How to be an introvert, starting a church, talking to strangers about God without coming across as a creepy evangelist.

So, it Saturday, and even though I missed last week, today I am going to try and be faithful in my promise to keep you all updated on our church planting journey. 

creepyevangelist

local photography via flickr creative commons andrewkuhnphotography

Two weeks ago I showed you around our lovely church, since then we’ve had a brilliant team of designers come through, one whom grew up in church and “gets it” in the best of ways.  She understands what works, what welcomes and what has been done to death. For this I am unspeakably thankful.

Also this week the boiler exploded, which caused us to wonder why more seminaries don’t offer classes on old building maintenance. Kel’s handy but boilers are beyond him #churchboilerdrama .

All this is true but it doesn’t really get to the heart of what’s REALLY going on with the church.  

Currently the main business of the church is connecting with the community.

What does this mean? It means that if Kel is at the church that he’s not doing his job. (#churchboilerdrama aside)

Because currently Kel’s main job is to go out and meet people by checking out their businesses, going out to lunch, working at coffee shops and taking walks through neighborhoods.  He’s supposed to meet with and chat up 50 new people a week. 50!

This terrified me for two reasons
1) Kel is an introvert, this could kill him.
2) I don’t see how one can do this without seeming like a creeper

But he’s impressed me every evening with his stories, all authentic and not the least bit slimy.

This begs the question: How does an introvert strike up conversation with a random stranger and steer the conversation toward the new church plant without seeming creepy or pushy?  

I think this is where I should just let Kel tell you, after all… he’s the one doing it.  

Hi everyone, it’s Kel.

So I’m going to start by telling you the story of a conversation I had this week: I was at McDonalds, not because I particularly love it (I’m not lovin’ it) but because they are one of the few places that has wifi in the area.

So I’m in line to get my large drink (which I fill with iced tea like a good southern boy) and in line behind me is an EMT.  So, I walk up to the counter and I say “1 large drink and whatever he wants” gesturing in the EMT’s direction.

He gives me a weird look but thanks me and puts in an order for an Egg McMuffin. He thanks me again and then asks:

Awesome EMT: “Do you have a busy day ahead of you?”
Me: “I kind of do but my schedule is pretty weird right now. You see, I just took a new job and I’m a pastor starting a church”

This leads us down a conversation about the ups and downs of my schedule. Then I tell him why I bought him breakfast.

“One of the things that I really want to be as a church is a place that serves the community. One of the ways we can start doing that is by serving those who are already serving the community. So buying you breakfast is a way for me to say thank you for what you do everyday.”

I could tell the guy was caught off guard. Apparently this isn’t something that happens to him everyday. Then he does something cool: he invites me to come down the station sometime so that I can meet the other EMT’s just before we part ways.

This conversation is at the heart of what I’m doing everyday, of what it takes to plant a new church.  

You see, when I started doing this nobody in the community knew who I was.  So when it came to making contacts it was important that people in the community got a feel for who I am. The best way to do that is obviously by authentically building relationships.

Every contact I make is another person that knows both who I am and that there is a new church coming to the neighborhood, that’s my only agenda.

So how do I do this without seeming like a creeper or a door to door evangelist? Its easy, I listen way more than I talk.  I ask people about them: What do they do?  Do they live around here? Do they like that sandwich?

I try to find common ground.

You see, it’s not actually about meeting a quota of numbers. Numbers to a church don’t really matter, its what those numbers represent: Each number is a story, a person, an opportunity for God to show up in real life.

That’s why its easy for me to keep perspective, As a pastor I’m the often at the forefront of those stories. I see the breakdowns, the illness, the funerals. Often I get to be the one that prays with people when they find out I’m a pastor.

For me, it is very encouraging because I get to see this community in a completely different light. This community is who I am trying to reach but ultimately it is God that changes hearts, not me.

So what is my job? To care, to love, and build relationship with the people that surround the church. To introduce them to the God that can bring about change in their lives.

It’s not about me, it’s not about numbers, it’s not about MY church… in the end it’s about God and his people and doing everything I can do to foster freedom through their intersection.

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