BETHLEHEM — Jason Britt is the 30-something year old pastor of Bethlehem Church in a rapidly growing area northeast of metropolitan Atlanta. He was one of the preachers at the recent Reach 2018 Evangelism Conference in Warner Robins. He was on the program with Junior Hill, Johnny Hunt, Ike Reighard, and H.B. Charles, Jr.
Britt began his remarks by saying, “These men are legends. I am the pigeon among a group of eagles. So for the next few moments I am going to flap my wings as hard as I can to try to keep up with the level these men soar.”
After serving for years as a student pastor, campus pastor, and small group pastor Britt was called to serve as the senior pastor of the 115-year-old Bethlehem Church in 2011.
The young pastor explained, “Our church had some good years and some years of plateauing, but what has happened in the past six years can only be attributed to a work of God and a fresh movement of His Spirit. Growing from a church with a little over 300 people to a church filled in five services on two campuses with over 3,000 people has been both remarkable and humbling.
“We have seen over 1,000 baptized, marriages restored, families reconciled, and missionaries called out; and we feel like we are just getting started.”
Britt observed, “If God can do it in Bethlehem, God can do it anywhere. So I don’t come to you as an expert, but as a learner – with my share of bruises, set backs, bloody noses, and a lot less hair than I had six years ago.”
Broken, not bothered
Britt’s message was timely and very insightful. Here are a few of the powerful and pertinent things he said in his message.
“We live in post-Christian society,” he emphasized. “A post-Christian society is not merely a society in which agnosticism or atheism is the prevailing, fundamental belief. It is a society rooted in the history, culture, and practices of Christianity, but in which the religious beliefs of Christianity have been either rejected, or worse, forgotten.”
Britt stated that some of the changes that have taken place are extremely difficult for church people to accept, but he professed that the Bible does not change, because God does not change. “However, “ he stated, “Just because the message never changes doesn’t mean nothing should change.”
Britt declared, “Choose to be broken instead of bothered by the state of the world. Bemoaning the state of our culture may very well look like us patting ourselves on the back about being the last good people left. We have to be careful that we don’t end up becoming accidental Pharisees. Jesus’ archenemy was not lost people; it was religious people.
“I had to decide whether I was going to be a fisher of men or a keeper of the aquarium. Entertaining church people can keep me busy and employed; reaching lost people can change the world and it has changed my life.
“The natural gravitational pull of the local church in America is to think toward the insiders, but the natural gravitational pull of the Gospel is to think about the outsiders. What we realized as church leadership is that we were a church that was perfectly equipped to reach a world that no longer exists.”
Growth brings change, but also loss and pain
Britt and his leadership team recognized that some things had to change. He quoted the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3 where he urged his readers to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.”
“Growth equals change. As kids grow up they change. When a city or community grows it changes,” Britt acknowledged.
“Change also equals loss. When change begins to happen what we have grown accustomed to may not be the same. As a town grows there are more options available, but the same quaint small town feel is gone. Change is often difficult in churches, because ‘things’ feel different and people struggle emotionally with a sense of loss.
“Loss equals pain. By nature we are a people who like ‘easy.’ Easy is often what we know, what we have become accustomed to. Why do so many people never change? It is because change hurts. When you push the status quo, the status quo pushes back. Friendly fire hurts the worst.”
The Bethlehem pastor provided some practical steps for church health and growth. He said, “Examine fruit, not intent. Just because something is supposed to do something doesn’t mean it does. Just because a program or ministry has the right desire doesn’t mean it has the fruit. Fruit is about life change. Does what we are doing result in souls saved, spiritual growth, called out leaders, raise up volunteers, engage people to serve, and inspire people to give.
“We decided to make every Sunday matter. We wanted to be a church where people love to invite their friends. And we realized that people do not invite their friends because they are supposed to, but because they want to.” (In any church if the Sunday experience is prayed over and well planned, if the members are truly excited about their Bible study and worship services they will enthusiastically invite their friends, neighbors and colleagues to come).”
Culture of your church > Vision of your church
Britt continued, “The culture of your church is more important than the vision of your church. Culture is about what your church values; how you relate to one another; what people feel when they are a part of your church; culture is about decision-making and leadership. Culture is about the atmosphere of a place; culture is about norms and expectations; culture is about how the place operates – not how we say it operates. Culture is what a person ‘feels’ when they attend your church, when they think of your church.”
Britt explained that developing “an excellent children’s ministry is a hill worth dying on, because children matter to God and to parents; kids are a driving force behind why people land at a church. A next generation ministry has to be a central piece to your overarching vision of your church.”
Britt concluded by saying, “Creating an evangelistic culture is about championing specific statements that become the anthem of your church. We say things like, ‘We are okay, if you are not okay, but we just don’t want you to stay that way.’
“Bethlehem Church is a people who are united in Christ. In a world laser-focused on what makes us all different, we focus on what makes us all the same – our need for a Savior. We are more focused on where you are going then where you’ve been.”
The young pastor’s message was insightful and beautifully delivered. It gave those in attendance ample food for thought.