Don’t Go It Alone

At Discipleship Ministries, we are very excited about a new initiative we rolled out a couple weeks ago called #SeeAllThePeople. I want to tell you about his initiative, but more importantly, I want to discuss what it means for your church.

#SeeAllThePeople is an effort to shift the conversation from talking about all the things we are doing to attract people to our church, to actually engaging the people who are right outside our doors and across our communities.

I believe it is going to be a tremendous benefit for our denomination.

Developing relationships through engagement is the beginning of discipleship. It is the shift that we are trying to make, but we also understand it can be very difficult for many of us.

Developing relationships through engagement is the beginning of discipleship. It is the shift that we are trying to make, but we also understand it can be very difficult for many of us.

Let me give you an example of what we mean when we talk about engaging your community.

About four years ago, as I was pastoring Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, we were charged with an opportunity to help restart a dying congregation.

When we considered how to restart this church, we asked these questions:  How do we reach the people in this community? How do we connect with the people? How do we build relationships with the people who are literally living right around this congregation?

We developed a plan to simply go out and engage people. Over a four-month period, we did several things. We had a prayer walk, where we knocked on doors and prayed with people. We had a community block party in a park, where we just invited our neighbors to come and meet their neighbors. And we had a gas buy-down event.

If you remember, gas prices were astronomical – over $3 a gallon at the time – and people were really struggling. We thought, How could we be a blessing to the people in this neighborhood, and at the same time initiate a conversation with them?

Our idea was to have a gas buy-down on a Saturday morning, so we partnered with the local QuickTrip gas station and worked with a local radio station to help get the word out about the event.

Coincidently, this gas station was fairly new, and there had been a lot of opposition to it coming into the neighborhood. This event was a win-win. It was an opportunity for the people running the gas station to meet their neighbors as well.

We purchased about $2,500 worth of gas from the station, and they partnered with us by providing free beverages for people who were getting gas on that day.

On this Saturday, we literally had 100 cars streaming all the way through the neighborhood. As the cars were in line waiting to get free gas, we had a very captive audience. Our congregation had the opportunity to go and personally meet our neighbors and introduce ourselves to the people who were attending this gas buy-down event.

This was such an awesome experience because it gave us a chance to not only get to know their stories, but also for them to see that we were a congregation that was really interested in getting to know our neighbors.

Now, the “ask” at this event was not for them to come to church. It was an invitation for them to participate in another engagement event – a block party at a park. You get the idea, to build relationships on an ongoing basis.

Making Disciples for Christ in an Intentional Way

This is what #SeeAllThePeople is all about. It is not a program. It is a movement – an attempt to help every local church stay relentlessly focused on making disciples for Jesus Christ, not by accident, but in a very intentional way.

When churches create an intentional discipleship system, they move from tinkering and fixing to relationship and discipleship.

When churches create an intentional discipleship system, they move from tinkering and fixing to relationship and discipleship. We do this not to simply fill our pews, but to live into the great commandment – to love God with all your heart, mind, spirit and soul, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. And also to live into the Great Commission:  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The results will be passionate followers of Christ who are committed not only to their own spiritual growth, but also to helping others discover and follow Christ.

Disciples make disciples. I believe when you have passionate Christ followers committed to discipleship, then you have a healthy church with the capacity to grow a larger mission. I believe churches should be measured not simply by their seating capacity, but by their sending capacity. How many people are we sending out to share their faith, to share their story, to engage in relationship?

In my experience as a local church pastor for more than 25 years, I discovered that one of my primary responsibilities was to help my church stay focused on discipleship. If you are a lay leader in your church, I believe one of your responsibilities also is to help your church stay focused on discipleship, not be so inwardly focused as to neglect the work of engaging and building relationships in the community.

Resources for Developing Intentional Discipleship

I have developed a very simple resource to help guide your church to develop a discipleship system that fits your context and maximizes the gifts of the people who attend your church. Whether you are a church of 35, 350, or 3,500 people, I think you will find this resource, Developing an Intentional Discipleship System: A Guide for Congregations, helpful in focusing your discipleship efforts.

I invite you to do three things: First, go to the website www.seeallthepeople.org. You will find a video there to help get the conversation started in your congregation and in your circle of influence.

Second, download the resource booklet – it is free – and plan a meeting to get your church started. After you download the booklet, we will also send you fresh ideas each week that will help you to engage and build relationships in your community. If you would like the hardbound version, you can also purchase it for a very small amount.

And the third thing I invite you to do is spread the word. When you go to website, share the video. Let’s start a conversation using that hashtag #seeallthepeople.

The beauty of this initiative is that it is not a program; it is a movement. #SeeAllThePeople is not top down. It is bottom up.

At Discipleship Ministries, we believe that many churches across our denomination are already doing an awesome job of engaging and building relationships in the community. We know there are churches that have very innovative, creative – but here is the key word, intentional – ways of discipling people.

What we want to do is simply lift those ideas up so we can all grow and learn from each other.

What we want to do is simply lift those ideas up so we can all grow and learn from each other. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but to spread those effective stories of churches that are doing great work so we all can be inspired by one another.

I want to share an example of how one church is being intentional about building relationships. Imperial Beach United Methodist Church is a small church in California, just a few miles from the Mexican border, with a membership of 116 people. Under the leadership of Pastor John Griffin-Atil, this church has a process of engaging and building relationships with people in its community. Watch this short video, https://youtu.be/p90YmaPmXNA. I believe it is a story that will inspire you.

If you are one of those churches doing great things, share your stories of how you are in a relationship with those around and throughout your community. Or, maybe if you are a church that is struggling with how to do that, share your experiences, too, because we are trying to learn from one another. Just remember to use the #seeallthepeople hashtag.