Our job then? We evangelize, that is, tell others our testimonies; tell others who Jesus is; tell others about the Word of God; and if they're ready and the Holy Spirit has made it possible in a sacred moment, lead them to confess their sins and confess Christ as Savior. That's the essence of evangelism. Our other job? We disciple. The Great Commission is about making disciples of those who have trusted Christ. In other words, to be a new Christian is to be born again, making them a babe in Christ. In no other scenario do we expect babies to walk, feed themselves, and take care of themselves after being born. However, without a plan for discipleship, and for this post's subject, assimilation, these new individuals to the kingdom and/or the church, either fade away or end up lost, confused, or worse off than they started. As I've written about over the last two weeks, we are launching Small Group Discipleship at our church beginning in June, but that's not all. We are also putting together a special introductory group called "Connect Track," and I'd like to introduce it if I may.
"Connect Track" is basically what it sounds like; a track/path or means of making a connection in the church. For new converts or those who rededicate themselves back to Christ, this exists as the next step in understanding the church, and more importantly, the decision to live for Christ. For those already saved but new to the church, this exists as a means of understanding the church, one's giftedness, and ministry. "Connect Track" is made up of four main parts which will play out over four weeks or more if necessary. Here are the four elements:
- Discover 101 - This session will help individuals discover what it means to be saved, and what happened when they confessed their sins to Jesus Christ. It will deal with the spiritual disciplines of Christianity, namely, prayer, fasting, Bible reading, giving, and evangelism. This session will be a great time for individuals to get a grasp on what it means to be a Christian.
- Church 201: - This session will help the individual understand what makes our church unique. We will work through the four pillars of the church's vision, what we believe, and what we do. This session will be a great opportunity for individuals to learn about the church, how it works, and why it's important to be a consistent part of the church each week.
- Growth 301 - This session will delve into the gifts and interests of the individual. We believe that God puts gifts and interests in all of us and true joy and contentment comes from finding our purpose and place in life. This session helps uncover those gifts and interests and provides opportunities for training and plugging in to an area so that true spiritual and relational growth can begin. We will give a spiritual gifts survey to each individual. The survey will help identify gifts and interests helping the individual being moving towards their purpose and finding fulfillment doing what God created and gifted them to do.
- Essentials 401 - The last session will seek to help individuals find their place in the church by possibly joining a small group or ministry in action. It will also offer opportunities to meet some other leaders in the church or to ask any questions that the individual may still have after the previous sessions. Lastly, the class will help individuals understand how to share their faith and continue forward in their walk with Christ and experience with the church.
I'm really excited about our "Connect Track," and I'm really excited to have the privilege to lead it right now. We plan to launch it in June. We'll be doing a sign up for the track in advance of our first meeting. As of now, the plan is to meet at the church at 7 PM for a short worship session in the sanctuary, and then we'll leave and go to McDonald's (1 mile from the church) for the "Connect Track" teaching, not to mention food and fellowship. This may change or alternate, but the ultimate goal is to make it casual and open. The "Connect Track" is not about coming for a lecture. I'll have hand-outs for each person to take home detailing what we've went over, but the biggest part is the community and relationships that we'll build. You weren't made to walk alone. In "Connect Track," I want to come alongside you on your new journey in your faith or in our church.
Let me deal very quickly with some common ideas that may keep someone from signing up:
- "I don't need to go to this because I know what being a Christian means. I've grown up in church, and I've read the Bible."
Sometimes the fact that you have grown up in church or read the Bible necessitates your involvement in something like "Connect Track." Think about it. If your previous church background was enough, wouldn't you still be living right? If you truly read and understand the Bible, wouldn't your life be different? Don't let pride stop God's progress in its tracks. We're always learning and growing. The birth of my daughter in March 2011 caused me to really go on a quest to revisit how I viewed my relationship with God. It's very possible that a downfall in your life might be that you think you know what being a Christian is, and you really don't. If you think Christianity is about rules and what you can and can't do, then you couldn't be more wrong. If Christianity is about rules for you, then you'll be on the proverbial Cloud 9 until you break the first rule and then break it again. And at that point, you'll be hearing the overwhelming voice in your head telling you that it's pointless to keep trying. Yeah, you need "Connect Track."
- "I already know what your church is about. I've been to church a few times in my life," or "I grew up in a Pentecostal church, so I know what your church is about."
