Gaining new believers is great, but it’s only half of the matter
How overwhelmed Peter must have felt looking into the faces of 3,000 new converts in Jerusalem. I’m sure he must have thought: They’ve chosen to follow Christ, but will they follow me into the mature faith necessary to carry our church forward? As Christian leaders, we know it takes effective leadership to move people from their salvation decision into mature discipleship. We also know maturity empowers blessing in their lives and enables them to bless others.
Recently my friend told me a comical story about his son’s youth football game. The score was tied 6-6 in the second half. As the opposing quarterback faded back to pass, the boys rushed in and tackled him. They immediately started celebrating, but they failed to realize that the ball had been fumbled. The other team ran it in for a touchdown and won the game. My friend said with a smile, “Our boys made half a great play.”
As a pastor I get pretty excited when people choose to accept Christ. Then I’m reminded that we’re only halfway there. I still have the formidable task of maturing them so they can fulfill their potential.
We know God wants His people to live blessed and to be a blessing. But managing their maturity process isn’t easy. Gaining an understanding of how God views His church helped me oversee the maturity process of our congregation better. God describes His church the following ways:
- The Flock. First Peter 5:2 tells pastors to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” One of the most important things we do for people is feed them well. For them to become strong, healthy sheep, they need a constant diet of helpful and relevant teaching from God’s Word. After my time with the Lord in the morning I like to use the next six hours to study and prepare messages that will feed my flock. This enables me to use the best part of my day to do what only I can do for my people: feed them weekly. Sheep always come back for good food. The early church Peter helped lead “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42, NIV).
- The Family. Ephesians 3:14-15 refers to a “whole family” of believers. A well-fed flock is capable of being formed into a functional and loving family. God designed the family to meet our needs for identity and maturity. It’s the place we’re to find the acceptance and support we crave.
In pastoring the same people 19 years, I’ve found that love and service flow freely when church becomes family. We were created to connect. Most people initially come to church to hear messages, but they stay in church because of meaningful relationships. The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship (see Acts 2:42).
- The Body. First Corinthians 12:27 refers to believers as the “body of Christ.” Healthy families help every person find his place of significance and service. People enjoy being part of a team and making a difference through their strengths. I give a few hours each day to what I call “bind time”—leadership that facilitates relational ministry in and through our church. I’ve learned leadership isn’t about what we do, but rather what we set in motion and accomplish through others. The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the “breaking of bread”and to prayer (Acts 2:42).
We all find fulfillment in watching our flock become a healthy family that ministers well as the body of Christ. The good news is, we can get there growing one day at a time into God’s purposes.
Jim Graffis the pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria, Texas, and founder of Significant Church Network.
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