Getting people to church vs. getting the church to people

When Deborah and I were pastors in Newberg Oregon, we hit a real growth spurt a couple of years into the assignment. I was humbled as we approached 300, and I was really excited about what was to come.

One day I was dreaming about how to reach our small city and I started to do the math. At the time our sanctuary held about 225 people, so a service, with kids, could run packed at about 300. The city and rural area population was about 30,000. To make a dent in getting the city to our church, we’d need…well, we’d need to have more services than we could possibly handle.

So, along with dreaming about buying up the block and expanding the facility, I also thought about the other churches, adding up the approximate seating capacity and dividing the number of folks in our community by the available space. Even though I’m a little slow at math, I quickly realized that if every church was full for multiple services on a weekend, we still couldn’t get our whole town to church.

The first conclusion I came to was that we needed to plant more churches. I still believe that’s a sound strategy.

But then I had another thought. We could never get all of Newberg into our church building, but we could get all of our church out into Newberg.

The relationships present in the congregation with neighbors, co-workers, family members, classmates, etc., created a network that could provide for a radical impact in our community, even if many would never end up attending Newberg Foursquare Church.

From that moment on, we started to think about and do church differently. By the time we left that assignment a few years later, the church had doubled again, but more importantly that group of people was making a radical difference by sharing Jesus in our town—something they continue to do even more effectively under their current leadership.

So we never got all of Newberg into our Church, but I think we really started to get all of our church into Newberg.