The Next 1000: A Pastor’s Inspiring Reflections
Don Hamilton is the Senior Pastor at Capital Area Christian Church in Mechanicsburg, PA. Don has done an incredible and faithful job building a strong church over many years. We are privileged to work with humble and strong leaders like Don and his team. Don was kind to include us in his follow up with his church and team after our GrowthPlan Installation Experience. His vision and encouragement to his church was inspiring to us, and we hope it will inspire you as well!! With permission, here is Don’s note.
We have determined that we are a healthy, strong church in many ways. We are outward focused on our community and the world, and we are willing to make sacrifices to reach out with compassion to those in need, as our mission statement declares. Our church grows in numbers and depth every year. We have a leadership development pipeline, small groups growth strategy, facilities expansion plan, high level of service orientation and involvement, etc. We are larger than 94% of all churches in America and very nearly larger than 96% of all churches in America. We are a good, perhaps really good, church. I think we all agree that we’re not quite a GREAT church. We all agreed that this is our desire – to become a GREAT church.
For whatever reason, God has given us a unique ministry in our community. I believe that we have done well at the “reach out with compassion to those in need,” part of our mission statement. This is our strength and one of the major three pistons. But we know changes are needed here as well as the other two pistons, weekend experience and group life. We will develop our weekend experience and small groups going forward, as major areas of opportunity. All of these endeavors will strengthen the other parts of our mission statement.
It is the first part of our mission statement that must grow the most until it permeates every aspect of our church life. “Starting in our own community, and throughout the world, we will proclaim the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ . . .” Having reflected on our meetings, I believe that we have grown incrementally each year because we have cared for our community so passionately and aggressively. Our caring focus is very attractive to outsiders. Our reputation for community involvement draws people to our church. Thus, we grow a little every year. But we have not been deliberate enough, passionate enough, and aggressive enough at taking advantage of the opportunities that compassion and friendship creates. We have not leveraged our ability to form relationships with lost people, and then invite them to church and to the Lord. We have not directly proclaimed the Gospel and invited this myriad of folks to our church often enough. Caring and compassion have been white hot at CACC, proclaiming and inviting have not.
I take responsibility for this. To some extent my aversion to “bait and switch tactics,” and “pushy,” “rude” evangelistic Christians, promoted my leadership to be at least somewhat off balance. It cannot be either/or with compassion and direct evangelism, it must be both/and. The good news is that our attention to reaching out has created a quality infrastructure ripe for the changes needed to make invitation evangelism and quality simple steps to partner/membership completely doable without great trauma. I strongly believe that if we start infusing all of our caring message and activities with personal and corporate evangelism that is white hot, our people will jump on board. They already love people. They are already willing to make sacrifices for people. They just need more active passion about seeing people get saved.
So we’ve taken thirty-four years to go from thirty people to 1,000 people. We’ve decided that it will take five years to reach the second 1,000 people. It’s taken thirty-four years for our baptisteries to be used at least frequently. Let’s take five years to have them used fifty-two weeks a year. It took thirty-one years to reproduce our church at another location, let’s do it again within five. How exciting and gratifying. Most people live their entire lives never enjoying a dynamic church experience. Let’s say goodbye to incrementalism and hello to a grand movement of God’s people! As Jim states, it is true that bigger is not better, better is better. What I’ve heard from you is that we want both. Perhaps we will be bigger because we are better. We want more, better disciples of Jesus at CACC.
Because Love Does,