We picked a bad time to do something great. We chose the last Sunday night of the summer to thank the many people who make GracePoint the vibrant church we are today. Seriously, the end of the summer? Several had doubts that many would come. Would the auditorium be mostly empty? Would the last several months of planning go to waste? Would most of the gifts ordered and assembled go unused?
But many came! In fact, the auditorium was 75% full of men, women, teenagers, and children who serve at our church. The buzz and excitement was evident before we even got started. The atmosphere was like a pep rally as we told everyone over and over, “What You Do Matters!”
God is at work at GracePoint like never before in the 23 years I’ve been at this church. There are life-change stories happening all around us, people are accepting Christ, a lineup of people are preparing to be baptized, and many are growing in their faith. All good signs of God’s blessing. On Sunday night, I was moved to tears multiple times during and afterwards. Why the tears? Because of years of pain and loss. Here is the backstory:
A DNA Change:
For many years we were a very good church for church people. Now, we are a vibrant church with a passion to reach the unchurched. That’s a big difference. I’ve been here long enough to know that our history has been consistently blessed with people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Our history is also filled with many who have grown in their faith as the result of solid biblical teaching and good programing. Making any DNA changes from a successful way of doing things is incredibly difficult.
Every organization, including churches, face a magnetic pull to being internally focused. This is natural. It is rather easy to do without even realizing it is happening. However, it’s an intense battle for churches to become and stay outwardly focused. It’s much harder to think, “What about them?” instead of “What about us?” Churches that primarily focus on those on the inside will eventually lose an awareness and a heart for those on the outside of church. Those who need to meet, know, and follow Jesus.
Shifting the focus of our church away from ourselves and toward our community was difficult. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the blowback we received. But I was. The kind of fruit we are experiencing today has not come about without lots of hard work, pain, and loss. Seeing many people, who you love, leave your church is brutal. It’s taken years, but I can now say that it was worth it.
The fruit we are experiencing now is different than before. Now there is a hunger and passion in many to invite their friends, family, and co-workers who have never gone to church or who have walked away from church many years ago. We have many people who are growing and excited about their faith and want to share it with others. This was evident in smaller numbers in the past. It’s becoming the norm now.
This April, we announced to our church that we needed to add a third service. We needed more space to reach more people for Jesus. I was pleasantly surprised to hear full-fledged cheering in both services when they heard the news. I knew right then and there that our DNA had changed… for the better!
A Larger Core:
In 2012, the percentage of people serving at GracePoint was typical of most churches: 20% doing most of the work to make church happen. As a result, many people were burning out or only serving out of duty instead of passion. So we made a dramatic and somewhat unpopular decision: we reduced the number of ministries our church offered in order to focus on doing fewer things better. As a result, we once again blessed other churches with more people. For those who stayed, we challenged them to only serve once or twice a month, not every week.
As a result, we have a healthier church with a much larger and happier core of all ages serving. Some get frustrated if they are not scheduled to serve more. But it’s for their benefit and ours. Six year later, we are excited to see that we have over doubled the percentage of people serving at GracePoint. That’s percentage includes all the new people God has brought to us. We are reaching more people than ever before with a happier and healthier church than ever before.
We called last Sunday night a Core Team Gathering. It was our way of saying “THANK YOU!” to hundreds of core people who make GracePoint a great church. We gave everyone t-shirts, a gift bag, had door prizes, showed video stories, and we even had a mattress race with Mission Impossible music playing.
After thanking each team on a macro-level, we honor 4 individuals on a micro-level. They were: Les Murty, Chris & Karin Quinn, and Alysa Cornish. Each were surprised, humbled, and blessed to be honored and recognized. All throughout the auditorium tears were flowing in the midst of every standing ovation. We closed with a challenge and one powerful song along with balloons falling from the ceiling at the end. It was quite the closing celebration.
The smiles, joy, and excitement displayed will forever stay with me. So many shared afterwards that they had no idea that so many people served and how great it was to be part of something bigger than themselves and their team. Another common response was, “I love my church!”
I too love my church! I love our Mission to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus. I love our Vision to build a vibrant church with a passion to reach the unchurched. I love what God has done, what He is doing, and what He has planned for our future! I also love that I am privileged to serve alongside of so many amazing core team members here at GracePoint Church.