JAC Online

Lock In Contracts
by Captain Mark Schatz (Corps Officer in Bunbury, Western Australia)

I have always been a guy that is a little out of shape. Unless you call round a shape.  For years I have contemplated joining a gym but I haven’t.  The main thing that has stopped me is that I have heard story after story of people who get locked into contracts that just cannot get out of. Stories of people paying mass amounts of money each and every month and not getting any benefit from the gym at all. 

Just this week in my local newspaper there was a story about how a lady was trying to terminate her membership for over 2 years.  It stated that she had many encounters with the gym, a number of them in person, and how it took so many attempts to terminate the contract. She was quoted in saying “I thought it was going to be good to get into shape, but all this has done is cost me money and a whole lot of anguish.  I’ll never join a gym again”.

This is a real fear and pain that many people have.  However, there are some that see the benefit of regular gym attendance and they turned into regular ‘gym junkies’ and got into shape.

When it comes to Jesus and the local church, many people have this same kind of fear and hurt.  They fear that the church will take their money, their time, try to change them and make them live boring simple lives. They fear that when they join the church, they will be stuck with a lock in contract that will just cause them anguish! Others have found it to be a bad experience and have vowed to never go again!

We know this does not need to be true! John records Jesus saying “The thief [the enemy] comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” (John 10:10, Amplified Version) That’s right, the good news is Jesus come that we may have and enjoy life!

For us as Christ followers within the church, we get this.  We see the benefit of gathering together as a family of believers worshipping the God of the universe! We see that He is all powerful and mighty and have chosen to give our lives to God and serve the church.  We have seen the healing that God can provide and the benefits of regularly attending church. But, how many of us share what we have and what we know with those that don’t know Jesus.  The sad truth is that many of us don’t like sharing our faith or don’t know how to.  We stay silent when we need to speak out!

Friends, The Salvation Army more than ever need’s a shake up!  The Salvation Army needs a method, a plan to go into all the world and share the gospel.  If we don’t, we will die a slow, slow death.  In recent years in Australia, we have heard of another corps closing, and another and another, and I’m afraid that if we don’t do something, there will be nothing left!

So, with the fear and pain of many in mind, I want to suggest an idea that sees our churches grow and effectively plunder hell to populate heaven!

It’s called the 4-week challenge!

Firstly, don’t invite people to believe in Jesus. Well not yet. Invite people to join the church community for four weeks.  Challenge them to come along each Sunday and spend one and a half hours, (two if you have a preacher that goes on for a while) each week for four weeks.  Tell them to eat the food, drink the coffee, and to not put any money in the offering.  Tell them just to come and join you. Tell them the only cost to them will be some time!

Once you have presented the challenge to them, finish off by telling them that after four weeks, if they don’t believe church is for them, if they don’t believe that there isn’t any benefit from coming and joining the fellowship, then they are free to leave no questions asked!

It’s risky and bold! It gives permission to people to leave without explanation and puts the whole church under a microscope.   Nevertheless, I am convinced that if someone takes the challenge, they are spiritually open to Jesus and primed to receive the message of Christ.

In my former church appointment, I encountered a guy that was having marital issues.  He explained right from the start that he “wanted nothing to do with that Christian stuff”. After spending some time talking to him, I offered him the challenge to come for 4 weeks! No lock in contracts!

What happened in those 4 weeks was that he developed friendships and realised we were not a bunch of crazy people.  He saw a real authentic belief in God.  After the four weeks, he kept coming and after 3 months of regularly attending the church, he gave his life to Christ. Just recently, he has become a senior soldier and is starting a journey towards ministry. 

Others have taken the challenge and asked to keep attending after the four weeks are up.  Still others have found a sense of community and friendship months before they found God.  Some have left, but 80% of people stayed. Whatever way you look at it, you don’t have to be theologically smart, you don’t have to even have all the answers, you just have to invite them to the challenge and allow God to speak to them over the four weeks!

Friends, we can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect that someone else will tell them about Jesus. Now is the time to show people that what we have is real; That God is real, that we are not a bunch of weirdos, but mostly so we can fulfil the great commission.

But here’s the best part! You only need to remember two simple steps.

First, we need to issue the challenge to those that don’t know Jesus.  If you don’t have friends or family that don’t know Jesus, go find some! Join some kind of group where you talk and interact with people who don’t know Him yet.

Secondly, pray for them.  Pray that they will take the challenge, pray that God will speak when they are in the middle of the challenge and pray they will stay after the challenge.

The time is now. A hurting and sceptic world is reaching out, looking for healing, hope and life. If every Christian issues a challenge to someone, we can not only remove the fear they have about being locked into the church, we can double the size of the kingdom in less than a year!

So, the question is, whose brave enough to put it all on the line and invite someone to take up the four-week challenge?









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