Dan Reiland: Don’t Relax the Gas Pedal Now

Dan-Reiland-headshotNearly all pastors and ministry staff, volunteer leaders too, lean a little more toward evangelism or discipleship (one or the other) in their personal bent and wiring. According to Matthew 28:19-20 they are both essential and should not be separated, so neither is better than the other.

I believe that the church (in North America for sure), naturally moves toward discipleship on its own; therefore we need to intentionally fight for evangelism. But that’s my personal opinion.

Easter is a good picture of the balance of both. For weeks we build toward Easter Sunday. We run a full-court press for evangelism. Then what? Is it over? What’s your plan? Is it business as usual, or do you take advantage of that great momentum?

Easter is still fresh enough. I want to lean into a Pastor’s Coach article I wrote about one year ago on this same topic. It was titled “After Easter”—I will repeat some content, because like the Gospel message, some things bear repeating, especially when we get close to the core of the Great Commission.

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It is not uncommon for pastors and church staff to feel exhausted after Easter. But that’s not the time to take a vacation, even a mental one. The “harvest” is truly gathered in during the 4-6 weeks that follow Easter. Don’t let off the pedal now. We’re not long past Easter; there is time to capture all that God has for you.

This isn’t the exciting part of ministry but it’s the part that brings strength to your church. It brings depth and stability. The following checklist (with adjustments and updates) is what I want to bring back to you. It’s a collection of essential elements you can use to evaluate your post Easter ministry processes. If you really believe you are late for this year, use this to be early and strong in your preparation for next year.

1. New Converts. Everything on this list is important, but if I had to put one at the top, this would be it. Ultimately, new Christians are at the core of the purpose for the local church!  That is a bit over-simplified, but I can’t imagine a pastor that would disagree with the overarching idea. Do you have a plan in place? Is it working? How many of those who said yes to Christ are connected in some process of first steps in their faith?  These questions begin to get at what would be considered as an over-simplified or imbalanced ministry, if left to evangelistic efforts only. The beginning of discipleship is essential.

What about baptism? Did you have the privilege of baptizing anyone on Easter? Have you baptized anyone since Easter? Are you discovering people who are ready for baptism in your new Christian environments?

2. Worship Services. You invested much time, effort, energy and money for Easter. Did you take some time to review your worship services?  Did they go as planned? Were you happy with all the elements?  Was the worship strong? Was the message clear? Did everyone hit the times? Were the ushers organized and helpful? Was the sound and video done with excellence? Was your advertising effective? There are so many questions you can ask, and the primary reason is to continue to get better. This isn’t meant to contradict the element of God’s hand, it is about doing your best to be fully prepared with confidence and excellence for what God wants to do.

3. First-Time Guests. There are several viable approaches to guest follow-up in the local church. They range from a full court press to nearly full anonymity.  Both can work and the size of your church matters. In smaller churches there tends to be a higher expectation for more personal touch in follow-up. The middle ground seems to involve at least some form of digital / social-media format of contact.

If Easter is your largest reach during the year, it seems like putting extra effort to seeing your guests return makes sense. This is back to the tension of event and process. You and the leaders in your church may have be drained from Easter and then jumped right into preparation for whatever is coming next. Because of time pressures, the net effect is that little follow-up takes place, at least in comparison to the number of visitors and potential new attendees. It doesn’t really make sense. The machine of “52 weeks” mows down the momentum that wants to come from Easter.

Consider repeating a series of high attraction messages / services you have done in the past for 2-4 weeks. This promises great services and you have more time to focus on gathering in many that came on Easter.

4. Staff. Your staff and/or key volunteer leaders press hard for Easter and often put in many long hours. Make sure they get some time to rest and play. We’re in a crazy busy season here at 12Stone® Church and there wasn’t much of a break between Easter and now. I’m aware that some of our team is running a bit tired, but we are in full support of taking the time needed to rest! The trouble isn’t that we can’t take time off, it’s that we don’t.  We love what we do!  But back to the point, we need to rest and so do you. It’s more likely that for us, we need to tell someone to take a day off, so we do! I stated earlier that now isn’t the time to take a vacation. That’s different from taking a much-needed day or two off for some rest and play. How are you doing here?

5. Vision-Casting. I love what our senior pastor Kevin Myers said the week following Easter. He said to the staff and congregation that many who were not quite ready to say yes to Jesus on Easter may be ready this week or soon!  Great vision-casting! That reminds us all of something we know, but can’t hear enough. If you’ll allow me a large margin of grace in terms of theology, every Sunday is Easter! Now don’t write me about that statement. I know there can only be one resurrection, but I’m talking about the ongoing celebration of God’s grace and mercy!  The invitation for salvation is available every day!

6. Gratitude. Each time someone says yes to Jesus, though we all work hard to prepare for the worship services, I know that the mystery of the Gospel is in play. The Holy Spirit is at work. Ultimately, there isn’t anything we do that results in someone’s salvation. We simply prepared the way for God to do His work. This year, Easter 2013, hundreds came to Christ at 12Stone Church. I stand amazed and utterly grateful. God takes delight in our thanksgiving and praise for His grace and mercy. Your personal prayers of gratitude for His saving grace are vital, but equally important is gathering with your leaders to give thanks as a group.

I hope this list is helpful to you. How’d you do? Got all your bases covered? If so, good for you, and keep up the great work. If not, choose the ones you most need to shore up and go for it!

Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church® in Lawrenceville, Ga., listed in Outreach magazine as the No. 1 fastest-growing church in America in 2010. He has worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. His semimonthly e-newsletter, The Pastor’s Coach, is distributed to more than 40,000 subscribers. Dan is the author of Amplified Leadership, released in January 2012.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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