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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

AGTV Video
Connections: Jonathan Gainsbrugh

From Rules to Relationships

Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood recently visited with author and church consultant Jonathan Gainsbrugh. For nearly three decades, Gainsbrugh has traveled widely teaching thousands of pastors assimilation skills and healthy ways to grow their churches and develop leaders. He believes relationship is an indispensible, vital criterion as to whether people stay or leave any church.

WOOD: Talk a little about how God has led you in your life.
My father grew up underprivileged but became a very successful economist who worked with Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. So I grew up in a privileged environment. My father was a strictly observant Jew, and my mother came from a very legalistic church background. That caught me from both sides, and I grew up not knowing God had an interest in me, that He is a knowable God, that He is a relational God.

In the 1960s I was completely immersed in the hippie culture and had no clue what it meant to be saved. I’d never even heard phrases like “born again” or “blood of the Lamb.” I had a sense of religion, but nothing that was life changing and relational. Sadly, that is the state of not only unbelievers but also of many in the church who do not realize that Jesus is Immanuel — God with us — not just between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but 24/7.

I met some Spirit-filled, born-again believers in 1969 while hitchhiking. They loved me into the Kingdom. It’s been a great relational ride.

WOOD: The Lord has used you to promote church growth, and your focus is relationships.
I defaulted away from ritual, rulebook and religion. I want to see churches develop “relation-ology,” a theology of relationship. We need to see the Bible as a wonderful love letter from God, a 66-pack of His heartbeat for every human being, and catch that heartbeat not just as a mental concept but intimately. I think of John at the Last Supper with his head on Jesus’ chest. How many of us would love to have had that experience of placing our head on Jesus’ chest and hearing His heartbeat?

WOOD: You have often taught on ways churches can “close the back door” and retain more of the people who walk in the front door. Talk a little about that.
I wrote Winning the Back-Door War a number of years ago to address this reality that our churches have a great influx of people, but lose far too many of them. I believe assimilation needs to be a huge part of our ministerial training in our colleges and seminary. A key to retaining people in our churches is to ask honest questions about visitor care, convert care, new member care and established member care. We need to identify why someone might be thinking, Do they miss me? Do they need me? Do they want me? Do they love me?

In the early years after I was saved, I was involved in street ministry across the country. I had the privilege of ministering with David Wilkerson. We would see hundreds of people make decisions for Christ in those meetings. But always in the back of my mind I was thinking, What is next for these people?

Each of us came into the Kingdom as a young lamb in need of care. When Jesus, by the Sea of Galilee, asked Peter three times to feed His sheep, He called them lambs in His first request. Jesus put the lambs first. We need to do the same.

I want to put relationship into the driver’s seat in churches across our Fellowship, so that we turn our congregations from Teflon into Velcro. God is the God of relationship.

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