This is a guest post by my good friend Bill LaMorey, Pastor of Calvary Fellowship in West Hartford, CT…
When I left South Florida and returned to my home state of Connecticut to plant Calvary Fellowship in West Hartford, I had a solid conviction: “We’re going after lost people and we aren’t interested in reaching Christians.” My thinking has expanded on this point!
Let me explain. The reason I didn’t want to go after Christians is we wanted to catch fish, not swap sheep. I felt there was no value added to God’s kingdom by stealing sheep from already churched people.I still believe that (and still find it distasteful and undesirable to try to lure people from other churches), but what I discovered is that just because people already believe in Christ, it does not mean they are already part of a healthy church.
In fact, through the course of newcomers’ potlucks and some one-on-one conversations, I discovered there were people that had moved to our area and had been searching in vain for weeks, months and even years for a home church (yes years…many of them). This was especially true if they had come from an area in the south or in Southern California for instance, that offered them a variety of great churches to choose from. Many of these people moved to our area for a significant job promotion, only to discover how spiritually desolate our area is and how few good church options there are to choose from.
What I have come to discover is it is not only fair, but it is also very wise to go after these “new movers” (as we call them) if you are in a difficult area to reach. Here are a few reasons for that:
• They want and need a church family to belong to (Christians need discipleship, fellowship and encouragement; your church can be a place of refuge and refueling for them)
• They often add much needed wisdom and maturity to offer the locals you are reaching
• They add critical mass to your body (seekers are going to feel weird and uncomfortable at a mostly empty church service)
• They already know of the responsibilities required of a Christian like giving and serving that are vital to the sustainability of a church (new converts are wonderful and necessary, but they don’t get this right away)
• They expand the number of people committed to accomplishing God’s mission for your church (though you have to be very intentional to cast vision and help them see that they now live in a wide open mission field to be salt and light in)
Reaching “new movers” should never be done in place of reaching non-believers, but in addition to it. And once they become a part of your church, they need to join you in reaching out to the natives. But God loves these people, and wants these disenfranchised believers connected to a church family. Especially in an area that is tough to reach, a wise pastor will not only warmly welcome new movers, but will also intentionally pursue them.
In the new resource “Ministering in the Hard Places” that Bob Franquiz and I collaborated on, we expand on this point and reveal some specific strategies for reaching new movers that have been very effective for us. We also get into some other contrarian ideas about how to be effective in difficult areas to reach. If you’re ministering in a hard place, check it out here.