Juggling the rolls of EDA Next Gen Director and Apex Director allows me the opportunity to stay connected with youth pastors, high school and college students. I’m always curious to see what they are talking about and what holds their interest.
This summer I had the opportunity to visit a large church that is led by a well-known pastor here on the east coast. The college students I’ve been leading this summer were excited to visit and sit under the teaching of this gifted communicator. Excited may be an understatement. One in particular was in awe as we pulled into the lot and almost skipped her way to the auditorium. Having visited several “mega churches,” I was most interested in… finding the coffee. Begrudgingly, I forked over three bucks for the church coffee that is free in most other churches on Sundays and found my seat. Needless to say, I was buckling in for “the show.”
As the lights came up, a trio of instrumentalists found their spots on a blank stage and led the mass of people in familiar worship songs. No flashing lights, no smoke machine, not even a bass guitar or drum kit. Pleasantly surprised, I found myself led to worship and contemplation of the greatness of our God. With no rounds of applause or cool bumper video to introduce the sermon series, the well-known pastor took his spot behind a rickety podium. The students with me seemed to blend in well with the younger crowd that was sprinkled among plenty of white hair and bald heads.
For forty-five minutes, the pastor beautifully and succinctly unpacked a well-known passage of scripture and placed it in its proper context. This was followed by more simple worship, an offering, communion and a really awkward time of announcements. Before we left, the pastor sat down on the edge of the stage and invited anyone needing prayer to stand and instructed the rest of us to gather around and pray for these unknown friends. After almost 10 minutes, he closed in a simple prayer and dismissed us.
I left church that morning repentant of my preconceived opinions and grateful for time in the Word, worship and communion with God.
As leaders in the church we have a responsibility to lead people to the right places and and the right person. Admittedly, I thought I was walking into a showcase of all that this church was doing right and the celebration of its celebrity pastor. Nothing of the sort ever happened. Instead, those in attendance that Sunday morning were led to focus their attention on Christ and how they could introduce others to him as well.
Whether we are the senior leader, youth pastor or Sunday school teacher, we have the privilege and responsibility to point those we lead to the real hero of the Church. Here is what I observed that any church or leader can do.
1. KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING
All too often we get caught up in ascetics and keeping people’s attention. Do your best to lead people into the presence of God and help them see that the truth of His Word is not only helpful for today, but transformational for their lives. Young and old alike need the same things, so let’s not over complicate it. Leverage everything you’re doing to point people to Christ, and He will keep their attention. And isn’t that the point?
2. PROVIDE EASY NEXT STEPS
Even though the announcements at this church were awkward, they clearly pointed the family of God to get involved in what He is doing in and through their community. Help people see that serving in the church and community is a natural overflow of the Christian community. And speaking of community, do whatever you can to get the large group that’s gathering smaller. It was not awkward to gather in small groups to pray at this service. We stood and talked with the dear sister we prayed with for another 20 minutes after the service. That would not have happened without the leadership from the stage.
3. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT AND DO IT WELL
I know that at times I fall into the trap of trying to do things that I’m just not good at. I find myself comparing to other churches and student ministries. God has gifted you specifically to lead His church with the gifts and interests you have. Don’t try and be the church down the road. Be who God has made you to be and do it to the best of your ability. No apology necessary.
4. LOVE YOUR PEOPLE WELL
Without a doubt, we are in the people business. I know that buildings, budgets and bulletins are all important, but don’t let them get in the way of the joy of building friendships with those in your church. The real joy of life is the people in it. Leaders are not remembered for messages they preached or programs they ran, but for the influence they have in people’s lives.
The podcast and books coming from this mega-church are gold for today’s church and its leaders. But the real treasure that can, and should be, sought after is the humble, purposeful and eternal impact that can be made when a church and its leaders point its people to fame of Christ and not its own. And a close second… free coffee.
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