helping us help our church mobilize into our community so that people can be engaging life and building relationship with those that God has in our life. And eventually allowing us to be able to share the good news, to share the gospel with people, and Dave, I couldn’t think of anybody better to include in this conversation than you. And again, the reason why is I think it was 10 years ago or more that I heard you first talk about your B.L.E.S.S. model and how that could be used to really develop relationship with people who might be in our lives and maybe outside the church and outside a relationship with Jesus currently and encourage people to take next steps towards Jesus. And so, first of all, can you just kind of unpack that model for us a little bit and then maybe share with us how, as the church, we can begin to leverage a model like that to carry out this part of our mission?

Dave (02:33):

Yeah, I mean, I think we’re in a weird time where even the term evangelism is unpopular and a taboo word, and so I’d encourage church leaders, you know what? Why don’t you just start challenging people just to bless people, just to bless people. And let me give you a little bit of research before I go into the practices. I mean, Barna did some homework on this and to prove how confused we are. They did research with practicing millennial Christians. That was the category. And like two thirds of them said, no, we think witnessing is a part of our faith. We think witnessing about Jesus is a part of our faith, but then they asked them what they thought about evangelism and half of them said, no, evangelism’s wrong. So it’s like, what? And I think it’s because we do wanna share our faith. And I think I wouldn’t let go of this pastors. The people in your church do wanna share the love of God with other people. They want the people to find and follow Jesus, but I think they don’t wanna do it the way maybe it’s been done in the past where people ended up feeling like a project or something to be conquered, or they got sold something. So what we’ve done and yeah, we first started kinda playing with this about a decade ago and as we begin to get traction and then share with other people, eventually my brother and I wrote a book called B.L.E.S.S., but it basically is these five practices and the B, it starts with “begin with prayer.” If you’ll just begin to pray for the people or places where God has put you, that’s the first thing. The L stands for listen, where I think one of the big challenges we have right now is I think many Christians, we’re more known for our talking than we are listening. And actually listening could be the most loving thing you can do some for someone. E, this one’s gonna be popular with everybody, is eat. I think what I love about that one too, is it’s not something you have to add to your life. It’s something that’s already a part of your life, and you got 21 opportunities every week. And here’s what I found. If you begin with prayer, listen, eat, they will tell you how to love them. And that’s when you serve them, and you do what they need. And then instead of, you know, proclamation being first, it actually ends up being last, then you tell S stands for your story, because they’re gonna want to hear your story. You tell the story of how Jesus changed your life. And, personally, and I’ll kind of wrap up. I was kind of skeptical whether this would actually work. I thought it would kind of make friends, but would it actually help people find and follow Jesus? And when I got to, you know, baptize one of my good friends, not just somebody who came to church and I got to baptize as the pastor, but my friend, that’s when I became convinced no, you know what? This is something that can work over and over again. And now we’re starting to see it, not only at community, but all across North America, and actually in other parts of the world, particularly, I think, in a post-Christian, postmodern setting. So that’s kind of it in a nutshell.

Tony (05:24):

Yeah, what I love about that model too, Dave, is the last two S’s really, I think, are the ones that for us, normal people, seem a little bit challenging and overwhelming and pulling us out of our comfort zones if you will. But the great thing is if you do the first three things you mentioned, you won’t have to guess how to serve somebody, how to really love somebody. You’re gonna know what that is. And the other great thing about that is you don’t need to wait for your church to organize how you’re going to serve that person. You’re just responding out of relationship that you already have with them. And then you’re right. I mean, I think we all sense and we all want to share how Jesus has transformed our lives, but it can feel overwhelming. And the great thing again is if you do the first four, you won’t have to force your story on anybody. They’re almost gonna pull it out of you. They’re gonna demand it from you because they’re gonna wanna know what’s so unique about who you are and how you’re living your life and how you’re engaging your purpose and things like that. They’re gonna pull that out of you. But all that to say, I think in this area of encouraging people to share their faith, if you will, with others in their lives, it sounds so simple, especially when you put it in the terms that you’ve shared, but this is a huge challenge. And I think if all the pastors and church leaders listening in today would agree, it’s challenging to mobilize our church, our congregation to do this. So how can we help pastors try to overcome this challenge?

