by Terrance Taylor, Pastor of the Pasco Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church
Summer was approaching and I was looking forward to it! Not that much of a shock, right? Who isn’t looking forward to the summer? Almost everyone I know already has something planned for the summer. Vacations, weddings, road trips, you name it…any reason to get away is a good reason. While the summer is exciting for most people, it’s the absolute worst time for a Pastor.
Pastors know that when summer comes around, their members usually don’t. Attendance is down, giving is down, and the church seems to be on Sabbatical. Except for the occasional VBS program lead by some extremely driven person, everyone else is M.I.A. The best pastors can do is try to overlook the obvious and plan for the fall.
So why was I looking forward to the summer? For the last three years, I noticed a trend in my church that I almost missed. As we have become increasingly less inward focused and more outreached focused as a church, we have adjusted our ministry plans to the pace and personality of our local community. And what we discovered was the summer and winter seasons were actually the best times of the year for Evangelism. Evangelism for us simply means, sharing the Good News with people who have never heard it before. This makes our target demographic very specific and gives us a strategy that requires us to be prayerful, creative, and responsible. This keeps the focus off ourselves and motivates us to leave our building and be in our community.
Ministry of Healing pg 143-144 provides the best strategy that we have found to engage with those around us in a healthy way, “Christ Method Alone!” Christ Method Alone has become the core value of our ministry practice. It reverses the order of what we had typically done without compromising our vision and mission. Christ Method Alone takes time, ingenuity, and sacrifice. There’s no silver bullet. No cheat code. Nothing about this is easy. But it is rewarding! Being Jesus to someone you are building a relationship with is so much more fulfilling than telling someone about Jesus that is essentially a stranger. It’s David with a slingshot vs Rambo with a machine gun. Getting close instead of getting lucky!
I was really looking forward to the Summer! Our calendar for the summer was full and it was going to be exhausting. We planned nine outreach events, live streamed our service, added an evening worship service offered at 6pm, and moved our service time back two hours from 11am to 1pm. We planned more in nine weeks than we had done in the previous two years combined.
About halfway through the summer I was thinking to myself, “what did I get myself into?” Signs of the summer slide began to show. The faithful few began to get stronger and stronger while others seemed to rail behind, unable to keep up with the pace. I was out of timeouts and I was ready to throw a Hail Mary and get this game over with…until week seven.
There was a young couple with children that had not attended church in over a year and a half. Despite the many calls and facebook likes, life seemed to have their hands tied behind their backs and church was out of reach. Until week seven. Our 6pm service was new and not very well attended by the church. I tried to stay excited about it but it was becoming harder and harder to do. Finally…week seven came. Week seven…halfway through the service…at about 6:20pm…I saw them walk in. They walked in like they were looking at the house they grew up in. Filled with nostalgia, being reminded of things they had forgotten, noticing what had been painted or moved. I saw a smile. I gave a wink and a nod to say hello…and to say thank you. Thank you for giving me my strength back. Thank you for allowing God to bring you to remind me of why we signed up for this summer maddness. Thank you for the strength and courage to get ready for week eight.
Fast forward. They’re still coming! Three other families that weren’t coming, came back, and are still coming! The church has a new energy and a renewed focus to our mission. Evangelism may not be easy, but it simple. I’ve learned that taking risks and being willing to fail is a great way to learn. New things come with new methods and new expectations. Change happens when you want it to happen, either on purpose or by accident. This summer changed everything, I’m glad it’s over, because I’m looking forward to the next one.