Elders Attend Amplify Outreach Conference
On October 19, the elders headed over to Wheaton, Ill to attend the 2021 Amplify Outreach Conference hosted at Wheaton College, the same college attended by the late great Billy Graham. The focus of the conference was evangelism in a post-Covid world, and we heard from several great speakers including Ed Stetzer and Mark Mittelberg.
Stetzer, ever the stats guy, presented new stats regarding lower church attendance as a result of the Covid pandemic. He said in general every church can be broken down into thirds: one third of the congregation are the highly involved and invested members, the second third are fairly involved, and the last third are those members who tend to drift in and out. It’s that last third, he pointed out, that tended not to come back to church after the pandemic hit. Stetzer pointed out that this shouldn’t be overly alarming, however, because it’s keeping the highly motivated active members that is most important.
We were excited to find a kindred spirit in Dhati Lewis, who is the pastor of an urban and home church-based fellowship in Atlanta, GA called Blueprint Church. He taught about the church as family and that it’s the close intimate relationships in the church that God is trying to cultivate. He pointed out that non-Christians often fall in love with the church family first before they fall in love with God. We had the privilege of grabbing lunch with Lewis in the college cafeteria after his teaching and he told us all about the wonderful work God is doing through his home church movement.
One refreshing aspect of the conference was that speakers were finally shining light on the issue of convert vs. transfer growth. Convert growth is growth that happens through people coming to know the Lord. Transfer growth happens through people leaving their current church to come to yours. Many churches don’t distinguish between the two types of growth, but speakers at the conference rightly pointed out that transfer growth is simply draining nearby churches of their people to grow your own church. There’s no net gain of converts into God’s kingdom.
Pastor Rick Richardson led a breakout session where he detailed strategies for increasing convert growth. He also wrote a book called “You Found Me” where these strategies are explored in more detail along with updated church growth stats. Richardson said an ideal target for church growth is that 10% of your growth should be through convert growth (most churches fall well under that target.) Afterwards, I talked to Pastor Richardson about our own church here at Freedom Fellowships. We typically see anywhere between 60% and 80% convert growth, which is virtually unheard of in Christian America. However, Pastor Richardson pointed out that comes with its own issues: in churches with high convert growth, it can be difficult raising up new leaders and you run into a much higher rate of moral setbacks and failures. Having a strong process of discipleship is key here.
The conference got me thinking, why is it we see such a high convert growth percentage compared to most churches? Is it because we are just better? I have a hard time believing that – there are so many solid, Bible believing, God-honoring churches out there that are living faithfully to God’s calling. We discussed this question as an eldership and one thing that stuck out was that we put a tremendous focus on reaching the youth. So much of our time, money, and resource goes towards reaching the youth. We even relocated our entire church years ago to be in proximity to the Kent State campus. Just recently, we completed our study center located right in the city of Kent. Many churches are not ready or able to make such a radical commitment to reaching the youth because church is often structured around the adult and family population, which is a population less likely to rethink their beliefs and become Christian.
We came out of this conference with a renewed burden for reaching the lost and particularly for reaching the youth. May we never lose that burden as we move into this new season as a church.