Although it was his hometown, Clovis, N.M., was the last place on earth David Swann wanted to serve as a pastor. But that’s where God sent him and his wife, Roxanne, to start a new church, Faith Family Christian. “We started with about 40 to 50 people,” he recalls, “and I figured within two years we would have a thousand.”
Instead, the Swanns entered a 10-year period during which, at times, it seemed nothing was happening. On the church’s 10th anniversary, attendance was at the 150 mark. “Things don’t always go the way you think they will,” David said.
Ten years is a long time to remain faithful and excited about your ministry when it seems God isn’t doing much. Yet David and Roxanne Swann are an example of what God can do when we persevere. During that time, He used David to lead his brother and two of his old high school buddies to Christ. The Lord then called all three of those men into full-time ministry, and today they are pastors of churches in Albuquerque, N.M., Roswell, N.M., and Lubbock, Texas. In fact, the churches in New Mexico have become two of the largest in the state.
What kept David and Roxanne going wasn’t necessarily the hope for a 1,000-member church or a bigger facility. Instead, it was knowing that what they were doing mattered—that they were making a difference in people’s lives. Were they not convinced of this, it’s likely they would have headed elsewhere.
In the same way, a church becomes effective and experiences significance when it is convinced it has a message others need. We can’t expect the world to be excited about our message if we’re not excited about it and convinced it can change lives.
What would a congregation full of sold-out believers look like? Here are four key characteristics:
- A convinced church recognizes that the gospel message it carries is life-changing. Many churches put on a great show, but are they pointing people to Christ? Peter said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
- A convinced church is willing to look beyond people’s problems and offer eternal solutions. Jesus said in John 3:17, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
- A convinced church overcomes theological differences by focusing on people’s core questions. When Jesus said to the man He had healed of blindness, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” the man asked, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” (John 9:35-36). What greater question could be asked?
- A convinced church knows what ultimately matters is what God is doing in people’s lives. When John the Baptist wavered in doubt for a moment and sent his messengers to ask Jesus if He was actually the Messiah, Christ answered with the only proof that mattered: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22). Impacting people’s lives is what ultimately matters to the Lord.
Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria, Texas, and founder of the Significant Church Network.
Frank Viola’s last book, Pagan Christianity, challenged the way we “do” church today. Reimagining Church follows up by discussing Christ’s original intent for His body and offering constructive ways to become a living, breathing organism.
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