Who have you been hanging around? We’ve all been asked this question at some point in our lives. I know when I was growing up, I was asked this by my parents numerous times. One can learn a lot about a person simply by the people they associate themselves with. I don’t have children of my own at this time, but I know that parents can be very protective of their children, especially when it comes to who their children hang out with. I understand that we don’t want to associate ourselves with people that could have a “negative” impact on us. You don’t want to become like them, we are told, but at some point we have to grow up. If we spend our lives hanging out with people who are like us, are we setting ourselves up for failure, especially, within the church?
If you were to come into my office on any given day and ask me what I want the most for my church, the answer may differ from day to day. It may depend on my mood, how the Sunday morning worship service had gone, or even what I had just eaten. To be honest, who really knows…not me? I do know though there is one thing that will always be at the top of my list. I bet you can guess what that is…yep you got it. Seeing more people become followers of Christ.
Back to my original question, who have you been hanging out with? Not just you, but me as well. I can’t really expect more people to become followers of Christ if the only people I hang around with are followers already. One of the hardest things for a pastor is having a conversation with a person and you ask them if they know someone who isn’t a follower that you can pray for. Then, you get that blank look that says I’m trying really hard but I can’t think of a single person. I’ve been on both sides of that equation, and it’s not cool. As a pastor you want to shake them and just say “WHAT?” If you are on the other side of the equation it’s a little embarrassing. You begin to ask yourself, “Have I really become that disconnected with the people that need me the most?”
Gary L. McIntosh and Charles Arn are authors of the book What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. In the book they address this very problem, and it challenged me. Rule #5 states, “for the church to grow, each worshiper should have an average of nine or more unchurched friends or family members” (McIntosh, 23). My first response was, “Holy Cow, that’s a lot.” But is it really? Out of all the people I am around, it’s really just a hand full of people.
They really got my attention when they stated the following:
There is a direct relationship between the number of unchurched friends and family your average church member has and your church’s potential for growth or decline. The basic rule of thumb is that if the people in a church have an average of three or fewer non-churched friends and family members living in your ministry area, the church will most likely decline. If the average is around six, the church will likely be plateaued. But if the average number of non-churched friends and family members is nine or more, then the church is very likely to be growing (McIntosh, 26).
If that doesn’t kick you right in the gut, I don’t know what will. I could go on and on, but let’s get to the solution. It’s very simple and I am challenging you do it. If you can’t list, right this moment, nine people who are non-believers…start making some new friends. If you don’t know where to start, let me make it easy for you. I would begin with all those people your momma told you not to hang out with. They need friends, and they need Jesus.
So, who have you been hanging around?
McIntosh, Gary & Arn, Charles. What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. BakerBooks: Grand Rapids