“Our contribution to the mission of the church is to create churches unchurched people love to attend.”
Mountain Lakes Church
Thanks to a friend from kayaking class in the Fall, this semester I’ve plugged into a local startup church at Clemson that I really feel like I can call my home, Mountain Lakes Church (MLC). MLC has provided me not only with incredible relationships, but with a place that I can invest rather than just consume. This has been the first time in my life that I have decided to really be serious about getting involved with the community of believers where I live and it’s been an amazing experience. At Mountain Lakes, I’m on the production team and help run the lights. I have no experience doing lighting, but I’m an electrical engineer, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. Half a semester in, I’m starting to get the hang of it.
Mountain Lakes Church is not an independent startup, but is a strategic partner with North Point church in Atlanta. Andy Stanley is the lead pastor and has created an incredible network of churches that have been able to engage the unchurched and “create churches unchurched people love to attend.” They are so good at this that every year they put on a conference called DRIVE for church leaders and teams to share what they’ve learned. I had never heard of it until this year, when Paul (the lead pastor at MLC) asked if I wanted to go. It was during a school week, so of course I said yes. Going to a conference in ATL beats going to class all day, every day.
DRIVE :. Main Sessions
Over the course of the three day conference, we had four main session talks and five breakout sessions. Most of the best stuff was packed into the main sessions. Gavin Adams gave the opening session talk on conversation, then Andy led the rest of the main sessions (Rules of Engagement, Creating a Come and See Culture, and Communication 101).
As expected, the opening session on Monday night was mind-blowing. The production team at North Point is so talented. Everything from the videos, to the lights, to the original stage environments is top notch. Here’s a clip of the opening of the conference.
Without spending pages and pages going through all I learned from the main sessions, here’s a list of some of the main things I learned. Most of what follows is taken from the DRIVE note outlines with some of my commentary.
Starting with Session 1:
- “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity.” – Colossians 4:5
- This is one of the verses that hits at what DRIVE is about. North Point spends so much of their time thinking and planning how they act toward the unchurched. It’s about the approach.
- Conversation is the way we should interact with outsiders.
- Conversations happen with people, not at people. They create relationships. Jesus was the King of Conversation. He had all the right to walk around condemning, but instead modeled conversations for us.
- Discipleship – Faith – Conversion are all processes, not events.
- They all take daily investment and strength beyond our own.
- Lead conversations with grace and allow God to sprinkle in salt.
- Yes! This is what it’s about. I especially need to work on this.
Session 2: Rules of Engagement
- Immediate Win: An unchurched person who found our weekend experience so appealing, the presentation so engaging, and the content so helpful that he wants to come back next week with a friend.
- North Point designs their Sunday environment to facilitate this win. It’s important to define your “wins” since they inform almost all of your decisions.
- To move a diverse group of people in a common direction requires that we begin with something everyone has in common.
- Andy put this another way later in the message “We leverage common experiences and emotions, not world views/theology/belief systems.” Look at how Jesus communicated; it was through parables.
- Our goal is not to be creative. It is to leverage creativity for the sake of our mission and vision.
- Exactly. I think this is really important to keep in mind when creating environments.
- Nothing should be offensive in your service except the cross.
- Bulls-eye. This should be communicated to all church leaders.
Session 3: Creating a Come-and-See Culture
- Everyone involved in your ministry is measuring the quality and success of your environments against something.
- Everybody has a concept of success. It’s important to not only be aware of this, but to define success and communicate it to your team.
- The reason people flocked to Christ is because he comforted and fed them, not because of his theology.
- It’s about people. Love on people and they will wonder what’s up with you. They’ll be curious and peek into this thing called Christianity.
- People stop attending not because they disagree but mainly because you didn’t engage them.
- The classic church experience is boring. This was definitely how I felt growing up and I really didn’t want to go. Make the presentation engaging. Make church irresistible.
Session 4: Communication 101
- Approach is everything. Your goal should determine your approach.
- Andy went on to say “Change your approach, not your theology”. Wow. Another piece of advice I wish every church leader could be given.
- Communicate with Unchurched People
- Most unchurched people don’t think they belong in church and that the pastor doesn’t know they’re there. Welcome them and talk to them throughout the message. “Now if you’re an unbeliever with us today…”
- ‘Why do 18-25 year olds stop attending church? They’ve been to one.’
- So true. We need to step our game up; the gospel has the power to change lives, but to often we use it to put people to sleep.
- Avoid “The Bible says”
- Nonbelievers don’t believe in the Bible. The Bible is not a book, it’s a collection of historical documents with real-life authors. Tell them about the authors; they have some incredible stories. “James was written by Jesus’ brother… what would it take to convince you that your brother was the Son of God?”
- The imperatives of the New Testament are addressed to Christians.
- It would be fantastic if everyone would get this. We need to stop judging non-Christians.
While this list might be overwhelming, I’m not kidding when I say that this is only scratching the service. Surface.
Breakouts and Some Fun
Outside of the main sessions, we broke up into small breakout sessions. Everything from ‘The Guest Experience’ to ‘Worship Service Programming’ to ‘How Family Ministry Grows the Church’. All good stuff, so it was hard to pick. Like the main sessions, there were a lot of take-aways.
North Point knows how to engage and attract guests. The DRIVE conference was no exception and we had our fair share of fun throughout the three days. Go-kart racing in the parking lots, 10 different popcorn flavors, free coffee, crowd rockband, #drive13wish granting and multiple skits.
Because of DRIVE, I feel so equipped to further my involvement in Mountain Lakes and more confident in how I can address nonbelievers. What an incredible experience… so much better than class.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
– Acts 15:19