Dave (07:05):

I think that, in particular, I think that’s a question of creating culture. And I guess I would say here’s something not to do. Cause if they pick up the B.L.E.S.S. book, if you’re a pastor like me, you’re gonna look at it and you go B L E SS, man, this is gonna be a great teaching series. I should go teach this, and you should, but don’t, and this won’t sell any books, unfortunately. Don’t preach it first. I mean, really if you go teach it as a series first, it’ll go in one ear and out the other ears, sorry to say. Here’s what I think you really need to do. And this is what we did. Take the next nine months to a year and make sure you do it, your staff does it and your key leaders are doing it. That’ll make up about the top 20%. If you can get the top 20% of your key influencers, you, your staff and your leaders doing it. I mean, and I would say, here’s what I would have them do two things. Do one practice every day. Just one. If you just pray, that counts. Just do one practice every day. And then secondly, in your small groups, start with who did you B.L.E.S.S. this week? And if you get those 20% doing it after nine or 12 months, then you do your five or six week series, and you’re gonna have all your leaders nod and going like, oh, I love this stuff. It’s so right. And the other 80% are going like, yeah, I heard them talking about it. And those 20% will influence the whole. And then after that, so it’s kinda like step one leaders, step two, teach it. And step three, then you just gotta celebrate it over and over again, in social media, patting people on the back, atta boys, videos, testimonies, because what gets celebrated gets repeated. But if you’ll do it that order, you can actually create a culture and that culture is gonna be your greatest asset.

Tony (08:49):

And that’s so helpful. It does. It’s kind of as pastor leaders, I think our natural tendency is to go do a vision cast and teach on it. And as a result of that, I think our church oftentimes is hearing these key messages, but they’re not seeing for themselves the fruit of it. And so to go kind of in that reverse order, Dave, I think is certainly gonna help us try to overcome this challenge. And it is a challenge. I recognize encouraging our church to engage with the people God has in their lives, it’s a challenge, but it’s the mission that Jesus has called us to. And so we can’t ignore that and not address that as well. And Chris, I mean, it is one of the reasons why Church of the Highlands now is in so many different communities and impacting the lives of so many different people. So your church does this, Church of the Highlands. You’ve encouraged your people to actually mobilize and to develop relationship and start to be able to share the good news with others. But how are you doing this at Church of the Highlands?

Chris (09:54):

Well, thank you. Let me echo what Dave said. One of the greatest leadership principles I’ve ever learned in my whole life is that you can’t create a culture, you can only be it. So you can’t want something and it magically appear. You have to model it. You have to have experienced it yourself, and I always tell pastors and leaders that one of the best ways to do anything is not to tell them to do it, but to tell them the stories of the way you’re doing it. So one of the best things that I love to do is to tell the stories of the people I’m inviting to church, tell the stories of the people that I’m praying for and just kind of make it a bit more personal that way. So I echo that a hundred percent, but yeah, we put it into our culture. We put it into our culture literally from day one. And it’s in the first class of our membership class. We begin talking about the priority of it. You know, Jesus said, “If you follow me, I’m gonna make you…” And if you didn’t know the rest of the verse, you know, you might think it would be, I’ll make you holy, I’ll make you pray more, or I’ll make you read your Bible more. But he says, “If you follow me, I’m gonna make you fishers of men.” And so we have to make them. So in other words, there’s a discipleship component to the whole process because they, you’re right, they do have desire and they do want to do this. They haven’t been shown how, and I think any model, I think this B.L.E.S.S. book is dead on to give them some kind of systematic process that they can follow because they’re looking to be discipled. They’re looking to be challenged. And because inherently they love their family and their friends and the people that are far from God. So they really, they care about them. And so anytime we can serve them and teach them. So I would encourage, at least once a year, we try to include it at least once a year as a message series of some sort of our love for people and how we’re gonna be missional toward them, whether it be in the service area or sharing our faith. But the more training, “If you follow me, I will make you fishers of men.” And so we put it right into our culture from day one. And then I have this thing that I love telling people, and it just seems to have resonated, that one of the easiest things for people to do is to invite someone to church. And I know that’s been difficult over the last couple of years, but have someone next to you in church, cause the way I like to say it to our congregation is you do what I can’t do. I’ll do what you can’t do. And what I can’t do is know all your friends, but perhaps what you can’t do is explain it to your friends in a way where they’ll want it. And I honestly think they get ’em on third base, by the way, I think they do most of the work, but for me to explain the gospel to them and then we kind of come into this partnership, and then I say, and I’m not asking for 52 Sundays, give me two out of the 52, just give me two out of the 52 where you’ll intentionally have someone far from God sitting with you in church. So that’s some of the cultural things that we put into our congregation.

