How are you going to get people to come?

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  • March 14, 2008

Back in October, we had an Open House for people who were interested in hearing more about 7 Mile Road. We squeezed 30 people into a living room, tossed all the kids in the basement, and talked for about 2 hours. One of the questions asked that night was, “You guys talk about reaching people. How are you going to do that? What are you going to do to get people to come to your church?

I fumbled a bit, trying to get the question away from specific programs and techniques, but instead focusing on a commitment, a value that will undergird all our evangelism – being missional. But as hard as a tried, my answer didn’t seem all that impressive.

I remember Derek and Joe jumped to the rescue and talked about a specific example they had seen at 7 Mile Road Boston of what it looked like to be missional. They talked about John our lead worshipper. John started attending the church from the very first day the church was started. He’s the guy that would play the guitar, sing from the mic, and lead the band. But here’s the thing. John wasn’t a Christian. For almost 3 years, the guy at the front, leading the singing wasn’t a believer. You can imagine all the questions and eyebrows that could raise. For 3 years, John would come to church, strum his guitar, collect his paycheck, and go home.


For 3 years, John was also sitting under the preached Word, week after week having it hit his hard heart. For 3 years, John was befriended by believers and witnessed genuine Christian community. For 3 years, John met regularly with Matt (lead pastor of 7 Mile Road Boston), shared meals, talked about life, talked about God.

And after 3 years, God captured John’s heart.

John continues to lead worship at 7 Mile Road….now as a believer. He and Matt just released an original worship CD. He’s enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, getting his M.Div, and training to be a church planter.

John’s story is what got a bunch of us to see what being missional looks like. I remember when I first started attending 7 Mile Road Boston, I was still dating Shainu. I used to tell her about the church and about John. When she heard that John was an unbeliever, helping to lead the singing from the front, she thought I was at best at a liberal, godless, church, and at worst, a part of some cult. We had a ton of difficult conversations. But wouldn’t you know, the first Sunday she ever visited 7 Mile Road was baptism Sunday…and John was one of the folks getting baptized. Suddenly, missional started making sense.

Being missional is messy. Being missional is uncomfortable. You see its one thing to put on an event and try to get unbelievers to come to you. This way things are on your turf, you’ve got the home field advantage. And while that has it’s place, it’s another thing to always be the visitor, to always be on unfamiliar ground, to go to the culture. Being missional means you don’t just invite your co-worker to Sunday service, you go with him to Happy Hour and you hear his story, told in his world, on his home turf. Being missional means you don’t just invite your college roommate to read the Bible, you join him in reading “The DaVinci Code” or “A New Earth” and you engage his worldview in his world, on his home turf. Being missional means you take seriously Jesus’ Great Commission, and you’ve got GO tattooed to your eyelids.

So how are we committed to growing 7 Mile Road Church?

By God’s grace….

We’re going to be missional and we’re going to keep learning what that means. We’re going to push every member of 7 Mile Road to see themselves as a missionary to their culture. We’re going to build relationships with people in the city of Philadelphia. We’re going to love them, not to convert them, but to love them. We’re going to go with them to their homes, and to their bars, and to their dinners, and to their parties. We’re not going to expect them to become Christian overnight. We’re going to keep loving them for 2, and 3, and 10, and 20 years, pleading with God to show them grace. We’re going to call people to come to us, but not without making sure that we’re first going to them.

I wish I said all that back in October. Better late than never.

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road.

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