My preaching did not immediately take off. It took several months of study and prayer. The Elders and other leaders would come by once a week, on a Thursday night, to pray for the direction of the church and for the effectiveness of my sermons. During these meetings we would also discuss future topics that I would propose and we would discuss and pray over. It felt like the Spirit was moving. Some of the Elders commented that there seemed to be a vibrant buzz, for lack of a better term, moving within the church, something they have not felt in some time.
In addition to Sunday mornings I led a Wednesday night study and prayer time. This was a more informal setting. People were able to interact as we discussed the scripture we were studying. People were excited and during the prayer time we could feel the presence of the Spirit filling the room. I would prepare a separate study for Wednesdays but the research was not as time consuming as it was preparing for a sermon, but at times it did infringe into time. But it was exciting and fresh and authentic.
By the eighth month of my tenure in the church I started to see a change. I usually sat in the front row next to my wife during the worship time. We had a small group leading the worship, an acoustic guitar player, a person on the piano, the bass and a small drum kit (at the beginning we didn’t always have a drummer though) to start. The team did an excellent job leading us in worship. Their worship usually gave me that extra gusto I used to preach my sermon. I got a little more fired up and excited to preach. During this time we started to get more consistency in members of the worship team, and always had a full team leading the worship.
After the offering and announcements it was time for me to preach. As I said, it was during the eighth month that I noticed a change. I began to notice that the sanctuary was beginning to seem fuller. We usually had empty seats nearer the front. When I took a moment to survey the room as I prepared to begin, I noticed some of the seats usually empty were filled with the “regulars” and I saw the newer faces in the back. This excited me. My sermons were starting to gain momentum and word of the preaching spread.
My first series I preached was on the community of believers. I stressed that, as a new pastor, I believed that I needed those who were regular attendees to become more involved. If they wanted to see growth within their church they were going to need to step out from their comfort zones. They were going to be more open and friendly to visitors and others. The church would not grow if most of the congregants simply strolled in at 9:55am and left within two minutes of the last note of the last song. They must interact and get to know one another.
It worked. This was how the growth started. It was sporadic at first, a trickle.New people came to hear the new preacher. They stayed because of the people in the congregation. It was not an immediate success. Only a few of the regular people bought into what I was preaching. Some moved on to other churches because they wanted to be anonymous non-participants, but most stayed. I made an effort at the end of the service to greet anyone I didn’t know, setting an example for the leaders of the church to do the same. Those who stayed saw the new people but did not engage with them in conversation. When some noticed they didn’t return, they changed and began to talk to the new people.
So this is now the eighth month and I began to see results. People were coming to hear my sermons and the people in the seats began to welcome them, and the Spirit moved. It was an exciting time of watching the Spirit generate genuine fellowship in my flock. And it did not stop for some time.