Tony (12:49):

I actually think it’s a bit of a secret that people don’t realize. I, you know, I’ve studied hundreds and thousands of churches through the years and people are always kind of guessing why is it that some churches continue to experience significant growth? They’re reaching thousands and thousands of people. And the assumption is it’s because they’ve built a great attractional model to encourage many people to show up on Sunday morning to that church. The secret is, and you’re starting to catch it with these two churches, is they do weekends very well. In fact, we’re gonna get to that topic here in a moment. But it’s a both/and approach. It’s both creating an experience on Sunday morning that’s designed not only for the people that we want to continue to take next steps towards Jesus who are already committed to a relationship with Jesus, but also connecting on Sundays with people that are still spiritually curious. They’re asking questions about the claims of Christ, but at the same time, these very largest churches that we’ve worked with through the years are fully committed to this type of engagement where people are just developing relationship and sharing life. And then eventually being able to share the story of what Jesus has done in their life. And so it really is a both/and approach to ministry. But with that, let’s turn the corner, because when it comes to reach strategies from the church it’s probably this next topic that has received the most press, if you will, over these last couple years. And it has to do with our digital ministry strategies. And there’s been a lot of conversation about how does the church become more of a hybrid church in the future where not only are we focusing on our physical gatherings, but also how we’re engaging with people online. And again, I just, I was thinking about all the churches that our team has engaged with over the last couple of years. And certainly what was top of mind was what OneChurch.to in Toronto is doing. And that’s, Jerry, why I wanted to invite you to this conversation. As I was engaging with your team, it was interesting how your team, among all the churches that we have worked with, really recognize, no, this has to be a priority for our ministry going forward. We have to make sure we’re invested in our digital ministry strategies. And before we get into some of that, can you just explain why was this so important to your leadership team?

Jerry (15:30):

Yeah. You know, we started, you know, at OneChurch.to, we started the digital transformation years ago. Way before the pandemic hit, our leadership was already talking about how do we make it frictionless in every area? If someone is coming to the church, if someone’s checking us online, how do we simplify that process so that we don’t push people away when that door is open? We’re talking about relationships and, you know, someone talks about, you know, the B.L.E.S.S. model and they go check you out online. We wanted to make it so easy that they can learn about us and take those steps. But really in the last two years, I would say we doubled down on it, working with The Unstuck Group, we put it in our five bold moves. And we said we wanna reach a million people every year in the city of Toronto through the digital media strategies and through our digital content. And we know that, you know, why is that such a priority? Because, you know, Jesus told us to go, you know, he told us to go out outside of the church, go into the cities, go into the towns. And today’s world that essentially is, you know, this little device in your pocket, that’s essentially what it is. And, you know, we can talk about all the cons of digital media and so forth. One of the pros is that we have the opportunity to talk to people, and that’s a major priority for us. And when you’re talking to them in person, but then also talking to them through digital media. And that just raised up in the priority level, along with other things, on our five bold moves. And it just ensured that the entire leadership and everyone on staff understood that every ministry has to be simplified, digitalized. And so that anyone who comes through, you know, our doors are wide open for them in this season.

