After a large event with a big spike in new visitors, your attendance reports are going to look pretty nice for a week or two. But it doesn’t take long for reality to set back in as you see a return back to your regular pattern in the weeks to follow. Why is there such a drastic fallout? I believe a major factor comes down to the lack of community and relationships.
People are more likely to stick around when they get to know other people in your church. Fostering authentic, biblical community and developing meaningful relationships around the Word of God are essential for growing a healthy church on mission for God.
This need for community is more evident today than ever before. In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam claimed that the greatest epidemic in American life is not a disease, but loneliness. New technology has made communication easier, but connection rarer. It drives us to screens instead of to other people. It facilitates entertainment but, at the same time, isolation and loneliness. Humans are not designed to live in isolation.
The need for community is at the very core of who we are as human beings.
God created us for community—both with Himself and with each other. When we create true biblical community, we step into God’s design for how we are to live and for how He planned on spreading His name throughout the nations.
There are around two billion people on the planet who claim to be Christians—more than any other religion (so far). This is an astounding fact, considering Acts 1:15 tells us that the number of Jesus’ disciples around the time of His ascension was about 120. Over the next 2,000 years, these disciples continued the movement that their Master started. This movement outlasted the Roman empire and spread to every populated continent on the Earth.
So how did the first-century church accomplish such an amazing feat?
They didn’t do this by having a few well-spoken master evangelists or by only focusing on large events; they did it by creating true, life-changing community. Biblical community is more than a Bible study or a hangout time with friends; it is what happens when the people of God come together to be His church.
Our task as the church is to continue the work that Jesus began when He passed the baton to His disciples in Matthew 28. It should be our mission to help people know God, find community, make disciples and change the world with the Gospel. If this is our true desire, there has to be a place where that kind of God-guided transformation can occur in their lives. Biblical community, based on the community Jesus built, is the space for that transformation.
Disciple-making churches understand that inviting people into community is more effective than merely inviting people to attend events. People are longing for meaningful connections. They are longing for a place to belong. Ultimately, people want to belong to a community that gives them purpose.
Am I against having large crowds come to events? Of course not! That being said, the key to reaching your community is not merely inviting people to more large events as some in the church growth movements have suggested; the key is inviting people into meaningful relationships that can lead to discipleship and multiplication.
Effective ministry is all about relationships. Our relationship with Jesus motivates us to develop meaningful relationships with people in our community that provide us with opportunities to introduce them to Jesus and His church. Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to step out of our comfort zones and invite people into our lives for the sake of the Gospel. We need to stop merely inviting people to events and start inviting them into biblical community. Churches should have a pathway to help move people from the crowd to community.
Moving People From the Crowd to Community
Many of us who serve as leaders in churches desire to see revival breakout in our communities. In fact, I’m sure many of us have prayed for revival on several occasions. Imagine what would happen if God answered our prayers and brought droves of people to faith in our community. Would our churches be able to handle all that numerical growth? As exciting as it is to see many people respond to the Gospel message, have we created a culture in our existing church body that can embrace and assimilate all these new people?
Those questions got me to think about my local church and eventually drove me to search for answers in the Scriptures primarily by observing the life and ministry of Jesus and the early church.
When Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples of all nations, He didn’t also give them a step-by-step manual for how to do it. Rather, they simply did it the way that Jesus had modeled it for them. They relied on His precedent to be sufficient for them. The strategy was going to have to be both flexible enough to handle large numbers of new believers and simple (and powerful) enough to be replicated in any place where there were believers to replicate it.