Posted on : Monday October 22, 2012

By Shannon Baker
BCM/D National Correspondent

SEVERN, Md.—No stranger to church challenges, Drew Shofner marvels that The Church at Severn Run (formerly Severn Baptist Church), where he pastors, now has over 1,000 people in worship every Sunday morning. But, he’s quick to say he’s learned several lessons in the last 14 years, three of which stand out to him:

Challenge #1: Believing God is big enough

“We get into our routines and ruts, and we don’t notice the people in our neighborhoods anymore,” says Shofner, senior pastor. “We start believing ‘what is’ is all there is, and that is incorrect. If our church lacks lost people, it’s because we lack faith to get out there and reach them.”

Shofner explains, “Our biggest issue hasn’t been the building. It was getting out of the building into the schools with the purpose of reaching more people for Christ.”

In 2000, Severn Run renovated its dated facilities and did portable worship in three different high schools in two different cities in order to make room for growth and to confront invisible barriers.

Even then, many people asked, “How in the world are we going to do this?” To which, he replied, “We can’t! Only God can do this!”

And God has. Since that time, the church purchased the Severn Run Farm on Telegraph Road in 2002 for $2 million, completed a new facility in 2005, and relocated in July 2006.

Challenge #2: Letting organizational structures limit growth

Just as a physical building limits growth, organizational structures can stymie a church’s efforts, Shofner adds. “Churches need the ability to be flexible enough to move forward.”

For example, when he first came to serve at Severn Run, the church’s constitution and by-laws had 187 pages. “We had to vote on everything,” he says, explaining, “Most structures are low trust (more designed for control than for ministry), and reactive and fear-based rather than high trust and high accountability.”

Changing this model radically freed people to do ministry, which Shofner believes propelled the church’s growth.

Challenge #3: Not seeing near enough lost people coming to Christ

Although he sees many people’s lives change through the Gospel, Shofner admits he still feels the church is not achieving their goal of reaching lost people the way they can or should.

“Sincere people have different ideas about church, so we are attempting to be crystal clear about our purpose,” which includes the “goal of baptizing 300 people a year.”

To help church members better understand he invites them to close their eyes and point in the direction of their choice. Every time, everyone points in different directions.

“The illustration shows our need for our purpose and four passions (worship, share, connect and serve) to be unified in one direction,” he says, stressing that the ultimate guiding emphasis and prayer must be on reaching the lost.

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