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Celebrate to stand out

By Sam S. Rainer III

The purpose of a recent study was to uncover what makes an evangelistic church stand out, and several of the interviewees were using words like “exciting,” “warm,” “upbeat,” “energetic,” and “positive” to describe the church they recently joined. These churches were reaching people for Christ, but the tone of respondents’ comments pointed to another intangible factor that was helping them connect with their communities.

Shirley was one of these respondents. When asked how she came to Christ, she said, “I came to the party.” This answer was a surprise. Shirley was a polite and proper lady in her early 70s. She was not the party type.

When asked to explain what she meant, she replied, “I received a card in the mail from the church inviting me to attend my 12-year-old grandson’s baptism and party afterwards. I had little desire to attend worship, but of course, I couldn’t refuse my grandson.”

She continued, “The service was good and the baptism was quick, but what I experienced at the party changed me.”

Shirley talked about how the entire church celebrated with her grandson after the service. “It was when they brought out the birthday cake to signify his new birth that I began to cry. The church began to sing. I had never experienced such joy, and I knew that I wanted to have this joy.”

An atmosphere of joy and celebration is one of the key pieces in churches that stand out. What are some helpful practices to celebrate in ways that help connect others to Jesus? Allow me to share with you four approaches that help expand a culture of evangelism through celebration.

Celebrate the right things. A church can celebrate any number of milestones, people, or anniversaries. Recognizing these things is not necessarily wrong. Churches that celebrate the fruits of evangelism, however, tend to have a culture that produces more passion for reaching others.

Celebrate with the community. One of the best ways to demonstrate Christian joy is to show unbelievers and the unchurched how a fellowship of Christ-followers celebrates. First, don’t party behind closed doors. When your church has a large celebration, let the community know and invite them to join in. Second, find ways to celebrate with the community. Some people will never come to a church, free food or not. The church, however, can go to community celebrations. Learn about community-wide events, such as festivals, shows, and fairs. Be a presence there. Work with event organizers and ask them about the biggest needs. Offer to serve them.

Celebrate the right way. Don’t just throw a big party without some measure of planning and organization. Always assume that unchurched people will be present at church celebrations. Clearly explain the purpose of the celebration and why the event is significant. Use this time to share the Gospel. Have a team in place to help follow-up with anyone who expresses an interest to know more about Jesus or the church.

Celebrate with excellence. Few people enjoy a celebration that is done halfway. Unbelievers and the unchurched are less likely to see the joy of Christ in a ho-hum church event. The only way to multiply a culture of evangelistic celebration is to celebrate with excellence. Live a life that exemplifies Christ, and throw a memorable party that celebrates this life.

Sam S. Rainer III is the president of Rainer Research and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Murray, Murray, KY. [www.rainerresearch.com] [www.fbcmurray.org]

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