What truly is the key to Apostolic church growth? Ask that question of
fifty pastors or church leaders and you will most likely receive fifty
assorted answers. Many would reply that prayer and fasting is the key.
Others will place their hope in developing a loving Christian
atmosphere. Some will claim that only strong, anointed preaching will
bring results. Or perhaps a good outreach program of some kind. And
some may go so far as to think that buses will do it: get the kids to
come and the parents will follow. The list could be endless: Home
Bible studies, attractive buildings, door knocking, mass crusades,
revival meetings, and more. All have an element of truth. But all
can’t be the real, single key to growth. Is there such a thing?
Yes! There is a central element within all revivals since the Day of
Pentecost. The common characteristic of all growing churches is
people. God has chosen the vehicle of humankind to carry the Gospel
truth. Without people, not only would there no one to bring the truth,
but there is no one to receive it either.
Well, of course people make churches grow. That’s obvious!
But wait a minute. Stop and think. There is some very important
implications to this most obvious of observations. It really isn’t
things, like buses or buildings. It isn’t even actions, like preaching
and prayer – although you will never have true revival and growth
without them. It’s dedicated saints, believing God, spending time in
prayer, willing to plant the Gospel seed, witnessing to friends,
inviting family, teaching home Bible studies – that enables a church
to see growth and revival. And it’s new converts, praying through to
an Apostolic experience, who in turn reach out to their family and
friends. True evangelism is not a program, it is a result. It is the
result of men and women lifting up Jesus Christ and sharing Him with
others. As a writer once said of Jesus and His approach to evangelism,
“Men were His method.”
Evangelism is the entire process of sowing and reaping. But for seed
to grow, their must be soil. Likewise, for churches to grow, their
must be sinners. People are the key to growth. So the real question is
this: Where do we find people outside the church to reach with the
saving message of Truth?
The church has been often paralleled to a mighty force of salesmen who
are seeking people to “buy the truth and sell it not.” Any good
salesman will tell you that the key to sales success is good contacts
– people who are interested in what you have to offer. For a church,
these are simply called “prospects.” A prospect is a non-Christian of
whom one or more persons within your church knows in some way. They
may be family, friend, work associates, acquaintance, or neighbor.
They may know them casually or intimately. But regardless, there is
some kind of “oikos” relationship (the term “oikos” was explained
fully in the preceding chapter entitled “The Church Growth Spiral”).
All current research proves that, of those who accepted truth, the
vast majority – over 90% – were contacted as the result of an “oikos”
bridge. So it stands to reason that if a church wishes to grow, it is
here that it should focus its evangelistic efforts. To grow, a church
WHY DEVELOP A PROSPECT FILE?
There are some excellent reasons why a prospect file is an important
first step in reaching people through your church. The following are
just a few:
- It focuses us on a specific goal. Such a list helps to identify
specific names and families. Our goal is to reach these people. To
“reach our city” is a broad, generalized statement, therefore not a
goal. To “reach Tom Pringle” is a true goal because it is focused and
It focuses us upon specific needs. A prospect list is important
because it allows us to group the prospects according to needs. Since
good evangelism always meets needs, you now have a way to reach this
person more effectively.
It focuses us upon specific methods. Such a list helps to identify
the methods that best reach “oikos” type people. Not all methods are
productive. The most successful methods will always utilize the
“oikos” contacts of the church. This is why such methods as bringing
relatives to church and teaching home Bible studies to friends have
been so successful. It is also why “mass evangelism” methods have not
It focuses us with specific prayer. It helps to focus our prayer
and fasting on individual people and families. God answers specific
prayer, not broad, generalized prayer.
HOW AND WHERE TO FIND PROSPECTS
So, the big question is: Who are the lost in our cities and towns?
Where do we find them, these prospects for our prospect files?
We will find them everywhere.
We will find them behind the masks that so many people wear in every
day life. Happy on the outside, yet crying on the inside. A mask of
financial wealth, of worldly pleasure, of frenzied activity, all
trying to hide the lonely, meaningless existence of their lives.
We will find them behind barriers of racial, social, and economic
discrimination. Behind barriers of prison, hospital, rest home, and
ghetto – areas that many Christian seem reluctant to penetrate. Yet,
somehow our attitudes must change. Like William Booth, we must too
cry, “Some wish to live in the sound of chapel bell, but give me a
rescue mission, ten yards from hell.”
