Jeff Bogue: ‘The Church Is a Spiritual Entity’

We asked pastors of some of the nation’s largest churches to share their thoughts on church growth, discipleship, outreach and faithful ministry.

Jeff Bogue, Senior Pastor
Grace Church
Akron, Ohio

One of the biggest initiatives that we have put in place in the last few years is the idea of “praying for our three.” We encourage every one of our people to pray for three of their friends by name every day. They pray that God would give them a “no-brainer moment” in which they can share the reason for the hope that’s within them. That little phrase has caused them to become very aware of opportunities to be evangelistic and the necessity to be continually in prayer for their friends and family who do not yet know Christ.

At our largest campus right now, we have set a goal that over the next three years we would see a minimum of 1,000 people come to know Christ. We invited the congregation to pursue that goal by praying for their three. Right now the members of just one of our campuses are praying up to 7,000 people every day. Not only does this initiative unleash the power of God in someone’s life, it also creates sensitivity and compassion within followers of Christ for those who do not yet know him.

A highlight for us as a congregation this past year was a campaign in which we laid out the vision of building a 70-bed inpatient treatment center for opioid addiction. This plus some additional projects were woven into the campaign with the goal of raising $6 million over three years. The people committed $8.6 million, far surpassing our goal. This incredible response allows us to bring this desperately needed resource to our community and to “love our neighbor as ourselves” in this way.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about spiritual leadership is that God can and does unite the body of Christ. One of our great prayers for evangelism has been that God would work in the hearts of his people and unite them so that we can “contend as one man.” To watch the Holy Spirit move among his people in deep, powerful and profound ways truly reminds me that the church is a spiritual entity rather than a not-for-profit religious entity.

God moving in an unmistakable way to bring his people to a point of focus, compassion and generosity is a powerful and wonderful thing. It has deeply affected me and reminded me that I’m leading people to something greater than just big dreams—I’m leading them to eternal goals that have eternal ramifications in which God is directing his people toward.

When I first started ministry, I wish I would’ve known to spend more time searching out where God was already moving and less time asking God to bless my ideas and plans. There’s nothing more freeing or motivating than when you join the Lord in a work that he has already decided to accomplish through his people.

After being a pastor now for over 26 years, when I look to move the church forward or to take our next step, my first instinct is to see where God is stirring in our community and how that stirring is rippling into the body of Christ. From there I develop plans and vision.

I need to hang out with teenagers and college students. As I get older, I have to work harder to be a student of the next generation. So, even though I pastor a large church, I still help to run a large youth conference for junior high and high school kids because I want to be around them. I enjoy them, and I learn a lot from them. I try to stay closely connected to our college ministry as well for many of the same reasons.

A statement that we have locked onto for many, many years here at Grace is “if servanthood is beneath you, leadership is above you.” We need to become servants to our communities wherever and whenever possible. Obviously, the church cannot agree with all the priorities and all the current cultural leanings of a given community. However, there are many ways that we can agree and serve that community. For us, combating the heroin epidemic is certainly an example of that. They welcome the help, they welcome the investment, and they even welcome the name of Jesus. They would almost have the attitude of saying to us, “Nothing else works. Let’s try your plan and approach.”

So, we look all over our community, whether it’s sports ministries or single parents or the school systems, and ask the question, “Is there a way that we can serve, a way we can bring finances, facilities and people to bear on an issue?” We’ve found that if we’re willing to serve, we’re often invited to lead.

Read more candid conversations with Outreach 100 pastors »

Twitter: @TakingOneStep
Founded: 1960
Denomination: Grace Brethren
Locations: 9
Attendance: 5,874
Largest: 81

Lora Schrock
Lora Schrock

Lora Schrock is editor of Outreach magazine.