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“The Lord of the Rings: Step One”
by Tom Goodman
April 21, 2005

How are we doing at helping unchurched people begin attending our Sunday morning crowd?  That’s the first step in moving people through the Commitment Rings.

I introduced you to these Rings in last week’s LeaderLines.  Think of five concentric rings.  Moving from the outermost in, the five rings would be labeled:

     o  The Community
     o  The Crowd
     o  The Congregation
     o  The Committed
     o  The Core

Everyone we know fits in one of those five rings.  Our job is to identify what Ring a person is in, and move them to the next level of commitment.  Today, let’s review how to move people from the Community Ring to the Crowd Ring.

Invite Your World to Life . . .

Most churches define the community they want to reach as all unchurched people in a 10-mile radius from their building.  This is a common way a church tries to identify their “target group.”

Hillcrest has a better way.  The Community our church is called to reach is made up of all THEMs known by those who attend Hillcrest.  Remember that the word “them” is the most important word in the Great Commission:  Jesus told us to reach them, so who are your thems?  Who among your coworkers, neighbors, relatives and friends need to find a Savior and a church?

To understand how vast this outermost Ring is, add up all your THEMs and multiply that number by our average church attendance.  The result will be a huge number of THEMs!  These are the folks our church should target for outreach!

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that we should limit our outreach exclusively to the unchurched people known by our members.  Our advertising and location attracts lots of people to our church who don’t know anyone here.  Still, a church that relies exclusively on these outreach strategies won’t be nearly as effective as a church that mobilizes the members to invite those they know.

Besides, a church that fails to mobilize the members for this work is failing the members!  According to Jesus, a large part of being a disciple involves making disciples.  If you’re not fishing for people, you’re not following Jesus—plain and simple (Matthew 4:19).  This is one way we make it up the H.I.L.L. of Christian growth—The “I” in H.I.L.L. stands for “Invite Your World to Life.”  You’re responsible to reach the lost people you know.

So, we have a different definition of the Community Ring than most churches would have.  The Community Ring is made up of all THEMs known by those who attend Hillcrest.

The heart of my leadership strategy is very simple:  I will equip our people to develop relationships with THEMs that will lead to an invitation to church, and I will equip our leaders to develop a church that our people will want to bring THEMs to!

So, the first step is to move people from the Community Ring into the Crowd Ring.  In other words, we need to get someone who is “unchurched” to become part of our Sunday morning crowd.

Getting People into Sunday Morning Attendance . . .

Now, think about that last line.  We need to design a Sunday morning program so that those who attend our church will want to bring people who don’t go to anyone’s church.

Do you think most churches plan their Sunday morning program with this in mind?  Very few!  That’s too bad because if someone decides to “give church a try,” when do you think they’re going to try us out?  If you guessed “Sunday morning,” you win the prize.

Most church leaders have a heart for the lost, and over the years I’ve seen these leaders plan all kinds of marriage conferences and golf scrambles and singles retreats that will attract the unchurched.  But if the unchurched who come to these events decide to “give church a try” on Sunday morning and find nothing that connects with them, outreach collapses.

On the other hand, if we design our Sunday morning activities where nonbelievers study the Bible with us, make friends with us, and watch us express our love to God in worship, powerful things happen!

Those of us who play a role in the Sunday morning programs need to give our people fifty-two reasons a year to invite their unchurched friends to Sunday School and worship.  How are we doing?

The First Step . . .

Just getting someone to attend Hillcrest isn’t the end of our evangelism work, of course.  Once an unchurched person begins to attend and becomes a part of our Sunday morning Crowd, what’s next?  Next week we’ll look at how to move someone from the Crowd Ring to the Congregation Ring.  In other words, we’ll look at the importance of moving someone from simply attending our church to joining our church through profession of faith or transfer of membership.


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