Tony (17:23):

So Jerry, I, again, I think OneChurch.to was probably one of maybe a dozen churches I’ve identified in this most recent season, that’s well beyond just trying to get services online. We’re actually trying to build a robust digital ministry strategy to reach more people and to encourage more people to take their next steps of faith. So I think everybody’s curious, what are you trying? What are you trying to do in this area of your ministry to carry out the mission that God’s called us to? And maybe more importantly, what are you finding that’s working where you’re starting to get some traction and momentum?

Jerry (18:04):

I think we’re trying, in this season, we’re almost trying everything because we’re taking different pieces of our ministry offerings, we’re taking gatherings, we’re taking love army content, (and love army is our outreach area of the church where we go and show love to the city) we’re taking every piece of content, and we are trying quite aggressively in paid media’s strategies. We are not just leaning on organic. We know that we need to reach millions of people. So it’s gonna have to go beyond just our church base.You know, I did a search recently, how many people are looking for churches in Toronto? How many people are looking for topics such as, Who is God and so forth. There are people searching for this stuff. So we need to tap into that, reach them. So we’re trying everything. We’re trying search strategies. And I would also say our social media, you know, it’s great to produce content for your church, but if it’s not going beyond your church and spreading it through a paid channel, whether that’s Facebook or Instagram, YouTube, the content almost is not getting its full reach potential. And there are so many people out there who are hurting right now who could use this content. If this comes across their way in social media, it’ll make them curious. They’ll start to ask, what is this all about? And, you know, that’s really where we’re going towards making sure. And what we’re seeing at least is we’re seeing all of our pieces of content, they’re doing far better in reaching far more people when we have an entire strategy of building the content. Who is that content for, and how much are we invest to spread that content out? And when it all comes together, we see that piece of content doing far better than just producing a piece of content for just the church only.

Tony (20:03):

Yeah. And that’s a good point. I do find, Jerry, that as we’re engaging with churches, when we talk about hybrid strategy, I think church leaders just commonly think, okay, what are we doing now for our church? And how do we get that content online for our church? And the step that you’ve taken, and we’re continually encouraging churches to take, is no, let’s figure out where has God placed our church? Who is in our mission field? How can we leverage our digital ministry strategy to engage that person in our mission field who doesn’t yet have faith in Jesus and probably isn’t yet connected to church? And so that’s the next step that you’ve taken with your strategy. And again, it sounds like you’re starting to see some dividends from that now.

Jerry (20:55):

And even like I’d share that we’re building a team right now. People who are early in their faith, people who are just exploring, and we’re having conversations with them to look at our content to say, Hey, what resonates with you? Because they’re the people that are out there that we want to connect with. My lens is totally different. You know, I’ve been a Christian my entire life. So what resonates with me is gonna be so much different than what resonates with the people we are trying to reach. So that’s important too, as we build the content, let’s get it in front of people who can really tell us what areas of it is hitting them well.

Tony (21:33):

Dave, I think as I’ve talked with pastors in recent months, I think they’re a bit overwhelmed with this concept of hybrid church. And I think part of the reason why is, you know, when they signed up for ministry they didn’t sign up to be a digital missionary. So what encouragement would you give pastors particularly in this season of the church?

