Dave Ferguson is a busy guy, but not too busy for Michael Kinne. And it’s changed Kinne’s life, underscoring how important reaching people one-on-one for Christ is, Ferguson said this week at a major virtual gathering on the future of ministry.
Speaking at the FutureFWD2020 virtual conference, Ferguson, lead pastor and co-founder of Community Christian Church, which has grown in 20 years from five people in a suburban Chicago high school cafeteria to more than 5,500 at a dozen locations across the region, talked of how people are seeking information about God in unprecedented numbers, especially online.
He said that since the majority of Americans identify as Christian (65%, according to the Pew Research Center), much of the job of the Church today is leading people back to God.
“I think we live in a time of unprecedented opportunity,” said Ferguson, who's also the “visionary and movement leader” for the NewThing Network that Community Christian Church started “to be a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches relentlessly dedicated to helping people find their way back to God,” his conference biography stated.
He explained that a doctoral dissertation he received in an email helped him develop a new ministry strategy. The work followed the activity of missionaries to Thailand divided into two groups: “Converters” seeking to give people information so they would come to receive Christ and “Blessers,” who simply desired to help others and befriend them. After two years, the converters had led two individuals to the Lord, the blessers about 100.
Ferguson recognized the study as using the Genesis 12 strategy of blessing. “I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing,” God tells Abraham in the chapter’s second verse.
The pastor then devised a system to witness for Christ called BLESS. The acronym stands for B, begin with prayer; L, listen with care; E, eat together; S, serve in love; and the last S, share your story. He showcased the concept by discussing his time with Kinne, whom he met when each had a son running on cross country teams in high school.
Kinne was a high-powered businessman schooled in practicality and constantly on the go. “I really did not have any relationship with God. I didn’t think about it; it wasn’t a goal or objective of mine,” he recalled in the conference video. “My mentality was, if you want to get something done, you can really only rely on you.”
However, Ferguson would talk with him at events, and Kinne one day said to the pastor, “We should have breakfast together.” They started meeting regularly.
Not too many days later, Kinne told Ferguson about the devastating loss of his best friend, who died years earlier in front of him in a car accident ruled to have been Kinne’s fault. He said that he'd tried to live two lives ever since then: his own and one for his friend.
Ferguson started praying for him, and he began attending church. Kinne said he began to see God’s humility in his sons, with one following the Lord faithfully, another with severe autism but without an ego.
The pastor invited him to a home group. Kinne was nervous about it but ended up enjoying the fellowship.
Kinne said “the tipping point” was the 20th anniversary of the accident that claimed his best friend. He said he came to the conclusion he needed to talk and pray out that burden, which felt like a “bag of bricks.”
“I finally realized every time I talked about it, I was taking a brick out of my bag,” he said. “For most of my life, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness, and what I’ve come to realize is asking for help is really a sign of strength.
“If you really want some help and you really want to go to the right place, the best place to go is asking God for help and accepting Jesus into your life.”
The businessman did, and Ferguson baptized him a short time later. “I didn’t baptize Michael just because I was the pastor of the church and the pastor gets to baptize people,” he said. "I got to baptize him because he was my friend.”
Ferguson also referenced a study showing one-third of people are interested in having spiritual conversations, stressing that churches need to equip members to have those kinds of talks. He also said the desire to bless others is key.
The FutureFWD2020 conference was sponsored by several businesses catering to pastors and their congregations. They include Financial Planning Ministry, Study Gateway and Leadership Pathway. The all-access replay pass can be purchased here.