We will find them behind religious labels, in “socially acceptable”
churches of Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Charismatic, Methodist,
or Lutheran. Living out a life of formalistic religion, having a form
of Godliness, but denying the power thereof.
The church must awake to see the whiteness of the harvest. We stand in
the midst of the field and wonder what to do or where to begin. We
must adopt the attitude of D. L. Moody when he wrote, “I see every
person as though he had a huge “L” in the midst of his forehead. I
consider him lost until I know he is saved.”
Here are five specific areas that any church can pursue.
- Church Member’s Prospect Forms. The first and most natural place to
look for evangelistic prospects is each member’s “circle of
influence.” In a recent study of over 20 churches it was found that
each church member has between six and twelve non-Christians in
his/her circle of influence. That is, each person could identify on
the average eight unchurched friends or relatives whom he/she could
call by a first name basis, would consider a close friend or relative,
and who shared mutual fellowship and respect. It seems clear that if
each believer has this circle of influence the evangelistic potential
of a church would be significant. A church with 100 members, for
example, would have a potential prospect list of approximately 800!
Nor does it always have to be a close friend or relative. There is a
fine Christian optometrist in California who uses his consultations
with folks to witness. He asks whether they would mind if the pastor
or one of the people from church came by to tell them about the
church. These referrals have proved to be extremely valuable in
obtaining home Bible studies.
At the end of this section is an excellent form for helping your
members better identify their “circle of influence.” Hand it out and
ask each person to pray about it and fill it up with names (every
church should make it their goal to get a form from at least sixty
percent of their adult membership). Then, appoint someone to gather
the addresses and phone numbers of all prospects. We will explain what
to do with them later on.
- Church Social Ministries and Programs. Here’s a second place that
is excellent for getting names for your prospect list: The programs or
special ministries of the church.
- The non-Christian family members of your Sunday School students
(Bus, Van, or Car Ministry).
- People contacted through church-sponsored boys and girls clubs.
- Church-sponsored sports activities
- Youth who attend special youth activities.
- Ladies that attend special activities of your ladies group.
- Men that attend special activities of your men’s fellowship.
- Your church radio or literature ministry.
- People influenced by specialized ministries such as programs to
Young Marrieds, Over Fifties, Singles, or Handicapped.
- Families of those you minister to in Rest Home services.
- Parents of children who enroll in your Christian School or Day-
- Crisis Ministry referrals. Many pastors, church organists,
soloists, etc. get calls from funeral homes when someone has died,
or from hospitals when someone is going through a crisis situation.
These should be followed up.
- And most important – visitors who attend any church social or
- Door-Knocking Ministries. A third major source of prospects comes
from the door knocking ministries of the church. These may be door-to-
door surveys or simple friendly visits to invite neighbors to a
special church service, program, drama, or musical.
Those who have just moved into the community are also an excellent
source of contact for visiting. Some of these people are very
responsive and become excellent prospects. Did you know that over two-
thirds of all people who move, do so in the summer? Most of them will
also be looking for a new church then. Unfortunately, in too many
churches, almost all outreach comes to a stand still during the summer
months. Instead of slacking off, a church should strongly push their
door-to-door ministries during this time – while the weather is good,
the days are long, and the prospects are the most interested.
Lists of new move-in’s can often be obtained from utility companies
(water, gas, telephone), real estate listings, court house, escrow
agencies, Chamber of Commerce, and others. Some churches have been
successful in having a member join the “Welcome Wagon” and thereby get
addresses of all new families that move into the area.
However, it should be noted that all door knocking should have a
specific purpose behind it. This is a subtle but significant shift
from the traditional visitation goal of trying to present the full
Gospel in every home. The old, traditional approach of “we’re out
invitin’ folks to church” or “we’re out witnessin’ for the Lord” has
reaped little results in recent years for the amount of time spent.
But several new approaches to door knocking have given great
productivity to this type of outreach. These methods all have a
specific service or ministry they offer to each prospect. The ministry
is designed to reach the person or family by meeting a particular
need. A complete outline of this approach is given in the “Personal
Evangelism” section of this chapter.
- New Converts. A fourth important source of prospects is through
your new converts. New Christians have many more contacts with
unchurched people than do long time saints. Yet, at the same time, the
new Christian has very little knowledge of the truth. A growth-
oriented church will structure ways for older Christians to train and
support these new converts as they understand and share the truth with
their non-Christian friends. One church asks every new Christian who
is saved to list seven close friends or relatives who he believes can
be reached with salvation. Home Bible studies are then offered to each
one and all prospects are placed on the church mailing list.
