What Are You Known For?
What Are You Known For?
Before I share our story and make my point, I want to give you something to think about. What are you known for? When people think of your church, what words do they use to describe it?
My wife and I moved to Sallisaw, OK just over five years ago. We inherited a four year old church with about 120 adults. Let’s just say it had a “not so good reputation” around town. In their four short years, I became the third pastor. It’s also safe to say neither of the previous pastors had a positive effect on the churches reputation. In fact, the pastor before us flat out hated the area and let that be known. Sallisaw is a community of 9,000 in a county of 40,000. The closest major city is Tulsa, which is over an hour away. The faith community here has been crippled by 14 church splits, and that’s just the ones we know of. Sequoyah County is known for being a revolving door of ministers, staying for 18-36 months. Very few truly plant their feet, claim this land and settle in for the long haul. This should put things into perspective, with five years under my belt, I’m now considered a veteran.
Needless to say, we did our research before coming. It was a six month process of prayer and preparation. My pastor, Jim Graff, was behind me (even though I greatly doubted my own ability to make the transition from a 12 year youth pastor to taking this young volatile church at the age of 31.) But with his blessing and the call of the Lord, my wife and I packed up our two boys and made the move.
Just because you live in a small town doesn’t mean you can’t have BIG VISION! We began with a simple prayer, “Lord, what would you have us do?” “What is our vision?” “Where are we heading?” It needed to be simple and clear, not some multi-step, incredibly complex mission statement followed by 12 primary purposes and 8 core values. I just needed something simple I could get my church to sink their spiritual teeth into. That’s when it hit me… Win the community! Win their trust, win their hearts and the Lord said, “I will save their souls.” He began to remind me of scriptures like Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV) “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” God simply said… SHINE for me! Just radiate my glory! Then the question became, how Lord? Well, I did the only thing I knew to do – WORK! We began to serve the community. We helped out with the city-wide trash pickup day. We parked cars at the local festival, served meals to the athletes, mowed yards, planted flowers and remodeled houses. We just got serious about shining for Jesus. See, its one thing to preach inside the church, but something entirely different to live it outside in the real world. I gave my church a chance to serve and they loved it. By the end of our first year the church had tripled in size, but we didn’t stop there. We just kept serving and loving our community. 1 Peter 2:12 (NLT) “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” At this point, the community had no other choice but to trust us. We had proven ourselves. I was asked to serve on the Chamber of Commerce Board for a three year term (which ends this year). All of a sudden Journey Church is making front page news, why? Was it our worship? Was it our creative services? Was it our children’s or youth programs? No, not totally. It was because of our love. Jesus said in John 13:35 (NLT) “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." Don’t get me wrong, we had developed incredible children’s and youth programs, our services were seamless and extremely creative and although word of mouth filled a few seats, only a small percentage of our community got to SEE these things. We had to take it to them! Now, five years later we are known for many other things. We have changed the way churches in this town “do church.” We have impacted not only the community but the culture as a whole. When it’s all said and done I still want to simply be known for our genuine, action based, love for people!
What is your church “known for?” Are you the church known for your deep bible teaching? Maybe you are known for your passionate worship or creative ideas. All of these are good. However, for us, the starting point and the backbone of our ministry is simply shining for Jesus, and proving our love and devotion to Jesus Christ by loving and serving our community. Vision fueled by love is a transformational thing!