Expect the Unexpected

The region had not received rain in a long time.  The ponds had dried up.  The wells had dried up.  The ground had cracks deeper than you could see.  The preacher stood up every Sunday and preached the Word with boldness and conviction.  This particular Sunday he closed the service reminding everyone that the evening service would be dedicated to praying for rain.  They grabbed hands and closed with prayer.  As the church doors were opened and the old building was ready for the evening service, people began to file in.  Soon the normal crowd had arrived and the preacher began the service.  He rose and approached the pulpit with a curious look.  His gaze was fixed on the people.

“Did y’all come to pray for rain?”, he questioned.

Everyone replied, “AMEN!!”

“Do you believe in a rain giving God?”, he asked.

Everyone replied, “AMEN!!”

He paused and grabbed hold of the pulpit.  “Where are your umbrellas?”, he thundered.

The people had come to pray for rain without bringing their umbrellas.  They did not expect rain because the weatherman said there would not be rain.  The farmer’s almanac said there would not be rain.  There were no clouds on the horizon.  The umbrellas stayed at home, but they were going to pray for rain to come….someday.  They did not expect the unexpected.

I live close to a city that blew up a few years ago with growth.  They were a sleepy suburb and enjoyed the distance from the city.  However, all that changed. Because they had not expected this kind of growth, the infrastructure was not ready.  Even years later, the road systems are not yet prepared to handle the onslaught of traffic every day.  The city continues to scramble to keep up

We, in our churches,  are often like these groups.  We have experienced decline in attendance, baptism, and finances.  The slide has been going on for a while now and is reaching epic proportions.  The cracks are deeper than we can see.  Because of the continual turning away of our culture from God we have come to believe that church growth is always for someone else.

What of God dropped a 50% increase of people on your church right now?  What if He doubled your attendance over the next quarter?  Would you be ready?  Could you handle it?  Would it be so unexpected that the sheer traffic would cause problems in the parking lot or hallways?

How can we be ready?  Just like soil, there must be preparation and cultivation before the seed is planted.  Once that is done nurturing takes place and then the harvest.  In church circles we often refer to the harvest as the conversion of people from lostness to salvation.  But having new, unexpected, growth is an exciting time much like harvest is each year in rural America.  When are we ready to plant?  You are ready to SEED the ground when the following are accomplished:

Spiritual development of those already in your church.  Often, the greatest hindrance to growth are those already in the church.  Growth means change.  Growth can mean adjustment of the power base.  Growth can be painful because classes and groups get moved to rooms and spaces best sited for their size.  A group of 4 doesn’t need a space that accommodates 30, if such a group is in a space that really only houses 20.  Development of the people to see the biblical perspective of missions, personal evangelism, and growth are necessary to increase the spiritual infrastructure of your church.  The “roads” and “utilities” must be ready to handle the growth are everything falls apart.  Prayer and study along these specific lines are important.

Education space must be evaluated.  Every state has consultants that can help you analyze your current situation and help you see where adjustments can be made.  There are certain standard criteria for space needs:

25 sq ft / preschool child
25 sq ft/ grade school child
15 sq ft / youth
8 sq ft / adult

An easy way to check this is to count the number of dropped ceiling tiles in the room.  If the standard 2′ x 4′ tile is used then it takes 3 tiles per child, 2 tiles per youth, and 1 tile (without tables) or 2 tiles (with tables) per adult.

Environment is critical to people these days.  Walk through your facility as if you were a first-time guest with a very critical eye.  Here are a few thoughts:

Is it clean or dirty?
Are the floors clean or dirty? Old or new?
Are the walls up-to-date with paint or needed a fresh coat last century?
Is it well-lit?
Is it too hot or cold?
What does it smell like?
Are there signs to point me in the right direction outside and inside?
Are there people greeting me and helping me find my way?
Is there coffee? (personal preference here)
Is there laughter?  Do people smile?  Do people whisper in the halls?
Does the handout or bulletin clearly mark what my next step would be?

These are just a few things to consider about the environment.  As you can see it is more than aesthetics, it is also attitude.  Before God will give you more you have to show responsibility with what you have.  Refer to the Parable of the Talents.

Develop a plan to reach those God has chosen for you to reach with the Gospel.  Every church in your town has the same Great Commission if they are a Bible-believing church.  Evaluate the facilities God has already given you as a church.  For example, if you are land-locked church with no green space or gym then it might be difficult for you start a sports ministry such as Upward-anything.  However, if through prayer and research you realize that God has given you connections to the school and their gym then it might be different.  This leads us to next area of the plan.  We have reviewed what God has given.  Now you must investigate who God has given you.  What skills and spiritual gifts are in your congregation?  The what and who give you in-depth understanding of potential starting points to reach the group God wants you to reach.  Demographics play a part in this research.  However, they are not the final say on what is done.  Put all the pieces together.  What facilities and strengths do you have?  What skill-sets and spiritual gifts do you have?  What group is not being reached by your community?  Find a common denominator and begin ministry.

Once the SEED has been planted and with a little water and nurturing, your church could see a harvest before long.  Pull out the rain slicker and get ready for God to do something unexpected!

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