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Length: 3-minute read
The Prodigal SonS.
Two sons – one strayed and one stayed.
But both lost.
One lost in the world. One lost in the House.
2022 – the Year of the Lost Sons.
Before the pandemic, the church and pastors focused on the ‘son’ who is lost in the world.
But now, we need to also focus on the ‘son’ who is lost in the House.
Metaphorically the House has gotten broader, or rather more vague and loose. I would consider online viewers in the House, but are they planted in the House? Hmmm. The definition of faithfulness has been redefined. The benchmark for a faithful Christian used to be regular weekly, in-person attendance.
Pastors’ dashboard metrics also changed accordingly. It used to be simple – we count on-site, in-person, ‘butts-on-seats’ attendance. But now pastors measure ‘likes’, ‘clicks’, ‘follows’, ‘views’ and ‘subscriptions’. Nowadays, I notice pastors talk about ‘reach’ instead of attendance.
All these mean that when David wrote in Psalms – “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the House of the Lord” – now we need to ask the Psalmist if he is glad to go online or on-site?
Being planted in the House of the Lord has certainly gotten more vague. This also means that millions of Christians are churched and yet not planted.
It used to be churched or unchurched. Lost or saved.
The pandemic pivot to online has given rise to a new category of Christians – churched yet unplanted.
These are Christians who are Lost in the House. They are drifting online, intermittent and distant.
So how do we bring back the lost ‘sons’ in the House?
The son was in the House but had no relationship with the Father.
Proximity does not equate to Intimacy.
His brother may be far physically but he is as far relationally.
The prodigal son was far from home, while the other son was near home.
‘Near’ does not mean ‘close’ to the Father.
He was estranged from the Father… a stranger in the House.
Here’s the key – Relationship with the Father.
If 2022 is the year to bring back the lost sons and daughters, then I would focus on Relationship with the Father.
From this parable, you can tell that the other son had a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Father. As a church, we need to undo all that. We need to present and represent the Father better.
In the previous article I wrote about some simple ways to bring lost sheep home.
Now I want to share about what NOT to do.
3 ways to lose the sons and daughters permanently.
1. Don’t get them back just to ‘attend’ your church.
True story – one youth was sharing that she was away from church for months. She left partly because of the church closures but also because she was having difficulties connecting with other youths in the group. One day, her youth pastor contacted her and essentially told her: “If I were to meet you to hear you out, then you gotta promise me that you will come back to church regularly.”
Exactly what not to do.
The end goal is not attending church. The end goal is relationship.
People feel it – when all you want is for them to come so that you can check your attendance box. I guess that is why I hear many people comment that churches are really friendly but not real friends.
Families who are tight grow closer in a crisis. We have just experienced the greatest crisis in our generation, so you would think that spiritual families would close ranks and grow closer. But the opposite is happening, so perhaps they didn’t feel like they are a spiritual family after all but just attending services.
2. Don’t ‘guilt’ them back to attend your church.
Don’t tell them you miss them unless you really mean it. Don’t patronize young people.
Lost sons and daughters should miss church. They should miss the worship… miss the Presence of God.
If they don’t, it’s something deeper.
Work on the root problem.
3. Don’t need to impress them about your church.
Only fans need to be impressed.
If you are a parent, you will totally understand this. You may be able to impress the world, but not your own teenagers. Lost sons and daughters have seen it all. So they don’t need a show. They want real relationship and authentic character.
But whatever it is, don’t just do nothing.
Do something. Give the Holy Spirit something to work with.
Take the shot, like David. God will laser-guide the stone to Goliath’s head.
Go for low-hanging fruits.
Celebrate small wins.
We got this.
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Thank you SP How, for teaching me to have a relationship with others first, it’s not about the KPI, it’s about the relationship, being a friend.
WOW SP, this is a total mindset shift.. it really realigned my heart back to why we do what we do. Never just about that +1 to our weekly attendance but it’s people & the relationships that is important. They can come back to church every week but they may not have a real relationship with God.. the same way, they can come back every week but we may not have a relationship with them. As a youth myself, this generation is about being authentic raw & real. Pastoral work is never just about getting people back for services but we need to be with them, go in to love them and build them.. there’s so much truth & wisdom in this article, thank you for sharing Pastor!
Wow there is really so much truth, heart and wisdom shared in this article. Love how Pastor How emphasised that at the end of the day, it’s more than just people tuning in to online services or just attending in-person services because they have to, but it’s them wanting to have a relationship with God that is more important. Being a Christian since young, I saw how having a relationship with God is what kept me always going to God and seeking Him in my highs and lows. And it makes my life so much more significant. Won’t trade this for anything in the world. ◡̈
WOW!. Even though it said it was a 3 minutes read, it was really a mind-shifting 3 minutes which will impact my how I am able to get back the sons and daughters and allow them to experience the love of God again.
I find the statement “They want real relationship and authentic character.” Its so true!, I think even with the amazing lights, sounds and projections, ultimately is the relationship we have with the person and our personal character which is the most important aspect that will ultimately bring them back to God!. Thanks Pastor How for this amazing article :D.
OMG SP!! This is such a mindset shift!! This will really change the way i think of reaching out and planning outings! I agree!! our end goal should be to start them on a relationship with God and not just to attend church every weekend!!
Thank you for this article Pastor How!
I can feel the love and conviction you have for God, the Church and every single son and daughter in what you write… yes, we need to present and represent the Father better… and the end goal is authenticity instead of attendance, and relationship instead of reach…
Love the Spirit-led wisdom to focus on the root, deeper problems…
Excited to #BringThemHome in 2022!
This article has brought so much clarity to what’s really happening in churches all over the world! As a pastoral leader, this is definitely the direction this season.. Thank you Pastor How for imparting so much wisdom – now we know what to do and what not to do in winning the lost sheep!
We need to present and represent the Father better, we got to bring back the lost sons and daughters!
This is so good! It’s truly something that we all need to think about and consider, and act upon in this season!! It’s always about the people and never about the number! Thank you Pastor for sharing this!!! #BringThemHome
This is gold! Every church / ministry needs to hear this… We come back to church because we miss our Father, the presence of God and the relationships in church!
Wow this article really brings so much clarity especially to pastoral leaders. What Pastor How shared is so true proximity does not equal to intimacy. In this time, it is so important not just to get people to attend church but to pull people closer to hunger and have a relationship with God Himself and the church family
Thank you Pastor How for yet another amazing article that is packed with wisdoms and discernment.
I am so stirred by the insights that Pastor How has towards the entire climate of Christianity during this endemic. Whilst society moves towards the “new normal”, we the church and Christians must never settle with what Covid has morphed us into.
And at the end of the day, I am convinced that the church plays a big part in connecting the people back to God – we must really step up and bring the lost, whether in or not in church back to God because of their personal relationship with God is indeed the most important. And the responsibility rests on us, we are the bridge who will bring them back to God.
Wow SP this is super insightful and full of wisdom! It’s true getting back the lost sons and daughters are just not for attendance marking or a KPI, but it’s really to lead them to the person of God!
Many years ago I was once like that son that’s lost in the house, but I remember it was really the genuine relationships and presence of God that eventually won me over. It’s like what SPs you’ve always shared with us – focus on doing the important and not the impressive! We need to win the lost sons and daughters! #BringThemHome #BringOn2022