Dave (21:56):

Yeah. I mean a couple things come to mind. One is, I mean, I love that. I mean, Jerry, just kinda like, you know, held the phone up here. And one piece of encouragement as a reminder is this is probably the greatest discipleship tool of our lifetime. And maybe in history because we have, I mean all of our people and the people we wanna reach are carrying this thing around with them every waking moment. And so the question, I think, then once you kind of grapple with the opportunity, then I kind of would try to simplify it and go like, okay, don’t let that intimidate you. You know how to do church. You disciple people. You get ’em in small groups. You have worship gatherings, and you train leaders. And so now let’s, like for us, so like disciple people, we do this community daily. It’s just an email we send out every day. That’s a devotional. I mean, we’re getting so many subscriptions, thousands of subscriptions for that. What I’m most surprised by, I’d love to know what Jerry and Chris are finding out, our open rate is like out of this world, at least for us. It’s like over 60%. I mean, I don’t get an open rate when I send an email out like that. And so the good news is, if you think about this, that means if that’s just a simple devotional of God’s word, that means I have like 60% of that thousand people are actually reflecting on scripture daily. That’s huge. And all of us as pastors want that. And I mean, the thing about small groups too. We wanna get people in small groups. So now we’re just gonna give people the option to do it on Zoom. We do the exact same stuff, but they do it on Zoom, and there’s fun things that begin to happen. We had one lady just last week. She’s here in Chicago, but she grew up in South Africa, and someone was visiting online from South Africa in Johannesburg, a little town outside Johannesburg, and turns out she wanted to be in one of our small groups. And this girl, they’re from the exact same little town outside of Johannesburg, and now they’re in small group together on Zoom every week. And all of sudden it opens up the whole world to you. So I think we know how to do church. Just don’t let it intimidate you and take simple steps. How do I disciple people? How to get them into small groups? How do we do a worship gathering? I could go on and on. But I think that that’s what the encouragement I’d give to them.

Tony (24:06):

Yeah. So, I’ve used this analogy too, along those lines, Dave, you know, years ago, back when I was in full-time ministry, we were launching a building campaign and doing a building construction project. I had never been trained on how to, number one, raise money. And secondly, how to build the building for goodness sake. All I knew is all of that building effort was because of people. And within that building, we were gonna be doing great ministry. And I think right now what a lot of pastors are feeling is when we talk about digital ministry strategy, it’s almost like, we’re building a building? I don’t know how to build a building. I don’t know how to build the infrastructure for all of this digital ministry strategy, but at the end of the day, we have to remember it’s all about people. And within this strategy, we’re going to be ministering to people and we know how to do that. We just might need to bring some experts along to help us build the building. But we know, we know, God’s prepared us for the ministry that’s gonna happen within that structure. So thanks for sharing your thoughts. But now I wanna jump to this last topic, and gosh, you would think we’ve been doing this for hundreds, thousands of years, we should know how to do weekend services. But I think this first question related to weekend services, this certainly precedes the pandemic, it’s this question of, should we be talking about weekend services in the context of trying to reach new people? And so, Chris, I wanna begin with you and actually kind of begin with that question. I’m not a theologian. And so I’m hoping that you can help a friend here. I mean, should we be thinking about our Sunday services as part of our strategy to engage the mission God’s called us to?

Chris (26:01):

Well, my response is a hundred percent yes. I mean, the gathering of believers is still, there’s something that takes place, and it’s powerful. And for people that are trying to figure that out, it’s the same thing as watching a college football game on TV or being at that game. It’s the same game, but not the same experience. And there’s an experience that takes place in the gathering of people that they need. I think after these past two years, I think our world is severely under hugged. They just need a hug. They don’t need another sermon. They need a hug. They need someone to look ’em in the eyes and saying, man, I’m with you, let’s do it this week. They need communion. Communion really is not an individual event. It’s a corporate event, a worship. I mean, we all know that you can be in worship gatherings with small groups, which we do, and individually, which I do, but there’s just, it’s a different experience when we’re in a room filled with people who love God, and for lost people or people that are far from God, honestly, Tony, that’s how I came to Christ. I came to Christ because I showed up at a worship service as a person who grew up in church with people that didn’t look like they loved God. They probably did, but they just didn’t look like it. But then I got invited to a service where I saw people who actually loved God. And that’s what drew me to God was people’s love for God. And I tell our people that. When you’re worshiping the Lord, your passion for God is just like your passion for your college team in a stadium. And it makes me want to be a fan of that team whenever I see the zeal and the energy of that room. So I’m a hundred percent, yes. At the same time, that theologically a hundred percent, I feel like I could defend it scripturally, but I’m also pragmatic. At the end of the day, the right way is the way that works. And so I’m for all the methods. So I’m yes to digital. I’m yes to relational. I’m yes to in person. And I would encourage the listener today, whoever they are, don’t think one is the solution. Do ’em all. We’ve got a lot of work to do. They’ll all work. Let’s use ’em all. Let’s do the best we can at every single one of ’em.

