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Christian Leadership: Growing a Church or Impacting a Community?

You grow a church by offering good programs. You reach a community by offering good relationships. Good programs are important. Especially, a strong children’s program for example. But if programs are the focus, people will come and people will go. You can test if you are program oriented or relationship oriented by the decisions you make and the actions you take.Crossroads has a parking problem. It’s good to have more cars than we have space to park them, but it also creates havoc both on the neighborhood street as well as the main highway. Our parking team is like the Green Beret, but there is only so much even heroes can do. We have police officers and a number of parking attendants each service just to make it work. On rare occasion we’ve had so many cars that we were blocking the residents from leaving their homes.Because our desire is for good relationships we chose to completely re-think our parking strategy, beef up the police support, communicate the issue to our people, and make personal visits to the homes with apologies and gift baskets. This went a long way to fix the problem and mend the relationships.

When you emphasize relationships and extend yourself to the community, you have potential to change the community.

You grow a church by investing in yourself. You invest outside yourselves to reach a community. More and more churches in the past few years have been following God’s lead to make direct expressions of compassion in their community in very tangible ways.With food banks, medical clinics children’s homes, help to un-wed mothers and so much more, the community sees major dollars and time investment flowing out of the church, not just into the church. This makes a huge difference!We at Crossroads are having a blast listening to God’s prompts in these compassionate ministries. We are gearing up for our next one right now to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. It’s heartwarming to see the tangible impact of this kind of investment in the community.

You can grow a church on history and tradition. You must become relevant to impact a community. Let me close with a few thoughts on relevance versus history and tradition. We know history and tradition is good. Some of the church’s most sacred elements come from the richness of history and tradition. The point is not to throw them out, but first be relevant in order to reach the community.I don’t mean to pick on any churches here, but some of the sermon titles I see on church marquis are embarrassing. We are not connecting with people when we communicate in church code about things that don’t matter to people’s lives.Then when some churches do get people in the doors they hear sermons about Paul’s missionary journeys and some obscure law in Leviticus. These people have gotten out of bed, fought to get the kids ready, sat in an unfamiliar setting, and we give them stuff that has nothing to do with their life. That is in fact, a perfect description of irrelevant.

A young pastor I had been coaching a few days before the 9/11 tragedy called me a couple days after the attack and asked me if he should continue his series on the book of Romans or speak on the issue of the terrorist attack. By all means, yes, use the Bible, but speak on the relevant topic! We must be relevant to reach and impact our community.

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland’s free monthly e-newsletter The Pastor’s Coach available at Copyright 2004, INJOY PO Box 2782, Suwanee, GA 30024.

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Category: Ministry

About the Author: Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He is the author of Amplified Leadership: 5 Practices to Establish Influence, Build People, and Impact Others for a Lifetime (Charisma House, 2012), Shoulder To Shoulder Strengthening Your Church By Supporting Your Pastor (Thomas Nelson, 1997), and From a Father's Heart: Letters of Encouragement to Children and Grandchildren (Thomas Nelson, 1999). Twitter: @DanReiland

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