By Grant Crawford Adapted from an Andy Stanley illustration For biblical references see texts on shepherding in Ezekiel 34 and John 20
Connectedness is easily illustrated with the family example as found in Luke 15
You get visitors to your front door (foyer).
Churches also have visitors like this. They are recognisable strangers who pop in from time to time. You get guests/good acquaintances to your lounge for parties and “get togethers”, they come when they are invited for a specific event. Churches also have these guests who attend regularly, but participate in events without a deep emotional investment. You have family and very close friends who feel right at home in your kitchen. There is a deep sense of belonging and connectedness shared with these people. They are accepted with their flaws, simply as they are. They feel no need to wait for an invitation, they simply make themselves at home. This is what God had in mind in both John 10 and Ezekiel 34.
How do we get our “front door” visitors (wandering sheep and lost sheep) to become members of the family who are fully at home in the local church family (kitchen)?
The primary issue is adoption by God. We can integrate people relationally and emotionally into the church family, but until they have been regenerated, born of the Spirit into that family, they are nothing more than guests. For the sake of this blog I will assume that introducing people to Jesus is our primary endeavour and that it happens at every level of encounter with the church. What I want to focus on is the connectedness of those who get saved. The tragedy is that many have been adopted by the Heavenly Father but somehow His family hasn’t got the mail. They haven’t registered the extent of the miracle of what has happened and the urgency to welcome these new family members past the “foyer”, through the “lounge” into the heart of the family, the “kitchen”.
How we connect people into local church family
Pray for opportunities daily to connect people. You will find them at your gatherings and also in your normal daily routine. Those who desire to find God and find community (In Luke 10 they are called the “man of peace”) Look for loners at your gatherings. Avoid the tendency to gravitate toward your close friends and to satisfy your own “friendship needs” . To do this you need to be “other conscious” , i.e aware that there are people sitting in your “lounge” , standing in your “foyer” who need to be connected around the family kitchen table. Listen for hints and look for signs that people want to press in. They might be asking about courses. They might be hunting that they are looking for more out of life. When you see someone take the steps from “foyer to lounge” or from “lounge to kitchen”. Show interest, get excited, and share their moment. It will encourage them to press in further. When you take someones name, promise to contact them, or answer a call and say that you will pass their details on DO NOT REST TILL YOU HAVE acted on it. If God impresses someone on your heart, don’t ignore Gods voice, contact them Strangers (lost sheep or wandering sheep) need to be pointed to the “foyer”. At NCF church that means : the website, Sunday meetings or special events, Visitors lounge, Information desk with brochures. (And, of course, any presentation of the Gospel) Regular visitors (those in our foyer moments, who attend occasionally) need to be shown the “lounge door”. At NCF that means: Starting point course, courses and regular events) Regular attendees (i.e they are in our ” lounge”, attending programs, services, events, & things we do as spectators) need to be shown the “kitchen table” . At NCF that is
- (a) connect group
- (b) volunteering in missions, community programs, Sunday services etc
- (c) leadership opportunities
Understand that some people can jump right from the foyer into the kitchen, don’t slow their integration process down unnecessarily
Never stop moving people through these doors. This is not a program, this is a life long call. It is the heart of Jesus.