Everybody Knows Somebody

Back in 1981 when Wesleyan Heritage Church of Rock Island, Illinois numbered 80 people they began focusing on the importance of seeing people coming to know Jesus.
They embarked on an evangelism program that saw 17 people receive Jesus as Saviour in the first four months. Every one of them already had a connection with the church in some way it was just that they had never been asked. Today, just over 20 years later, the church numbers over 2,800 people across four locations.

An evangelism prgram
Every one of them already had a connection with the church in some way
Four years ago their pastor John Bray challenged the church to never go another week without someone coming to Christ through the activity of the church or its members. They installed lights on crosses at all four locations and lit them when someone comes to faith. They have now been lit for 188 consecutive weeks.
Beginning in 1973 with a church of just 24 Bray says, “Our growth was slow for a long time, it took 20 years to get to 200. Nobody in town really knew we were here but we just kept focusing on reaching people for Jesus. I’m convinced that every church is surrounded by people who need Christ, so every church can grow… We’re a large church and should have regular professions of faith but that challenge sharpened our focus. Smaller churches might not be able to celebrate a decision every week but why not every month? Everybody knows somebody who needs Jesus.”

“Everybody knows somebody who needs Jesus

That’s what’s behind our Reach One strategy at Hobart Baptist.  It aims to encourage each one of us, no matter how young or how old, to befriend at least one person who does not know Jesus and reach out to them in love, service, and prayer. It is not a program but a journey, where we each develop a relationship with them as we pray that they may receive a chance to hear the good news about Jesus.
It is not a new idea. It’s been at the centre of church life from the beginning, as recorded in Luke’s story of the early church we call the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Then when writing to the Corinthian church Paul reminds them, “God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20, The Message).
It’s encouraging to hear what happened at Heritage Church when they accepted the challenge to take evangelism seriously. I wonder what we would see if we did the same here at Hobart Baptist, or even what you would see with you and those in your fellowship.
I’m sure we all know someone, or there is someone in our wider networks of friends, neighbours, family or acquaintances that we could pray for and could get to know with the hope that we’ll be able to share our personal experience of Jesus. Ultimately, whether a person accepts Jesus is out of our hands – it’s in God’s hands and theirs. And while there are no magic formulas or special techniques that ensures church growth, a commitment to share Jesus with others is critical not only because we are called to but because many people have never been asked.
If you have already begun praying for a person as you seek to Reach One, let me encourage you to continue in patience and perseverance. If you have not started yet, I encourage you to ask God whom you could be praying for and start now.
Stephen L Baxter

Happy New Year!

Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard,...
Vincent Van Gogh, self-portrait

How did you go with your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re anything like me, probably not too well. In fact, I have now decided not to make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I, like many thousands of others, have found that they are not much use; you just tend to break them within four or five days. In fact, studies show that 88-92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail.

But why? There are many reasons, but one I find compelling is that resolutions are more often than not desperate attempts to change something in our lives using a form of self punishment. We subconsciously punish ourselves for those things that we haven’t yet achieved, or those things we wish we could do better.  Our hope is that a resolution will somehow bring about a change in behaviour and ultimately help us feel better about ourselves.

Like all punishments, resolutions come from a negative base and when we fail we more often than not end up feeling guilty. So the best solution is not to make them at all.

So while life without resolutions may be freeing, it does not mean we throw out goal setting altogether. In fact, goal setting is quite different to making resolutions.

The difference between a goal and a resolution is that resolutions are focused on what you don’t want rather than on what you do want. Goal setting is about overcoming obstacles to reach a desired end. A resolution such as, “don’t eat chocolate,” can be made into a goal like “eat more healthily.” The difference between the two can be quite profound. I believe Vincent van Gogh was hinting at the same idea when he said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” In other words, replace the negative with a positive.

The other difference between a resolution and a goal is the fallout when it is not achieved. Often once you break your resolution that’s the end of it, you’ve failed. But if you miss your goal, the goal still remains, it is still an aspiration and something that can remain positive by reviewing progress, learning from it, celebrating the effort so far and continuing to move toward your goal.

Goal setting rather than making resolutions maybe the best way to go and New Year is an obvious time for thoughtful reflection and decision. Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that we ought not to be anxious about life, but nor should we be so lazy as to make no plans at all. We are encouraged to look at our lives and become all that God has called us to be (Philippians 3:12-14).There is a place of humility where we submit our plans to the Lord, and yet we are to “continue to work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12).

So while I’m not making any resolutions again this year, I have been reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the new. My primary focus is following Jesus and serving him.

What about you? May your new year be filled with a genuine desire to grow in your commitment to Jesus Christ and may you experience the joy, peace and fulfilment that come from being on that journey with him.

Stephen L Baxter