Yesterday I was talking with one of our church members about our vision to “Re-present the church as a community of grace and truth to Genesee County and beyond.” We were talking about what it will take to accomplish this goal. This is not just a catchy slogan for us, this is a vision that we really believe in. This is what drives us everyday to keep preaching, praying, and plugging away. This is a vision for the Kingdom of God to expand in Genesee County and beyond through the tools of discipleship and church planting. This is something that everyone at ONElife Church is a part of. This is not my vision. This is our vision. It is going to take all of us working as a team to get there.
Numbers Tell a Story
It is good to track numbers in anything that you do, as numbers will always tell a story. The numbers of Genesee County tell us a story about the county. Genesee County has about 412,000 people that live in the county. Only fourteen percent of the people go to an evangelical church. Just based on church attendance alone, not considering what is actually being taught in those churches and how many are nominal believers, there are at least 354,000 that do not know Jesus! Let that sink in for a moment.
This past Sunday our church attendance was just over 100. On a given Sunday if everyone actually showed up on the same day our attendance could be about 115 people in service. Compare that number to 354,000 and it is certainly evident that we have some work to do just in Genesee County.
In addition we consider the “beyond” and look at another area we are passionate about seeing disciples made, which is Shiawassee County. Currently twenty percent of our membership at ONElife lives in Shiawassee County. There are about 69,000 people that call Shiawassee County home. Only thirteen percent of the population claims an affiliation with a church. That means there are about 60,000 people in that county who need to know Jesus. So what are some things that we can be doing right now to see lost people come to faith in Jesus Christ in these counties?"
The first thing we need to all be committed to is to pray. This was a lesson that I learned the hard way. When I went through my church planting assessment I was asked by one of the leaders, “what is the least that we could do for you in helping to establish your new church?” My answer was, “pray.” They graciously rebuked me for this response. They were right and I was wrong. This is literally the most important thing that we can do. We need to specifically pray for revival. Let’s trust the words that Jesus spoke and, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:7-11 ESV).
God has called all of us at ONElife to be a part of expanding His Kingdom in Genesee County and beyond. For some of us that may mean getting trained to stay and serve faithfully at our current location in the south Flint area. For others that may mean to get trained to be on a lead team for a future church plant. Either way we need to get trained to grow in our ability to lead. Our training at ONElife is centered around three things. First, our weekly worship gathering, as we come together as a community to worship Jesus, serve one another and hear the Word taught. This is the most important element of what we do as a church. The Sunday worship gathering should never be minimized, but rather should be a staple in our calendar if we are concerned about reaching the lost in Genesee County and beyond. Second, we have our ONElife Groups, which are small groups of people meeting in homes throughout the week for the purpose of discipleship. This was designed around the example of Jesus. He would teach the multitudes and then He would disciple a small group. For any Christian who avoids getting trained in a small group context they are essentially saying that they know how to do discipleship better than Jesus. Third, we have our women’s and men’s leadership. These are designed for the really hungry and the ones that want to be used of God to lead at a high level. Here is a place where leaders are getting trained to train other leaders.
Each One Reach One
Another way to continually expand in Genesee County and beyond is to have each one reach one (EORO). This means that all of us essentially focus on praying for one person and inviting them into the covenant community of the church. Think how quick we could go from 100 to 200 and how quickly we could begin planting other churches. Now, the reason for inviting them is not to just build our numbers but to reach people for Jesus. Don’t prejudge anyone. Reach out and invite them. Maybe your friend does not have a saving relationship with Jesus. Maybe they have no one discipling them. Maybe they are in a church and they have no path to use their gifts for the glory of God. We just don’t know. I believe in our gospel centered community so much that everyone will be better off by being a part of it.
We also need to be praying and thinking about partnerships. There are a lot of people in the Genesee and Shiawassee Counties and it is certainly going to take more than just ONElife Church to reach our counties. We need to partner with others in planting of churches that plant churches. Let’s be praying and actively pursuing gospel centered partnerships.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.