Reaching People Far from God

Episode 654: Many church planters set out to reach people with the gospel but often find their new churches full of folks from other churches. Host Ed Stetzer discusses the challenge of staying outwardly focused to reach people far from God with Heiden Ratner, senior pastor of Walk Church, and Vance Pitman, founding pastor of Hope Church, both in Las Vegas.

In This Episode, You’ll Discover:

  • How to get a core team outwardly focused on reaching people who are not churched or not believers
  • How God used Heiden’s “idolatry problem with basketball” to draw him to faith in Christ
  • How a “divine appointment” gave Heiden an opportunity to meet a well-known UFC fighter and how they are trading text messages about faith
  • What personal practices can help planters be more evangelistic and engaging people who don’t know Christ
  • The best ways to help new believers grow in their faith and become fully devoted followers of Christ

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Sharable Quotes (#NewChurches):

One of the things you can do is plant a church where there aren’t that many church people. If you come to a place like Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Denver, at least 90% of the population doesn’t go to church anywhere. It’s a target-rich environment for church planting, because there’s so many unchurched people. @VancePitman

It starts with a city perspective. Too many church planters have their heart wrapped around a church, but there’s nowhere in the Bible that Jesus said, “Go plant a church.” He said to go into cities and nations and make disciples. When we do that, churches are born as a byproduct. @VancePitman

If our goal is not to grow a church but to penetrate the lostness of the city, as we teach and preach and disciple, we’ll keep that in front of our people. @VancePitman

Here’s a very practical tip for this idea of building bridges into the city: Every city has a city manager and every city manager has a list of problems on their desk that’s their responsibility to solve. Go meet your city manager, build a relationship, find out what of those items on that list you can take off the list. @VancePitman

Those relational bridges introduce you to lost people in the community, who begin to see Christ in a different way because of your compassion, your service and your love. And they’re attracted to the gospel you’re presenting. @VancePitman

Planters also need to develop personal relationships. They have to think of themselves not as pastors of churches but as missionaries in cities and look for ways to build relationships and engage people with gospel conversations. @VancePitman

Our team didn’t do “together stuff” early on. I told them, “Your job when you get here is to get in a neighborhood and start building relationships. Look for places to connect your kids and build relationships. I challenged them to build their relationships outside of our group so their focus wasn’t our group. @VancePitman

It’s about building the relational equity that allows you to have conversations. If you’ll build a little bit of relational equity, everybody’s dying to get to know people and hear their story. That would immediately allow me to tell my story of Jesus and my life. @VancePitman

The other practical thing I’ve done is to leverage my hobbies. When I was a dad of young kids, coaching was a part of my hobbies and and I leveraged that. Now I’m a foodie and so I have a restaurant ministry. I go back to the same restaurants in Las Vegas and I’ve got several people that I’ve led to Christ who were either servers or managers. @VancePitman

Somebody recently asked me who I wanted to reach with our church. I just said I want to reach me as a high school young adult that was just totally unengaged, on my way to hell without knowing it. @HeidenRatner

I love the Major Ian Thomas quote: “The same life Jesus lived, he lives now through us.” If we’re allowing Christ to live in and through us, he’s focused on lost people. He’s seeking. He’s saving. @HeidenRatner

We need new eyes as planters. We get so focused on the work and we miss the people in the process. There’s people everywhere, people all around our city. And so I pray, “Lord, help me see who you want me to see.” @HeidenRatner

We encourage people to not be home alone. Don’t be Kevin McCallister. We believe that the best way for you to grow is in the context of community. And so we love small groups at our church. It’s part of our culture where people are coming to know Christ and it feels weird if they’re not in a group. @HeidenRatner

That’s been huge for new believers in our church to be a part of a group, a part of a family. Discipleship has to happen in community.  @HeidenRatner

Engaging adults who don’t know Christ leads to some messy challenges, but we must encourage people to still value that. @EdStetzer

In churches, we wind up, if we’re not careful, with these people that come to Christ and then all of a sudden we’ve created this subculture of Christianity within our culture and we live in our own bubble. Yes, it’s messy when you when you reach people in a place like Vegas. But it’s also pure. There is a purity about the gospel from these new believers that is contagious. @VancePitman

What are the most important factors in spiritual maturity for those who are new to the faith? @EdStetzer

D.L. Moody once said that weekly church attendance is like blood to the person who is sick. It’s fresh. It’s moving. I just want to encourage that. @HeidenRatner

For the new believer, getting in the Word until the Word gets in you. @HeidenRatner

Just an authenticity to be yourself, not feeling like you have to be somebody else in their walk with Christ. Be you. Everybody’s got a unique leaning, unique wiring, and so we’re trying to help people champion the things that make you be authentically you in the body of Christ, and you’ll find your fit. @HeidenRatner

Published March 31, 2022

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