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Church Transformation: A Pastor’s Journey
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By Bob Hayes
 
The following article is my personal journey through the church transformation process. It is not my intent to imply that my journey should be yours, or become the new blueprint for churches. By sharing this, it is my hope that you will find inspiration to assist you in building God’s Kingdom wherever you find yourself serving the Master.
 
I was originally taught a cycle of evangelism that went like this: Step 1-  Do pre-work (give Bible studies, door to door, smoking cessation programs and health fairs, send out handbills, etc.); Step 2- Hold evangelistic campaign; Step 3- Do follow-up work (visitation, seminars, Pastor’s Bible class, etc.).
 
All this worked well for a while, but we continued to see less church participation and poor attendance at meetings. Not to mention spending thousands of dollars for limited results! When I attended evangelism workshops on how to get better results, I always walked away hearing the same solution – “Work harder at pre-work and follow-up; pray more.” I did this; however, I continued to see the same poor results – with a lot of hard work and spending as much as $40,000 on an evangelistic campaign. I have come to label this model as the “STP” model for my churches. It seemed to always be the same ten people, doing all the work. I became so frustrated with this process that being in ministry began to lose all its joy and I wanted out.
 
During this time, the Florida conference began to send us to seminars on Church Transformation and encouraged us to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and our congregation back to a discipleship model.
 
Following some of what I had learned, I prayerfully formed a “Dream Team.” When I met with my team, I asked them to prayerfully do an evaluation of how we were doing at carrying out the gospel commission. The first thing we did was to biblically define what a disciple of Jesus looks like. We then asked the question “How is our church doing at reaching people and providing the environment for the Holy Spirit to develop disciples of Jesus?” We were a busy church as far as activities and programs were concerned, but in our assessment, we were failing at producing disciples for Jesus - people who love God and live their lives wholly devoted to Him. As a result of this self-evaluation, we came up with a three phase plan:
 
Phase 1: Re-Education
Discipleship classes to help people understand the purpose of God’s church; what their individual role is; what gifts God has blessed them with; and how to use those gifts/passions in the community to advance God’s kingdom. After a participant finishes this discipleship class, we interview them in order to assist them in placement in either one of our church’s ministries, or a ministry within the community. The goal in doing this is because we know that service is a part of God’s plan for transforming our characters: “The only way to grow in grace is to be disinterestedly doing the very work which Christ has joined upon us - to engage, to the extent of our ability, in helping and blessing those who need the help we can give them.”  Steps to Christ, 54-55
 
Phase 2/Becoming Community Based
Jesus was known in the communities he visited as One who was “filled with theHoly Ghost and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts:10:38. We wanted to pattern ourselves after the life of Jesus. We based our community outreach on the ‘blueprint’ of Isaiah 58 where God commissions us “…to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free….to share your bread with the hungry…when you see the naked, you cover him…” He promises us “then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard ” Isaiah 58:8. So we began to pray about our community and how we could come in line with the blueprint of Isaiah 58. Once we stepped out into the community, God continued to open doors for us to minister.
 
Phase 3/Continuing Education
Based on Jesus’ model with His disciples where He sent them out and then continued to teach them, we continue to educate our members in order to strengthen each individual’s walk with God while sharpening their skills in soul winning.
 
So what is the fruit of all this? Well, we are becoming known in the community as a people who go about doing good. Each Sabbath we see more and more visitors from our community. We see growth in the lives of our members who are participating and becoming more like Jesus. The atmosphere within our church family is one of love and acceptance. Our retention of newly baptized members has gone from approximately 10% to 80%. Church attendance has gone from 150 to 300 on Sabbath mornings. With regard to stewardship, tithes and offerings just keep increasing.
 
Personally, I have never been more fulfilled in my ministry. Satan throws his arrows of course, but I am not afraid for my eyes are on Jesus. I praise God for all He is doing. May God guide all of you as you serve Him. If I can help you in any way, feel free to email me at bhayes1319@aol.com.
 
Bob Hayes is the pastor of Palm Coast Church in Florida.