What is your priority in life? The end result you want to receive (product)? Or, the steps that must be taken to get to the end result (process)? I’m writing this from the University of Texas Medical Center (M.D. Anderson, Houston Texas) where I am being evaluated for a stem cell transplant. The “product” is to experience healing and become cancer free. Obviously, I wish I could go from problem today (I have cancer) to product tomorrow (I am cancer free). We know life doesn’t work like that.
Today is my second day of extensive medical testings with the promise of more to come in the days and weeks ahead. These results will not achieve the “final product” I am looking for; they will only indicate if I can be accepted in the transplant program. A successful conclusion then will mark the sought-after “final product.” Meanwhile, the “process” must be continued in order to arrive at the desired “product.”
The Christian life is a lot like this. Yes, when we trust Christ we are immediately ready for heaven (Luke 23:43)! But, the New Testament reminds us that God has a “process” in store for us as He leaves us here awaiting the final “product.” God’s Word says we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son …” (Rom. 8:29).
One of my more transforming days as a pastor came when I realized that developing a New Testament church involved prioritizing the process more than the product. I came to realize that if I cooperated with Jesus (who is the only builder of the church!) and prioritized the process, He would truly build His church! For instance, I customarily would set goals for everything. Sunday School and worship attendance, budgets and giving, professions of faith and baptisms, etc. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with setting goals (Almighty God is the greatest goal setter there is! Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you …”). One day a pastor friend told me I was going about it the wrong way. Instead of setting the goal (identifying the product), he wisely advised me to plan and mark out the process. “What do you mean and how do we do that?” Instead of baptism goals, set goals regarding how many people will be witnessed to during the church year? To make that concrete, put some events on the church calendar that specifically target attracting the unchurched/unsaved in your community. Bathe them in fervent, believing prayer before and during the event(s). Plan, prepare and promote them well. Make sure they include a clear and convincing gospel presentation that asks people to trust Christ then and there, provide a means whereby people can record their decisions; then, do a thorough job of following up on them.
Will this process work in reaching people today? In 2009, an Evangelistic Research Project was conducted by Southwestern Seminary, involving 3,196 Southern Baptist Convention churches. The Project found that churches which conducted two big evangelistic events a year, reported 1,190 percent more baptisms than those which did not! Yes, the process is effective (read the Book of Acts, they followed the process!). And your community is waiting for your church to get out among them in practical, need-meeting ways, presenting the gospel in simple, understandable terms, thus demonstrating loving Christlikeness to the community.
Need ideas for a Big Event? Look over the Big Events Manual I wrote for Missouri Baptists. (If you don’t have one, call/email my office, we will send you one; or go to the MBC website, click on my link and download the pdf of the manual that is there. Additionally, download the two Big Event DVD’S that are there as well. (Don’t know how? Ask your grandkids to do it for you!) Show them to your congregation. There are actual stories of actual Big Events in Missouri Baptist Convention churches in recent months.
One of my dreams and prayers for Missouri Baptist churches is for every church to promote at least one Big Event Day in 2012, then, plan and prayerfully implement two in 2013.
The product will be there if we get the process right!