Who is Your One?
When talking about the lost sheep in Luke 15, Jesus says, “Won’t he leave the 99 in the wilderness and go search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” Jesus placed an unsettling and convicting emphasis on the lost. And we believe, if we could trace the decline of church impact to one thing, it would be the erosion of this conviction.
When we install our ChurchOS leadership system in a church, we spend a great deal of time on the ONE. The assumption is that the ONE is lost and not in a relationship with Christ. We believe that if you want to be a church that grows primarily through evangelistic reach, it is critical that you plan everything with the ONE in mind.
Following an Intentional Growth Planning install, College Heights in Joplin, MO, brought the ONE to life as part of a staff retreat. Each person on the team was asked to arrive at the church facility and pick up a description of the ONE and drive away. Then they were asked to drive back to the church as if they were coming for the first time as their One, Jessica, an unmarried 30yr old mom working in the medical community and finishing school. What is she thinking as she pulls into the parking lot? Can she tell where to drop off her kids? Is she going to the right door? Are there clear directions and good signage? How does she locate the worship center? What is she confused or anxious about? Does the language make sense to her? Does it feel warm and welcoming to her?
Like College Heights, God has already placed your church in a specific location, at this particular time, for the people who need to know Jesus nearby. Your ONE is unique. Your kingdom footprint will be unique and you must decide as a team who you are going to narrowly consider when designing your church. Your ONE is tied to real people, real families, and the lives you are impacting. Your community may be very diverse, or very homogenous and similar. In either case, you are stewards of your unique relational network. Here are some clarifying principles to consider when you think about your ONE.
By preparing for your ONE, you are honoring God’s local call on your ministry. When all is said and done, you want to reach your ONE, make disciples who catch the vision and go and reach more. Looking at the many unique churches in scripture, the truth of the Gospel remained the same, but the presentation was different based on the unique community, its needs, and way of life.
Focusing on the ONE can feel weird. Like marketing to an exclusive group. But it’s actually the opposite. You’re not trying to determine what your church is best at and then find a target market. You are trying to discern how to shape your ministry, in your Reach Zone, with the best anticipation of who God is going to bring through the door. When the ONE experiences warm and welcoming community, clear messaging about Jesus, and simple next steps, he or she is likely to return and eventually fall in love with Him. This focus on the ONE may be the greatest discipleship tool your church will ever see. Life in Christ, after all, is about a lifelong journey of increasing surrender and nothing drives surrender like a focus on others.
You are not neglecting the 99. We’ve learned that the 99 can have a serious gravitational pull inward, and focusing on them will turn your church inward unintentionally. We fight for an imbalance toward the ONE while equipping the 99 to be part of the mission to reach them. That’s Great Commission impact! If one of the 99 chooses not to be on mission with you and goes down the street, it’s okay. The Great Commission is the highest priority.
You are not rejecting people who aren’t your ONE. Through relational evangelism, you will reach many people who are connected to your ONE but won’t necessarily look like your ONE. Your church will be impacted by the ripple effect – through family, work, sports, entertainment, many will come to Christ who might not have because of your focus.
Your community changes and so should your ONE. As a generation rises in your community, its distinctiveness is displayed, and you may find that your ONE changes. Therefore, your current ONE should not be held sacred. You will want to maintain trusted current data on your community and shape your church for the broadest impact, updating your perspective every one to three years.
Discerning Your ONE
In order to discern your ONE, you’ll need to make an effort to understand your Reach Zone. One of the best questions you can answer is, who lives within the estimated tolerable drive-time of your location? Find a white board or grab an easel pad, and as a team, begin listing some of the people in this relational Reach Zone. Who is already in your seats or pews? Think of the view from your platform. Are they doctors, drug addicts, military personnel, college professors, etc.? List them. They will be impacted by the ripple effect when you activate the Great Commission by focusing on the ONE.
Next, who is not in your seats or pews? Demographic reports are helpful, but in most cases you can find any data you need with a google search. Who do you see in the school pickup line, at the grocery store, or where you shop? Who is at the soccer or football field with you? Who are your members’ friends? List all of these people.
Another way to think about it – when you become a church that reflects your community, what will your church look like? You may be reaching a cross-section already, but undoubtedly many are missing.
Finally, one of the most effective ways to discern your ONE is to tell stories of impact. One member of your team might say, “Think about Mike and Emma Jones. Their family was hurting and about to break up when they came through our doors. We helped them through a tough time, and Emma gave her life to Jesus. Then Mike couldn’t resist and now he’s plugged in along with Emma in the kids area. They are a great example of a couple that could make eternal, local, regional, generational ripples because of our ministry.” List your version of the Jones….and more! Tell a few stories. It will be fun and inspiring.
Now that your list is made, you must decide as a team who you are going to narrowly consider when designing your ministry. This will have huge Kingdom impact! And in time, with the Holy Spirit’s help, your church will reflect your community more and more because you are tapping into the relational network you were called to steward.
As you develop a heart, mind, and shape for the ONE, He helps you reach them. Great evangelistic churches have their ONE in mind and they are ready to meet them before they even show up.
Who will you have in mind when you are shaping your ministry going forward?