Pastor's, let's be honest, as much as difficulties in the church can often trouble us, we are naturally problem-solvers. Whether it's dissecting a biblical text, designing a discipleship strategy, helping unravel spiritual needs in a church member, or serving a family as they search for hope in the midst of grief, we like to approach and address problems. It's among the most consistent things we do for and with the local church. With that said, I have noticed that many pastors struggle with celebration. We move from one problem to the next with little thought of relaxing and celebrating what God has done. In fact, many of us spend most of our time looking ahead at what we think God should do, rather than celebrating what he has already done. The problem with this approach is that it can burn our people out. More importantly than that, it doesn't resonate well with the Christian experience. Christ came to give us life - abundant life. His yoke is easy. He guards our heart and our mind. He calls us to be still and know that he is God. I could go on and on. Yes God wants us to push forward. Yes, his mission must be priority. Yes this world is not perfect, and we are to advance his gospel as he heals the world. However, all of that is a means to an end, namely the end of being adopted by God, resting in his grace and enjoying life in him. When we constantly push our churches for more and more, without celebrating what God has done, we subconsciously instruct our people that life in Christ is a works-based faith, with little room for resting in him. What should we do about it, then? In truth there is a host of things that could be done, but in short, let me encourage you to share stories of transformation from the pulpit/platform. I have done this a number of ways, and it can be as simple as bringing someone on the platform and interviewing them for 3-5 minutes about God's work in their lives. We have found, however, that one of the best options available is to share stories through video with the church. This doesn't have to be expensive (in fact, it can be almost free), and can be pretty simple to accomplish, and can go a long way to encouraging your church and can even be used to tell the story of God's work to the community at large. It really can have a powerful impact. Additionally, to be clear, we didn't come up with this. We have followed the lead of plenty of other churches who have done the same. I just want to continue to share what we have learned, and what has been helpful for us.
Find a method to record, whether it's something as simple as your iPhone, or a more expensive option, and sit down with some folks, and ask them to share their story. We have found that a small investment ($200 or less) in a wireless microphone, and making sure that lighting is good goes a long way to making the video quality strong. In fact, I would go so far as to say that good lighting and good audio is almost more important than an expensive camera. Camera technology has advanced so much that your iPhone can record incredible videos, if you supplement it with a good microphone and good lighting. Nevertheless, edit that video down to 2-3 minutes, using some simple software, and show it in your services. Even more importantly, though, is the need to share the videos through your various social media channels. This not only helps spread the celebration throughout the week, but it gives your church a great opportunity to share with their friends and family, and many of them may be unchurched. As a pastor/church leader, I am constantly on the look-out for ways to help our people facilitate face-to-face, person-to-person advertising for our church. I would much prefer investing time and energy in that, then paying for traditional forms of advertising.
We recently completed a 4 week sermon series entitled, "I love my church." Essentially it was a 4 week series on a theology of the church. We created a couple of these videos for every worship service, and then shared them via social media. Below is an example of one of these videos. Watch that and tell me that's not incredibly exciting!
Another helpful idea that we use is to show stories of gospel transformation before each baptism. This allows the church to know each person being baptized a little better and it helps baptism become an even clearer testimony of faith. When we share the videos on social media, it turns that testimony into a viral statement as the one being baptized shares their story of faith with friends and family. Here's an example of a man in our church who was powerfully changed by the gospel.
Pastor or church leader, I hope you understand that this is not that difficult, can be nearly free and yet can have a significant impact on the congregation that you help to lead. Let's be troubleshooters, yes, but let's also take the time to celebrate what God has done and is doing in our churches, and watch as he uses that to encourage our people and draw more people to faith in him.