Tony (28:11):

Well, speaking of that, I know at Church of the Highlands, you’re, again, it’s almost a both/and strategy. Sunday morning is for the believers. We’re trying to encourage believers to take their next step toward Christ. But you’re also thinking about Sunday mornings from the perspective of somebody who, again, is still spiritually curious, they don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet. So Chris, at Church of the Highlands, how do you begin to plan that experience? And maybe even more specifically, how do you plan your teaching with that person in mind?

Chris (28:47):

We train every person that’s involved as a volunteer. We don’t call ’em volunteers. We call ’em the dream team, but at every level, from the parking lot to worship, to whatever I speak on is an experience that I think draws them to the Lord. So it takes great training in your volunteers, how they check in their kids. All of that I think are ways that prepare people’s heart to feel like, oh, wait a minute. This is a place that feels safe. It’s a place that I can trust. This is a place that, you know, cares about me. So I just like, we do the B.L.E.S.S. model with our friends outside the church, we can do the same B.L.E.S.S. model within the church. And I encourage that. But again, it has to be trained. You can’t assume it. And then if you wanna know the truth about it, Tony, my real thought, and this’ll be a little radical sounding, maybe a little overly spiritual and just forgive me. Okay. But to me, I think church has to get out of the way at some point, like they can’t fall in love with Chris, and there’s a lot of people that are building their brands and building their preaching styles and people love them. But, you know, CS Lewis said the perfect worship service is the one that we were unaware of because God’s presence was there. So we even talk about, are the lights moving too much? Should we not move ’em at all? Cause we don’t want any barrier. We wanted enough to draw ’em in, but we don’t want too much where they’re distracted by it. And even in our preaching styles and when we teach them, I mean, people say, oh, oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’ve changed my life. And I always say, no, I didn’t. I pointed you to the one who changed your life. That’s all. I was the tour guide. I’m not the destination. You know? And so I think, taking on some of those practices, we are very, very intentional cause here’s what I know. If they have one moment where they felt like God was actually there and that God cared about them and they felt like God was listening to them and they sensed his presence, that changes everything.

Tony (30:53):

I love that. I love that. So Jerry, I kind of alluded to this earlier. So you probably know where my bias is on this question, but as we’re talking about weekend services and then coupling that with our digital ministry strategy, is it enough for churches just to make sure that their full Sunday service is online? Is that enough for us to be able to most effectively engage people outside the church and outside the faith?

Jerry (31:24):

You know, I would say it would be the bare minimum just to have your gatherings posted on your website in today’s season that we’re in. You know, I think, we would have to, you know, I kind of thought about, when I think about this question and, you know, imagine you’re having Thanksgiving dinner, like we love to eat. Right guys? We love to eat. You have Thanksgiving dinner. You put all this time in to prepare this meal. There’s so much work that’s gone into the meal, and then you sit down to eat and you realize you didn’t send out the invitation. You didn’t message anyone to come for the feast because you did all this work and it’s gonna feed everyone’s soul. It’s gonna be fantastic, but no one is ringing the doorbell. No one’s coming in. So, you know, we have to take that gathering communication, whether it’s gatherings, whether it’s small groups, whatever we’re working on, and find other places for it. Where are those places? They’re outside of our own environments. The websites are ours. They’re owned by the church and so forth. But we gotta go to the place where the people are. In today’s world, that’s YouTube. In today’s world, that’s Facebook, that’s Instagram, that’s WhatsApp. And all of those areas can be used by the church at a macro level. But as we’ve been talking about relationally, they can be used at a micro level. That’s individuals sharing links. That’s individuals having conversations through WhatsApp. All of those things, caring for someone who’s going through a tough time, that can happen right there in WhatsApp. So beyond just the church posting their messages and their gatherings outside, they can be used to start a conversation that goes from a macro level down to the micro level where it’s becomes a one to one conversation. And that’s where, you know, the life transformation can really start to happen when people are sharing what they’re going through and you have a chance to bless them and share your story with them at that level.

