New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 83

     but was haunted by the question: if all of this is so great and life changing, why is the Church so small? He began studying church growth in various denominations. He found that most people come into a church through people already connected. But nothing lasts forever – including churches – and unless we keep planting new congregations the Church will never grow. Austin was targeted as ripe for a church plant because the city itself was growing. It was a progressive area with religious diversity. He took the plunge – with help from the General Church and a small staff, and the New Way Church was born. He found it is possible to open a new church and people will show up – but growing and sustaining a church is a real challenge. With the truths of the Church we have a lot to offer. The New Church message is decidedly different and does resonate with some people. If it is seen as “cool and different” they will tell friends – but only if the pastor is saying the right thing and the message is working. Newcomers are evaluating you: Does this feel like a place where people are living their religion? If they see this happening they may get excited. But Mac found they were attracting people mostly from poor communities who had no experience with what he was preaching. Many had been homeless, in prison, on drugs. Most were single young adults and there were few children. They brought a sense of being judged. So the way they were welcomed was really important. They have to see and believe that you love them. With all of this to work with, Mac decided to give them full-on New Church doctrine. They were wary, but they listened. But he quickly realized that a pastor-centered model is fragile. We are in a Noah state as a church, he feels, with the priesthood at the top, and this may not be the best for growth. When he was preaching he was always open to interruption, such as, “Did I hear that right?” He found he could get from A to B in his sermons, He had launched the plant knowing the failure rate was high but with a lot of people telling him it would be great. He knew they would make mistakes and might fail, but had to try. The Lord, he said, loves when we trip and fall, and learn from the experience. And, “We as a church need to get better at this” – making the effort and learning how to do it better. 149