Avoiding routines and ruts that hinder relationships

August 21, 2020

“Parson, you’re like an ol’ goat. You don’t know but one way to the barn.”

That was a church member’s humorous assessment of my preference for routines when I pastored a church in eastern North Carolina years ago.

There is a lot of value to routines, but over time, our routines can dig ruts so deep that we find ourselves unable to see the unbelieving and unchurched people all around us.

For many generations, unbelievers would turn to a local church for direction when they sensed some spiritual need. The sun has set on that day in North Carolina.

As we endeavor to be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission in our growing and changing mission field, the missionary task begins with prayerful entry into the lives and communities that surround us. The people we encounter may speak a different language, be in a different socioeconomic group, have a different ethnic background or be new to our community.

The initial step of entering the mission field focuses on developing relationships with new people. As trust and understanding grow, we are given natural opportunities to share the gospel.

Just like pastors and others can get in a rut, even churches can fall into a rut that keeps them from building relationships with the lost. But all across our state, churches are finding new ways to enter fields of harvest in a variety of ways.

The initial step of entering the mission field focuses on developing relationships with new people. As trust and understanding grow, we are given natural opportunities to share the gospel.

In Murfreesboro, members of Meherrin Baptist Church welcome new students to Chowan University with coffee, conversation, care and prayer. They also support students at exam time with care packages to help them deal with stress.

Members have gone door to door in their town of 5,000, introducing themselves to their neighbors and offering to pray for any needs. Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday School classes bought gift cards from local restaurants and gave them to civil servants and essential businesses.

Pastor John Porter notes that the efforts by the Meherrin Baptist congregation have grown from initial annual involvement in Operation Inasmuch to more frequent and persistent engagement with people in their community.

In Jacksonville, members of Brookwood Baptist Church are prayerwalking their neighborhoods, welcoming new neighbors and engaging those new neighbors in gospel conversations. Pastor Ryan Hearn notes that, because of the military bases in Onslow County, “there are always new people in Jacksonville to reach.”

In Winston-Salem, members of Calvary Baptist Church regularly prayerwalk multifamily housing communities near their campus. As a result, they often meet and interact with people who have come to the area from a variety of places around the world.

Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a church member invited a neighbor to her home to watch Calvary’s service online. Technical difficulty with her internet service interrupted her initial plan, so she began sharing the gospel with her neighbor, and her neighbor was saved.

Over the years, churches have made entry into new fields by welcoming new neighbors with gifts, hosting community events like movie nights and back-to-school events, providing meals for teachers, conducting English as a second language (ESL) classes and producing community newsletters.

What about your mission field? Who are the people you may have missed because of your routines? How can you break the routines of your church to see those new people?

If you’re unsure where to start, begin by praying. Ask God to open your eyes to those He sees but you may not have seen. Pray for wisdom to understand how to step out of the rut and into that new field.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article examines entering new mission fields, the first of six steps in the missionary task, which is adapted from “Foundations,” a publication of the International Mission Board.


by Dennis Conner  
Strategic Focus Team  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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