Finding Ways to Influence the 800,000
Called to Influence the 800,000
One of the important roles of the church is to influence the un-churched by reaching out to people in the community that do not know God. While many of us know we are supposed to reach people who have not experienced the love of God, we might not always know how we can engage and influence this part of our community.
We might feel nervous about talking to new people. We might have a hard time identifying the Christ-followers (who already attend another church) from the people who have not been exposed to Christ. We might not feel our calling is to be an evangelist. But the truth is Christ-followers are all called to share the Good News and to reach the un-churched.
We might be able to do this through prayer, through service projects in our church and community, or through simple invitations such as inviting a neighbor or co-worker to an Easter service. No matter how God is calling us to influence the un-churched around us, if we respond together, we will make a difference in our community. Here is how one Chase Oaker feels inspired to help reach the 800,000.
Responding to God's Calling
I do a lot of journaling. I love it. I keep my journal nearby in the morning when I spend my quiet time with God and write down what He teaches me. In the past year, I have started bringing my journal to church to take notes on the sermons, so I can look back on God’s teaching and better put it into practice in my life. God has taught me that this is the best way for me to grow. I think we all have different ways that work best for us, but this is a treasure to me.
In January, I was looking back over my notes from the sermon on December 3 by Senior Pastor Jeff Jones. This was the weekend our church was celebrating our 10-year anniversary. Jeff also took this opportunity to lay out the vision for our church in the next 10 years.
One of the first things Jeff said was, “No more turning away…from the hurting and seeking…from those that don’t know God or are crying out to God.” He explained that many churches have their backs to the unchurched. I must admit that it was not that long ago that I was one of those that felt the desire to look more inward than outward. I felt like there were so many people in our church that needed growth, teaching, and care and that it was better to “take care of our own.”
With this lesson, God really opened and changed my heart. I wasn’t ever really against evangelism. It just wasn’t a priority. I considered it just someone else’s gift, not mine.
But when faced with the staggering statistics that Jeff explained, I realized I could no longer ignore this. He explained that we have one million people living within a 10-mile radius of our church, and 80% of that one million were un-churched. That means we have 800,000 people living very near us that don’t know how much God loves them, and God wants to show them that love.
I stopped for the first time in my life to consider…80%, 800,000 people, right around me that do not regularly attend a church, and many who may not even know God at all. But how can we influence the 800,000?
Understanding the Importance of Influence
Jeff detailed the vision for our church. We believe our calling is to grow in size and to plant new campuses within that 10-mile radius. I attend Sloan Creek Campus, which is a planted campus, so I know and enjoy firsthand what a gift the people of the Legacy Campus gave when they planted our campus. Jeff told us the goal is to launch five more campuses within the next five years. Our next campus will launch in West Richardson in the UTD area.
Those words struck me emotionally like a bolt of lightning. You see my son, who is angry with God and has turned away from God, whom I have been praying for and crying out to God for, attends UTD and lives right next to the campus in Richardson.
Suddenly, it became very personal to me. I started looking at the 800,000 as sons and daughters of God that need Him as much as my son does. And I realized that God longs for them.
Jeff pointed us in the Bible to James 5:16: “The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” He asked us all to start praying every day at 5:16 for the health of our church and for our involvement. I felt God calling me to do just that.
So, I set the alarm on my phone to go off at 5:16 p.m. every day. I started praying for the 800,000, for the health of our church, and for how God wanted me to be involved, how He wanted me to influence those around me.
How We Can Influence the 800,000
I have been rather involved in the church, serving on a few teams, but it is amazing how my passion has grown and how I feel so much more empowered to serve in the roles I already hold. It is unbelievable that in just the minute or two that I stop to communicate with God at 5:16 p.m. every day, He teaches me, inspires me, stirs my passion, and gives me ideas.
I talk to God throughout my day about a lot of things, but they are more about me, my life, or about those I know and care about. But now, I try to make this one small effort to make sure I begin to teach myself to look more outward. I hope to learn to do this so much more.
Jeff challenged us to open our hearts to love strangers, ask them their names, and hear and remember their stories. 800,000 people are a lot of names and stories to remember.
In the recent annual report, it shows we have an average of 6,200 in attendance each weekend. So, if we divide the 800,000 by 6,200, that is only 129 people. I believe we have around 12,000 in total that attend Chase Oaks. So, if we divide the 800,000 by 12,000, that is only 67 people for each Chase Oaker to reach, know their name, and hear their story.
I am not the most extroverted person in the world, but in the next five years, I could probably bring myself to listen and talk with 67 people. So, I guess this is not so impossible if we do this together. I believe, in some way, God will put those 67 people in my path. I will just challenge myself to be alert and ready. I will try to grow my involvement in the church, in the roles that I perform, with these 800,000 in mind.
And I pray that my son will be a part of someone else’s 67 people…that they stop to know his name, hear his story, and help him to understand how much God loves him.
I hope I never stop pausing for a moment or two, “every day at 5:16,” to focus outward, open my heart to others, and pray for the health of our church and for my involvement to better influence the 800,000.