Kyle Idleman: Reach One

Kyle Idleman is senior pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. His latest book is One at a Time: The Unexpected Way God Wants to Use You to Change the World (Baker).

We tend to measure our influence and our impact for Christ in how many and how much. We measure impact by crowds. We gauge our success based on how many people are coming to church. I think that’s probably been true for pastors for a while.

Jesus was constantly around crowds in his ministry. He cared about the crowds. The Bible says he looked on them with compassion (Matthew 9:35–38). But when a crowd surrounded him, he would take time to find one person who had a need or a question. He would consistently zoom in on one person. So many of the accounts in the gospels record those one-at-a-time moments. 

For people in ministry, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of that. One-on-one interactions require a lot more intentionality. I think the tendency is sometimes to focus on a program or an event as an evangelism tool. That can be effective at bringing people into the church building, which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what draws people to Jesus is the relationship with the person who invited them in the first place. Conversations about Christ and decisions to follow him happen in one-on-one relationships.

“What draws people to Jesus is the relationship with the person who invited them in the first place.”

One of the things we have tried to do as a church is to pay close attention to what we celebrate. For example, instead of celebrating how many people come to our campuses over Easter weekend, the stories we tell are about a person caring for their neighbor, inviting them to Easter service and celebrating a decision that person made. The way we measure our effectiveness is not only by our attendance ranking or how many people attend church, but by the stories we can tell.

For our staff, volunteers and leaders, we’re pushing proximity. We need to create more opportunities for our people to get out of church rather than to have more people come into church. You gotta get out of the building, out of the office, out of the sanctuary and out of your house. You need to be around people who need Jesus, and when you do that on purpose, it’s amazing the people God puts in your path. But it requires some intentionality. How many times do we see Jesus on his way somewhere when he comes across a specific person with a specific need?

“Interacting with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus is not going to happen by accident.”

I’m thinking of Jesus in John 4, when he sees the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaria was not a place a Jewish person would have gone. They would have avoided it, but he intentionally goes into some of those places. More than ever, interacting with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus is not going to happen by accident. It’s going to require us to intentionally put ourselves in spaces where we know we’ll have that interaction.

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Jessica Hanewinckel
Jessica Hanewinckel

Jessica Hanewinckel is an Outreach magazine contributing writer.