Bridget Harris picture

Making the Church a Light in the Darkness


Today, with all the turmoil that is so prevalent in our culture and our communities, people are seeking a light in the darkness to help them find their way. They’re looking for answers to questions about their purpose, their struggles, their future and the unknown. They’re searching for peace in an uncertain world. But do they know that such peace can be found in their local churches? Do these seekers truly know what it means when we tell them the church is there for them? Jesus called us to be a “town built on a hill” so that His church would be visible—not unreachable. Do our friends and neighbors in need think of church as a distant institution — or as a place to belong? Early on, local churches were central to the successful functioning of our communities. They were a place not only to worship, but to socialize, celebrate, mourn and support those in need—to come together for more than Sunday sermons. If a family was facing challenges, they knew they could count on their church to help them get on their feet. If a young couple was in need of support for their struggling marriage, they knew they could turn to their local minister. From charity bake sales and weddings to funerals and support groups, churches created a hub for people to help, heal and celebrate one another in day-to-day life, even as they practised their faith and shared the gospel. Over time, however, there has been a change in how people engage with the church. Part of this shift been caused by the move from the smaller, close-knit communities of the past to more distant, fractured neighborhoods and large, impersonal cities. Another factor has been the overwhelming busyness that fills our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors, pushing church from a priority to just another task on the to-do list that can, unfortunately, be put off when things get too hectic. And still another factor has been the change in how churches themselves engage with the people around them. In short, a distance has grown between people in our communities—and between our communities and our churches. And it’s up to us to change it. Now, more than ever before, the people of the world need to be reminded that they matter to God. That through the doors of our churches lies a place where they will always belong. When we show them they are welcome, when we bring people into the church, we can begin to knit our communities back together and create a sense of fellowship that can heal our hurting culture. It’s time for all of us to ensure our churches are a sanctuary for each person who walks in. To make our churches a place where everyone feels safe. To show people that here, they will find themselves in the arms of a loving God who has always known them—even when they may not have known Him. In doing so, we will show them the light they have so desperately been seeking and begin to change our world for the better. How do you begin? It’s as simple as an invitation. In Ephesians, Paul wrote that Christ has uniquely equipped His followers to speak the truth in love and build up the body of Christ. So, seek out your friends, family, neighbors—even strangers—and invite them to come to church on National Back to Church Sunday. Let them know that it doesn’t matter if they’ve simply lapsed in their attendance or never been to church before. They will be welcomed with open arms and they will find that they, too, have a place to belong.


Bridget Harris picture

The Benefits of City-wide Church Engagement

Church Choir Singing
In troubled times, it is more important than ever for churches to focus their efforts on helping people to discover (or rediscover) the hope and truth of the gospel. It is our calling, after all, to be “fishers of men” and bring more people to Christ. But, as every pastor knows, reaching out to the community can be challenging. Neighborhoods have become disconnected. Families have become even more busy. Budgets for outreach are strained. How does your church reach people and show them you are there for them? “A Cord of Three Strands is Not Quickly Broken ...” Your church can begin to overcome these challenges by finding others with the same goal and working together! And not just within your own ministry, but with other churches throughout your community. Teaming up with other churches allows everyone involved to expand their outreach efforts, share their resources and show people that church is more than just a building, it’s a place to belong—and an integral part of their community. The concept of ministry teamwork is not just a random idea. The bible actively encourages us to work together to fulfill God’s plan. In Ecclesiastes, for example, we are told that two people sharing the workload will have a better return for their effort than one alone. This lesson is particularly true when churches unite to share the gospel in their communities. The Power of Ministry Teamwork In 2016, churches throughout Dayton, Ohio teamed up for Back to Church Sunday and pooled their time, talents and resources to invite people throughout their city to church. There were 70 different churches who participated and each had a unique way to support the mission. Some had strong media ties they used to share the event. Others had tried and true mailing and door-knocking strategies they utilized to get the word out. Still others utilized their large social media networks to invite thousands of people online. What were the results of this amazing example of church teamwork? Church attendance rose 30% on Back to Church Sunday! People who had not been to church in years returned and brought their friends and families. And, most importantly, many, many people accepted Christ into their lives that day. Unifying Churches and Communities on Back to Church Sunday This year, on Back to Church Sunday, we are calling churches everywhere to unify in the body of Christ once more and create a city-wide campaign to invite their communities to church. Through a strategic and coordinated effort, pastors from churches throughout the various cities can drastically increase the impact of this evangelism opportunity. It can seem a bit strange to work toward getting people to attend churches that aren’t your own. There’s no doubt that any pastor would probably prefer visitors filling up the pews of their individual churches every Sunday. And that’s not a selfish desire! After all, a church needs the support of existing members in order to be able to share the gospel and bring in new members. But, as the Dayton churches learned, the benefits of launching a city-wide effort are enormous and they affect everyone who participates:
  • With a unified, multi-church effort, events get more notice in the media, which means free publicity and expanded outreach
  • Members are encouraged to reach out beyond their comfort zone and minister to others in their community
  • Churches form deep bonds of fellowship that last long after Back to Church has ended
  • The community sees churches working in partnership to do good, exemplifying Christ’s message and fostering an idea of community and belonging
  • People discover all the churches in their city that they can attend for worship and comfort
  • Everyone expands their ministry network
  • Small churches get support, exposure and ideas from larger churches they may not have been able to access before
  • Pastors can find support and develop new friends who understand the unique pressures of ministry
As you can see, there are a lot of positives when multiple churches work together to share God’s message in their communities. This year, consider rallying the churches in your city to launch a group effort invite their neighbors to attend church on Back to Church Sunday. Not only will you experience positive outcomes in your own ministry, you’ll be an integral part of helping other churches boost theirs, too. Over 30,000 churches worldwide have joined in on the Back to Church movement over the last 8 years. It’s a nationwide effort to invite people in our communities to church on September 17, 2017. If you would like to be a part of this movement, register here and learn more about city-wide outreach.