From Apathy to Impact
Apathy was an issue in my first four failed church plants. Many people went through the motions but never really expected God to show up and do something powerful. I wanted to cultivate leaders who intentionally set the climate and atmosphere at church rather than simply accept the temperature and follow embedded cultural traditions.
Changing the prevailing culture is difficult, so we started small at Bridge Church. My early adopter team became the catalyst—the essential ingredient—toward cultivating a hope-filled culture. If I wanted unbelievers to return, I needed to train my early adopter team to be sensitive to the unchurched.
We started with a series of challenging questions regarding our ability to reach nonbelievers. What we discovered was discouraging. We were missing the unchurched.
I asked our team of twelve leaders how many times they’d shared their faith in the last year. Combined, we came up with three over an entire year. Yikes! Our core team considered ourselves mission-driven, and yet, nothing was further from the truth. We were simply not living with a sense of urgency for the lost as Ephesians 5:16 describes. We were doing a lot of ministry activity, but we were missing God’s heart for lost people.
I asked our team to participate in a simple exercise.
● If God wants to rescue and save people, does he want to use you?
● If so, then write down how many people you think God wants you to impact this week.
Between the 12 of us, we came up with nearly 50 people. The following week we shared so many stories, our meeting went for hours.
I shared how I sensed God leading me to Aisle 4 at the grocery store when I asked him to show me who to encourage. A woman started to cry when I told her I didn’t know what she was going through, but felt God wanted her to know everything would be all right. She explained how her husband had left her, and she had no clue what to do. We prayed, and she left with a newfound assurance that God cared for her.
Others shared stories of how they invited people to church while others talked to neighbors they had never met. This same group who could only remember sharing their faith three times the entire previous year came back with nearly four dozen stories of how God used them just over the previous week.
Celebrating these God-sized stories with our congregation cast a vision for the lost. Our antennas went up; we discovered how God worked all around us and how he wanted to use us. Between consistent love outreaches and sharing personal stories, momentum began to build.
God is at work in ordinary people in everyday tasks. When congregation members regularly share how they prayed with a waitress or encouraged someone at the gym or invited a neighbor to church, each of us is inspired to step up our game. Celebrating these ongoing faith stories produces growth in our congregation.
As leaders, we fan the flame of passion in our congregations by sharing conversion and ongoing faith stories. Celebrating regular baptisms testifies to God’s transforming work in our personal lives, reacquainting us with the incredible love, joy and peace we received when Jesus forgave our sins and set us free. When people continually process and practice these stories, we relate and empathize with those who are without hope. We can’t help but live with a level of gratefulness that overflows in conversation and relationships with others.
Changed people change people.
Commit to telling conversion and ongoing faith stories on a regular basis. Brag on God. What you celebrate and elevate, you reproduce.
That’s how you turn apathy into impact.