Since I came to First Baptist on Easter Sunday, my fellow ministers and I have been diligently praying for God to show us how to lead the church in the years to come. I’ve visited every life group, which helped me understand the heart of our members. We’ve read a series of books together that expanded our minds and challenged our preconceptions. All of this led up to our staff retreat, where we would take all that we had learned and experience and make our plans for the direction of our church. We left Sunday evening for three days on Bolivar Peninsula (thanks to Roger and Debbie Garrett for the use of their beautiful beach house). We didn’t have time for beachcombing or sunbathing (although we did eat some incredible seafood). Most of our time was spent in the house, praying, dreaming and talking things through with multi-colored markers and a flip chart. I have never experienced anything like those three days: I already loved the people on this staff, but after seeing how completely in tune with one another we are, I am grateful to God for putting me together with this team, and for stirring our hearts in the same way. And I can’t wait to get started. So below is the vision we agreed upon. Of course, this is just the broad strokes. There are a lot of details we’ve worked through already, and many more yet to come. And this vision will keep us all on our knees before God, or it won’t happen. So read ahead, dream with us…and pray.
Over the next three years, we are calling on God to renovate the heart of First Baptist Church, so that we will become a church in which ordinary people are transformed into world-changing disciplemakers. We have a storied history of wonderful, successful programs. It’s good for us to celebrate the amazing things God has done in the past. But as we follow the Spirit of God into the future, we recognize that He isn’t primarily concerned with the programs of our church. God didn’t send a program to save humanity; He sent a person. Jesus didn’t die for programs; He died for people like you and me. It wasn’t a program that turned the world upside down in the days of the Apostles; it was ordinary men and women who had been transformed by an extraordinary Savior. We want to build great people, not great programs. When we say “build great people,” we’re talking about the kinds of people who change a workplace, a school, a neighborhood, or a family simply by their presence…people who are so full of the love of Jesus Christ, knowing them leads to knowing Him in a saving way. In other words, through the ministry of our church, God will transform ordinary people into not only true followers of Jesus, but people who lead many others to follow Him. We know this can only happen through the power of God, as He renovates our hearts to focus on His original mission for the church, and as He empowers our efforts to reach, disciple and equip people to follow and serve Him.
How will we know we’ve become that kind of church? We are asking God to produce four clear signs of transformation in our church:
- A Clear Identity: We will become a church that is unified around, and known in the community for, transforming lives through the power of God. This will include the way we talk amongst ourselves, pray together, plan for the future, structure our finances, and present ourselves to the community. It will mean saying “no” to many good things in order to stay focused on the best things. When you ask the average church member, “What is First Baptist all about?” and they say, “Transforming ordinary people into disciplemakers,” we’ll know we’re getting close. When the people of Conroe begin to identify us as a church where anyone, no matter how far they currently are from God, can experience real life change, we’ll know we’re there.
- Reaching people: We will become a church in which new people continually come to salvation through Jesus Christ. Conroe is a growing city, and God has placed us in the heart of the city to reach people for Him. As we follow Him, we believe our attendance will double over the next three years, to 1500 average weekly attenders in worship and 1100 in Life Group. It will also mean our church will more fully reflect the demographics of our community, as we reach people of other races. And it will mean our church will become, on the average, much younger. All of this will require consistently providing compelling environments for our people to invite their unchurched neighbors; exploring language-based service options; hiring for diversity; strengthening our ministries to children and youth; creating an effective marketing strategy; and preparing for growth. Most of all, it will mean equipping our members to see themselves as missionaries to their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances.
- True Biblical Community: We will become a church where people are unified and unashamed in their love for God and for each other. In this church, new people will be quickly become part of the family. In this family, they will experience the kind of love that changes lives through prayer, bearing each other’s burdens, accountability, laughter and tears. Mentoring relationships will lead to broken marriages restored, destructive habits confronted and overcome, and old wounds healed. Building this kind of community will require spending hours together in prayer, planning strategic intergenerational events, investing heavily into our Life Groups, and modeling, teaching and celebrating true community.
- Leadership Development: We will become a church that continually builds new leaders for serving God both inside and outside the church. Every member of the Body of Christ is gifted by God and called by Him to serve in an eternally significant way. In our church, every member will find his or her calling in God’s Kingdom and will receive the encouragement and equipping to fulfill their part in His plan. This will mean an abundance of volunteers for every church ministry, a continued unity and momentum for the staff, and a substantial impact on the city of Conroe and beyond. This will require a comprehensive discipleship process, ongoing staff training and vision opportunities, as well as a process for recruiting and training ministry volunteers. Most of all, it will require the power of God Almighty.
What’s next? Our goal for the next twelve months is that we will reach 1000 in average worship attendance, with at least 10% of our attenders being non-white. The numbers 1000 and 10% aren’t actually the point; but both would be compelling signs that we are beginning to reach people for Christ in a consistent and effective way. If we are truly reaching an increasingly diverse community, the demographic makeup of our congregation will also change significantly. We believe that would be something to celebrate!