Shawn Johnson: ‘Our No. 1 Priority Is Reaching Spiritually Lost People’

“If I’m not careful, I can let the positive or the negative words about me begin to define me.”

Each year, we speak with several Outreach 100 pastors in an effort to collect their honest observations about the church, their ministries and their experiences.

Red Rocks Church in Littleton, Colorado

The local church is the greatest evangelistic tool on the planet! Some of us get a paycheck from a local church, but we ALL get to partner with it. One thing that excites me about the church today is the focus on church planting. I see it everywhere, hear about it everywhere, and I love it! Evangelism can’t help but be a byproduct of church planting, and I get excited every time I hear about another church starting up.

I believe the church has so much to be hopeful for and excited about today and in the days ahead. We have an opportunity to be more generous and more outward-focused than ever before, and planting churches and campuses around the world is a great way to keep generosity and evangelism out in front of us all.

I’m not smart enough—nor have I been exposed to enough churches—to really speak about what our concerns should be for the American church. But from my very limited perspective, one thing that concerns me is when we as churches forget about our evangelistic potential and calling, and get really inward-focused. Left on autopilot and without intentionality, it’s very easy for the local church to start preaching to and programming and existing for the Christ-following people who are already in it. And truth be told; I get it. After all, they’re the ones with the most money, the loudest opinions and the best attendance.

Without a doubt, I believe we are called to—and should be—discipling, challenging, building up and sending out Christ followers … but not at the cost of forgetting that our No. 1 priority is reaching the spiritually lost people around us with the lifesaving message of Jesus Christ. As leaders and family members of the local church, we’ve all got to fight to make sure that reaching the lost isn’t just on posters around the church, but in the actual programming of the church.

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When it comes to safeguarding my personal life and personal spiritual development, I’m learning more and more just how important both of these are. The more the church grows, the harder it is to safeguard both of these things … and ironically, the more important they become. I’ve never had so many people want to talk to me, confide in me, encourage me, judge me and critique me. More than ever in my life, safeguarding my personal life and my personal time with God has never been more difficult, and never more important.

I’m not sure I could single out one event or person as the biggest influence on my faith journey. But I can tell you about one of the biggest influences on my faith journey this past year. I met with a counselor who spent some time reminding me that God is proud of me and loves me for who I am, not for what I do. Somehow that’s gotten harder and harder for me to accept as our church has gotten bigger.

A large church reaching out to thousands of people was always the dream when we had our first service in 2005. And now that, in many ways, the dream is happening, it’s never been harder for me to separate what I do from who I am. I was reminded of the very basic truth that I am a loved child of God, regardless of what happens at the church where I work. I should know this. I teach lots of people about this: My heavenly Father loves me for who I am—not for what I do—and having someone remind me of that this year has been game-changing.

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I seem to be constantly learning and re-learning that other people’s opinions of me don’t define me. I think anyone in ministry of any kind needs to be continuously reminded of this. When the compliments are flowing and the pats on the back are plentiful, we feel like we’re just better people doing a better job … and probably more loved by God for the amazing work we’re putting in for him. Then the dreaded email gets opened or the meeting takes place or the snide comment in between services is heard—and the hammer drops. I’m not a good pastor, I’m not a good person, I may not even be called to do this. God’s probably mad at me and most people in the church probably hate me. Oh, wait, is that just me?!

If I’m not careful, I can let the positive or the negative words about me begin to define me. And that’s just not God’s plan for me or for you! I’m a person who loves encouraging words, so I have to remind myself that when they come, I should allow myself to appreciate them but not let them define me. And when the opposite happens, I have to remind myself the same thing: those words don’t define me … I know who I am and what I’m called to do. And I often need to be reminded of that.

Read more Candid Conversations with Outreach 100 pastors »

Littleton, Colorado
Senior Pastor: Shawn Johnson
Twitter: @ShawnJohnsonRRC@RedRocksChurch
Facebook: /RedRocksChurch
Founded: 2005
Affiliation: Nondenominational
Locations: 4
Attendance: 9,624
Growth in 2015: +1,970 (26%)
Fastest Growing: 4
Largest: 40