There is currently a TV-ad (for a phone service) that starts with a parent watching the swearing in of his son as president of the United States. It proceeds to “rewind the tape” all the way back to the day the boy’s parents met—ending with the punch line, “Every second counts.” It reminded me of how major events in life—both good and bad—are always the result of multiple small decisions along the way. The choices we make and the directions we take lead to outcomes that reveal themselves much later. God’s plan and timing have dimensions beyond our human understanding, of course.
The course and future of a church is no different than our individual lives. The church is a “body,” one with its own identity, an identity which results from everyone and everything involved in its path. The Four Laws of Effective Outreach explain that “Building an Outreach Identity” is the cornerstone of every healthy church.
The most recent communications related to the National Outreach Convention have been reminding pastors of the Barna statistic saying that 75 churches close each week. Granted, there are others opening each week, but for the moment, let’s think about the estimated 2.7 million people who walk away from the church each year. A church doesn’t “all of a sudden” close its doors. The Body doesn’t suffer a fatal “heart attack”—there one day, gone the next. Church decay that leads to closure is more like a slow, cancerous illness that weakens it over a period of time. Right up until the critical-stage deterioration at the very end, there is always time to heal it and turn it around. The more important questions are:
- What could have been done?
- What did we stop doing that we shouldn’t have?
- What should we have done that we didn’t do?
- When did we lose the connection to those who were visiting?
- When did our outreach become a back-burner issue?
- What distracted us?
The National Outreach Convention exists to help pastors find those answers. This is not an event where the healthy and thriving church struts and poses, saying, “Look at me.” It’s a place where struggling churches can find hope. It’s a place where the strong mentor the weak by sharing, supporting, and encouraging. It’s a place where alternative options are given to the myriad of small choices every leader faces. It’s a place where leaders are encouraged to recalibrate and refocus on their outreach—the lifeline of health that keeps their church thriving. It’s a place for focus on preventative and diagnostic treatments for churches. Jesus Himself said that He came to heal the sick, not the healthy.
The NOC is not just another conference where we get together to feel good about ourselves. Think of the NOC as the “boot camp” to jump-start your church’s health. Learning from others is one of those choices, one of the small course-directions that could have Kingdom-sized outcomes.
Make the decision that is right for your church.
See you in November.
 George Barna, “Twentysomethings Struggle to Find Their Place in Christian Churches,” Barna.org