Visitors to worship services. Without exception, visitors are your
best prospects. It is proven that the greatest majority of those who
receive the Holy Ghost within our services have come between three and
five times before receiving it. Sure, a few receive the Holy Ghost the
first time they come, but most tend to go out as easily as they came
in. The ones that stay have usually come several times and have made
up their mind that living for God is what they want. It’s more than
just an emotional feeling, it’s a change of heart.
So what does this mean? It mean that if we are going to see many
receive the Holy Ghost, we must get them back a second time, and a
third, and even a fourth. This is where a good Visitor Follow-up
Ministry comes in. Visitor Follow-up is one of the most neglected
areas of ministry within most churches. We pray for God to send
people, then we let them slip through our grasp once they arrive. How
to develop such a ministry is explained more fully in the next section
of this chapter.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR PROSPECTS
When your prospect list begins to grow, and the names are overflowing
your card file, what then? What should be done with these people who
have shown an interest in the church?
- Visit them – The most effective way to reach people is with a
personal visit. Prospects names are put on visitation cards and the
family is personally invited to church. If the opportunity presents
itself, the Home Bible Study ministry is explained and a study is set
Place the prospect on the church mailing list – With bulk mailing
rates a church can send out monthly bulletins, revival announcements,
letters of invitation, Home Bible Study promotions, and many other
items into the prospects home on a regular basis.
Telephone them. – A simple, low key phone call to invite your
prospects to a special program or service is an easy way to turn a
name into a visitor. The prospect list can be divided up and given to
a group of ladies or youth who make a simple, yet pleasant invitation.
This should be done before every revival, drama, musical, and other
Get a Home Bible Study – All contact with prospects should have two
goals in mind: getting them out to church and getting them in a Home
Bible Study. The word must be planted if new life is to spring up. If
they will not come to us, we must go to them.
Enroll the adults in Sunday School – Use the concept of “Enroll to
Grow” to pre-enroll the prospect right on their door step. Be sure to
have the pastor make the follow-up visit to answer any questions on
the benefits they will receive by being a part of the Sunday School
ministry. Enroll to Grow works if you work it.
Involve the children in Bus Ministry – Whether the parents enroll
in Sunday School or not, have the children become a part of your bus,
van, or car ministry. This gives the bus worker the opportunity to
visit that home each week and use the “Parentreach” concept of bus
ministry to win the parents.
The purpose of a tree (the church) is to bare fruit. That is the very
essence of it’s existence. But it must be noted that the tree does not
eat the fruit itself. Rather, the fruit is given away to a lost and
hungry world. Within all fruit are seeds, capable of growing yet
another tree. True, not every seed that falls will grow.
Nevertheless, we understand that the more seeds that are sown, the
more trees you will have.
In Luke 13, Jesus speaks of the fruitless tree. The owner told his
husbandman, “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this
fig tree, and find none: cut it down! Why cumbereth it the ground?”
The spiritual imperative in this parable is clear: a tree that bares
no fruit is meaningless, and likewise, a church or saint that wins no
souls is worthless.
Soulwinning is the essence of the New Testament church. Having a sign
over the door that names it “church” does not make it one. A church
may “believe” all the right things and have the revelation of all the
right doctrines, yet still not be a New Testament church. You can
claim truth without practicing truth. Jesus told the doctrinally true
church of Ephesus that unless they repented and did again the first
works, He would remove their candlestick out of it’s place (Revelation
2:5). We must possess the love of Christ for a lost world, as well as
holding the right doctrine.
The power of the church cannot be in a pastor’s personality. It cannot
be in a program – otherwise, it is superficial. The real power of the
church lies in it purpose. “But ye shall receive POWER, after that the
Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me . . .
unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).”
A church becomes a New Testament church
when it is more interested in:
helping than in being helped,
loving than in being loved,
giving than being given to,
fasting than being fed,
meeting needs than having needs met.
YOUR NAME _____________________________
Write in the names, address, and phone numbers of as many unsaved
individuals as you can think of. If you don’t have all the information,
write what information you have.
Neighbors (Nearby & Distant)
Relatives and In-laws
Family with a New Baby
Close Personal Friends
Contacts from Clubs or Organizations
Associates at Work
Hobby, Hunting, or Fishing Friends
Newcomer to the Community
Immediate Family Members
(The above material was prepared and published by Tim Massengale from
Total Church Growth. You can order the complete 2 volumne set from
Pentecostal Publishing House.)
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