I don't want to sound egotistical or biased, but then again, if you can't get excited about your own church, you shouldn't expect anyone else too either. So that said, our church probably isn't like your past church, even if it was a Pentecostal church. To be honest, in many ways, we pride ourselves in finding what the norm or tradition is and running in the opposite direction with reckless abandon. That's not to say that we don't appreciate our heritage and tradition, because we do. We celebrate it and honor it throughout the year. But we're also not trying to reinvent the wheel. In a community with about 100 churches within a 20 mile radius, we believe Hazlehurst doesn't need another copycat church. We're not interested in being like another church, and we're not really interested in trying to attract another church's members with "better" preaching or singing or so forth. We're of the same body of Christ. We shouldn't be competing. So, while there are elements of our church that are a lot like other churches, there are also elements that are not like other churches. During "Connect Track" we'll talk about them. We'll uncover our vision which guides all of our decisions and ministries. We'll talk about how we do ministry and some of our big dreams. We'll talk about Pentecost and how we desire to be identified by more than just "one of those churches that speak in tongues and raise their hands and stuff." "Connect Track" reveals the heart and vision of what we're about in our church so that you can understand if we're a fit for you and your family. My belief is we will be!
- "I'm really busy and I'm not sure that I have time to be a part of something like this."
I don't doubt that you're busy. We're all busy. Sometimes we're busy doing nothing, but nevertheless, being busy has become the buzzword of today. Honestly though, we do understand that Wednesday nights may be difficult to attend. People work late during the week sometimes. Kids have events they have to be at (we've got some pretty awesome "events" for your kids on Wednesday nights as well). That said, if you're a candidate for "Connect Track," it means that you've recently made a spiritual change in your life or you've made a decision to grow in your faith and in the church. Both of those decisions will ultimately cause you to realign some things in your life. When Jesus saves us, He doesn't come to live in our lives in the way we were living them. He comes to change us. He comes to set up His Kingdom in our heart. We become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Jesus becomes Lord of our lives meaning He has full control and will be rearranging, changing, and discarding habits, desires, and so forth as our relationship with Him grows. If you truly want to be involved more in church or ministry, then you'll probably have to realign some things as well. So before you decide you can't because you haven't done it before, look and see if a realignment is possible and if your "can't" is really an excuse to not try. If at the end of the day, you truly cannot be a part of our Wednesday night "Connect Track," but truly want to, we can make that happen to. As we launch this, we're shooting for Wednesday's to start with, but we're excited and married to the vision of "Connect Track" more so than the day and time we're launching it on. So let us know if you want to be a part but Wednesday nights won't work for you. Don't let it be a reason not to jump in and connect.
- "I'm just not sure if I want to be part of something like this."
I want to be really careful how I word this, but here goes. If you only desire to be a Sunday morning attendee who never plugs into the church, grow spiritually and in love with Christ, and doesn't seek to have their children/grandchildren (whichever applies) in church, our church might not be for you. That's not saying we don't want you to come. We do! We truly do. But I have to be honest. We push discipleship pretty hard. We push connecting with relationships pretty hard. I preach on walking in relationship with Christ, His mission, and His people on a pretty regular basis. I don't really seek to inspire people as much as I seek to "provoke" (thought I'd use a traditional King James word there) to action and growth. We would never discourage someone from coming to our church, and we want everyone who wants to come to our church to come. We want everyone who wants to get involved in our church to get involved. We'll find ways to make it happen and fit the craziest schedules because our ministry is to our whole community. We don't want to discourage anyone from coming, but you need to know up front, we're going to strongly encourage you to grow in your faith, to plug into discipleship, to share your faith, to build relationships, and to grow spiritually. We don't try to put on "good services" and we really have no interest in having great times around our altars that don't then spill into our living rooms and later the community. So if you're seeking a church of anonymity, our's might not be the one for you. That said, we're not saying you've got to jump into "Connect Track" right off the bat. Take your time. New things are hard to get used to especially if you don't know a lot of people. We're not going to force you to do anything. So come as you are and take your time. Just know that we believe God has a divine plan for your life and at our church, we believe it's a lot more than just coming to church once, maybe twice a week, and sitting on a pew. In Psalms 139, God says that He has more thoughts for you than all the sand on the seashore. That's a lot of thoughts and plans and desires. We just desire to help you plug into Him, thus "Connect Track." Connect with God. Connect with the Church. Connect with your Purpose. Connect with Others.
I hope you'll consider being part of our first run of "Connect Track" starting in June. If you have any questions, please contact me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to talk with you about "Connect Track" or anything else. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the icons above. I know this will be a blessing to so many, and I believe you will be impacted by "Connect Track." Sign up today!