The church my wife and I attend opened last Sunday’s service with a Tom Petty song.
No, we didn’t sing it as a worship song. The band performed it.
No, it wasn’t “Free Fallin’,” even though that song mentions Jesus.
No, it wasn’t “Southern Accents,” even though the bridge always moves me. (“There’s a dream I keep having/where my mama comes to me/ and kneels down over by the window/and says a prayer for me.”)
The song was “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and it was done well, even down to the “woo hoos.” (The song went along with the theme “Catch the Vision for 2012.”)
With all the great worship songs out there, why would a church start a service with a song by a secular artist?
It all has to do with having an outreach orientation.
I grew up being taught the following evangelism philosophy:
The church gathers for worship weekly. Then its people scatter back to their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces to live out and share the gospel with unbelievers.
How well does that philosophy work?
At least in my experience, not very well. The latest statistics are that only 2% of all Christians share their faith. Most churches grow because believers leave smaller/unhealthy churches for a megachurch.
But how is that fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission?
I believe that being an outreach-oriented church isn’t about programming but about a mindset.
That’s why I was blown away by the State of the Church report that our pastor, Don Wilson, shared with our church last Sunday.
Let me share 12 things that Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) does well that demonstrates its outreach-orientation. Please forgive me if it sounds like I’m a pitchman for the church. The church has its flaws, but it does so many things right that it constantly amazes me.
1. Mission: WIN people to Christ, TRAIN believers to become disciples, SEND disciples to impact the world.
The church’s mission is WIN, TRAIN, SEND.
Notice the order: outreach is first, training is second. Isn’t this the order of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20? “Make disciples … baptize them … teach them …”
In my experience, if outreach isn’t first, it won’t happen.
Parking Lot Attendant at CCV
2. Vision: Pastor Don doesn’t just want to win the community around the church for Christ. He wants to win all of Phoenix for Christ because 86% of the people in Arizona don’t attend church.
That’s a huge vision!
The church is located on Happy Valley Road in northwest Phoenix, but people drive long distances to attend the church, coming from as far away as Surprise and Scottsdale.
A few years ago, CCV planted a church in Surprise. In 2011, that church became CCV Surprise. While the church in Surprise has a live worship time, Pastor Don’s messages are shown there on video. In 2012, CCV will expand into Scottsdale.
3. Target: the church targets men.
If a church targets children, the whole family will come to church 7% of the time.
If a church targets mothers, 18% of the time.
If a church targets fathers, 93% of the time.
This may explain why there are TV monitors in the refreshment areas featuring sporting events every Sunday. Last year, I watched an NFL playoff game at church while enjoying a hamburger lunch. There was no reason to hurry home.
The church also offers competitive sports leagues on its campus, including an upcoming tackle football league.
Play Area for Kids at CCV
4. Strategy: the church encourages people to invite their friends, family members, and co-workers.
9% of the people who attend CCV came because they drove by.
9% found the church online.
11% saw the CCV bumper sticker on someone’s car. (You see them everywhere in Phoenix.)
68% attend because they were invited by someone who already attends the church.
For churchgoers to invite others, their church has to offer people answers and experiences they cannot find anywhere else.
If I’m excited about my church, I will invite others.
Guests I Invited - They Each Get a Free Meal
5. Statistics: I do not believe any church can be measured merely by statistics, but they do tell a story.
Pastor Don said that the church aims to grow in 3 areas by 10% each year.
2010 worship attendance: 15,377 per week
2011 worship attendance: 17,855 per week
CCV Worship Center
2010 baptisms: 1,175
2011 baptisms: 1,539
2010 neighborhood group attendance: 5,711
2011 neighborhood group attendance: 8,158
6. Example: Pastor Don made a point of telling the church that he attends a neighborhood group, he invited neighbors to church, and he and his wife pledged to increase their giving for 2012.
Whenever a pastor challenges believers to do something, those people are wondering, “Are you doing what you’re asking us to do?” Most people won’t know about a pastor’s involvement unless he shares it himself.
7. Training: CCV has four ways of training people: Starting Point (a once-a-month class orientation class); Foundations (where the church’s beliefs are presented); Neighborhood Groups (which are designed for both spiritual growth and outreach); and T-Groups (the “T” standing for Transformation, groups of 3 people who help each other grow spiritually).
Information Area, Normally Packed at Weekend Services
8. Missions: the church goes on short-term mission trips to places like Kenya, China, and Ireland, where they’re planting a church this year. Pastor Don also travels to Africa several times a year to train pastors. The church’s missions’ budget is $2.3 million annually.
Kenya? Did Someone Mention Kenya?
9. Compassion: the church assisted 1,400 families financially in 2011; provides free funerals (including the one for Harmon Killebrew); and has a team of people who assist widows.
Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson after Harmon Killebrew's Funeral at CCV
My wife fell in the parking lot one Sunday morning, and within a couple minutes, a woman in a golf cart picked us up and drove us to the lobby entrance. We were blown away by the culture of service.
10. Elders: the church has 9 elders, including a friend of ours we highly respect.
3 elders are selected every year. Their names and brief biographies are placed in the program at the end of each year. If you think there’s a reason they shouldn’t be an elder, you’re to write down that reason and submit it.
The elders are responsible for the church’s doctrinal purity and financial integrity, as well as praying for the sick and for the pastor before he preaches.
11. Impact: Toward the end of last week’s message, Pastor Don announced that CCV is now the 10th largest church in America, and one of the fastest growing.
And the church will celebrate its 30th anniversary this April.
Line for Christmas Eve Service at CCV
By the way, Pastor Don doesn’t compromise the gospel or any biblical commandments. He hits the hard issues head-on.
12. Conflict: The more outreach-oriented a church truly is, the less conflict they have. The more inreach-oriented a church is, the more conflict they have.
It’s possible that I may be leaving Phoenix soon. If so, the Lord may have wanted me here in part to learn from a church like CCV.
I am not suggesting that your church should become like CCV. Far from it! But we can all learn something from other churches, especially those that are effectively winning people to Christ.
May the Lord richly bless you and your church in 2012!
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