If you’ve been to Good Shepherd for more than five minutes, you know that we are all about “inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.” We say it, we repeat it, we preach it, we publish it, and one of these days we may even sing it.
What you may not know, however, is that we have to the best of our ability defined what a “living relationship with Jesus Christ” looks like. How can we know if someone is practicing living faith as opposed to dead religion?
So there are seven marks or measures that characterize someone who has a living relationship with Jesus Christ: saved by grace, filled with the Spirit, serving in love, starting at home, moving to maturity, generous with resources, and sharing the gospel.
The majority of our sermon series and teaching emphases are designed to reinforce one of these measures.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because it explains everything that happened in Every Life Counts. We have long known that of all the measures, we as a church are weakest at sharing the gospel. It is a great challenge to get the people of the church to feel the urgency to share their faith with others, and then even if they get a sense of that urgency, it is even more difficult to make them feel equipped and empowered to do so.
So we devoted an entire series to preparing the body of Christ to engage in the ministry of evangelism. (But notice: we didn’t call it “How To Be An Evangelist.” That would have been as dumb as following a capital campaign with . . . another capital campaign.)
No, we called it Every Life Counts and we often used the tag line — borrowed from our mission statement! — that “the invited will become inviters.”
It’s why the bottom lines earlier in the series were: one question to help one person take one step closer to Christ; your best you is when you’re sharing him; and then the three answers to the three most common objections people have to faith (Yes! I did a three point sermon!).
It’s why on the fourth Sunday of the series we had three people tell the stories of those who had led them to faith — and why we ensured those stories were of regular people . . . no preachers allowed.
It’s why we augmented the Sunday series with a special Inviting All People course taught by our own Ron Dozier on Wednesdays nights.
And it’s why, as a prelude to yesterday, we handed out thousands of movie tickets for the people of the church to distribute to their friends and loved ones. Because if we’re going to ask church folks to do the work of an evangelist, we’re going to make it as non-threatening as possible. And it’s always easier to invite someone to a movie than it is to invite them to church.
And it’s why the culmination of the series was the poignant and powerful short film by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association called Lose To Gain. Because not only did we want to help the Good Shepherd community share the gospel with their friends and family, we wanted to give those same friends and family members a chance to respond to the offer to be saved by grace.
And boy, did they respond.
At 8:30, at 10, at 11:30 (English and Spanish), and at the Student Connect ministry on Sunday night.
All in all over 100 people, moved by the beauty of the short film and the majestic power of the Gospel itself, stood up to give Jesus their lives. That tally included folks of all ages, from all walks of life, and even from backgrounds pretty disconnected from church. It was a deeply, profoundly spiritual morning and night.
All in the service of advancing our strategy.
So was it strategic? Was it spiritual?
If you’ve not seen Lose To Gain, take 24 minutes and do so. It is a glorious intersection of art and faith . . . and you may find it becomes an intersection of your life and God’s love as well.