Big idea for outreach

The ‘Big Idea’ is about a big day for congregational outreach

By Ronald E. Keener

“What gets presented from the stage is more likely to get accomplished in the pews,” writes Nelson Searcy in his book Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church (Baker Publishing, 2009). Searcy, senior pastor at The Journey Church of the City, New York, NY, writes about outreach and evangelism and says:

“Too many pastors think that hope is a strategy for getting their people to act. But the truth is, you can’t keep quiet and assume that your people will do anything. If you don’t use the stage to teach your people about evangelism and spur them to action, you will be missing a huge opportunity. You have to talk to your people about reaching out to their friends. You have to challenge them and encourage them. Otherwise, evangelism just won’t happen.”

Church Executive asked Searcy about his book:

So what’s the big idea about what you call “the big day”?

The idea of a big day is so simple, yet so revolutionary. First, let me define it. A big day is an all-out push toward a single Sunday for the purpose of breaking the next growth barrier and setting an attendance record, in order to reach as many people as possible for Jesus. In essence, it’s like building two or three additional Easter-level days into your calendar every year. The proven big day process has helped us reach exponentially more people for Jesus Christ.

You say a church “can easily double (attendance) on any given Sunday” if one thing happens. What’s that?

If every member and regular attender in your church committed to bringing a friend with them next Sunday, your church could double in a day. Think about that: If everyone would just invite an unchurched friend, your attendance would go up by 50 percent. The question we should all be asking ourselves isn’t “can we double in a day” but rather “what’s keeping us from doubling in a day?”

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You say “the real conundrum about a church doubling in a day” is “why it isn’t happening every Sunday.” Why isn’t it happening?

We aren’t doubling every Sunday because we have allowed the temperature of evangelism in our churches to slip down to the freezing level. By that I mean our people aren’t interested in or knowledgeable about how to reach others. Why? Because we aren’t equipping them to do the work of personal evangelism. We aren’t doing our part to support them with teaching, tools and proper promotion. If we can discover how to raise the evangelistic temperature of our churches back to the boiling point, we can begin reaching more people for Jesus.

What’s the “intentional effort” you speak of?

We can’t just walk through status quo days and assume that the people in our churches are going to be filled with a passion to reach others for Jesus, or that unbelievers are going to flock into our churches on their own. We have to make an intentional decision to put effort into reaching the world beyond our doors with the Gospel, as we’ve been called to do. That means putting time and energy into educating and equipping our people for evangelism.

You say there are three ways a pastor can raise the evangelistic temperature in his church. Briefly, what are those?

Pastors can raise the evangelistic temperature of their church through the stage, through their staff and through the church’s structure. Briefly, you can use the stage to challenge and encourage your people by teaching on evangelism, telling your own evangelistic stories and having others give testimonies. You can also raise the evangelistic temperature by challenging your staff to be actively involved in evangelism and then holding them accountable for what you’ve asked them to do. This would include things such as serving in evangelistic activities, praying for unchurched friends, praying and fasting for big days, and inviting their friends to church. As for structure, just remember that you can either structure your church for control or for growth, but not for both. Three of the best ways to make sure you are structuring for growth are to plan regular evangelistic events, engage small groups in evangelism and allow people to belong before they believe.

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