Tony (33:30):

All right guys. Well, I really appreciate you joining us for today’s conversation. I wanna give you all an opportunity, just any final thoughts you wanna share, especially for the pastors and church leaders that are listening in. And Dave, let me just start with you. Any final thoughts you wanna share?

Dave (33:46):

I’m a couple things real quick. I mean, I love what Jerry said too. When he talked about digital ministry, he said, we’re trying lots of things. I mean, we’re still in a season where I think we can get away with this. You can still blame it on COVID.

Tony (34:02):

Absolutely.

Dave (34:03):

So it doesn’t work, you know what? Nothing worked. So take lots of chances. Take lots of risks, especially on the digital piece. On the B.L.E.S.S. practices, I would love to help pastors there. I think, Tony, they can contact you, and if they decide they wanna train their leaders and then do the series, I got videos that go with the book. I got discussion guides. I’d be glad to give it to him for free, to be a part of that. So they can contact you. You’ll let ’em know how to get ahold of that. And I’d be glad to have you.

Tony (34:31):

Absolutely. Yes. We definitely wanna be a conduit for that. And I shared with Dave, even before our conversation, anytime that we’re on site, engaging with churches in this topic comes up, where we’re saying, you need to go read Dave and John’s book, and then you need to, you need to engage the strategy they’re talking about. So most definitely, reach out to us and we’ll get you connected so that you can have those resources available. Jerry, any final thoughts you wanna share?

Jerry (34:58):

I just think that there’s endless opportunity in this season to reach people for Christ. You know, we might be dragged down by what’s happened in COVID and so forth, but there is a massive opportunity sitting in front of us. I held it up before, I’ll hold it up again. It’s sitting right in front of us. We know what we have to say. We have the best message to share, hands down, in the entire world. You know, I come from a marketing background, and we had to produce what we wanna say. We’re not producing anything here. We have the best message, and there’s a ton, there’s millions of people waiting to hear it. And so I encourage, I encourage pastors, try things. Take risks, and if it fails, that’s okay. You’ll learn from it and you’ll move past it. And you’ll get onto the next thing that works.

Tony (35:51):

Yeah. Amen. And my goodness, it’s very evident in this season, people desperately need the love, the forgiveness, the hope that purpose that Jesus can provide. And so it’s the season is just, it’s right for people to feel and experience that love of Christ through his church. Chris, any final words you would share?

Chris (36:13):

Yeah, first of all, thank you. Thanks for leading this conversation. I think it’s valuable, so valuable. So, but I would say it begins with all of us kind of going back to something very basic and that is actually loving people. It’s gonna be hard to do if you really don’t care about their eternal destiny. And if you don’t care about the condition of their soul and how they’re doing today, and, you know, we know the verse that God’s so loved, he didn’t just love. He so loved the world, which that made him give. And I think we check our own hearts and even our own practices. You know, it’s gonna be hard to do any of this. If we’re not personally caring for someone, getting our phone and texting someone, Hey, I love you and praying for you today, or reaching out to someone, taking those practical steps that builds that in our hearts, because I think we’ve been through a season, not only with the pandemic with politics and everything else where, people can be more irritating to us than when they are someone that is a target of our faith and our love, you know? And so we become like the good Samaritan story. You know, we treat people as a victim to exploit or a person to avoid. But instead of seeing some of that, we actually are supposed to love and serve. So I think it really just begins right inside of all of us.

Sean (37:31):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Here at The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. And in everything that we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s a way that we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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