There's no way I can download everything in my brain in one blog post, but I'll start by reporting that God is doing AMAZING, KICK-BUTT, TAKE-BACK-THE-TERRITORY stuff all over the United States. We met people from everywhere with hearts to win the lost in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. We met people who are preaching Jesus boldly and finding ways to do church that have never been done before. Being around these people has increased the urgency I feel to reach out to our mission field in Summerville, South Carolina. We all have neighbors and friends who are living everyday with stress, burden, anxiety and fear (let's be honest, half the time that's us) - some seen and much unseen. We have what they need and His name is Jesus! We've spent far too long being comfortable as church-insiders and it's past time to get out into the world with a faith that is relevant and lived everyday.
One of the biggest takeaways for me from the conference is the idea that we need to "put an elbow" on people, meaning we need to get over the old model of attracting people and start getting serious about inviting. 90-92% of unchurched people come to church for the first time on the elbow, so to speak, of a trusted friend. We live in a post-Christian culture where people outside of the church are highly skeptical of our motives and methods. They're not going to come unless we bring them. This means starting to see your friends with new lenses - start seeing the people you live with, work with and play with as people who are only one invitation away from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I want to throw down the gauntlet now and challenge everyone to make a commitment to start bringing people with you. In the coming months we're going to have lots of events from preview worship services to service projects at the high school to the Fall Festival - plan now to bring people with you to all of these events. I'll warn you now that some of our events will be "member-guest" events where your only ticket in will be the person you bring with you. Start praying about who God has placed in your life that you can invite. And once God has shown you who those people are, start praying for them everyday.
(As a side-note, if you're already thinking "I don't have any friends who don't go to church" then start doing things with new people - in the coming weeks I'll be joining a spinning class at the Y, starting a running group, joining the Chamber of Commerce and much more to get connected to the community and in touch w/ a wider circle of people - what can you do?)
I am so excited for all that lies ahead. We started a new phase in the Ashley Ridge journey this week. If we're going to launch in January then we need to have 150 fully-committed people by the end of December, only half of whom come from Bethany. I'm thinking it's time to get our hands dirty and get to work. I've been challenged to personally connect with 10,000 new people in the next two years - who's with me?!