Sharon Bollum on "Love, Hope, and Faith" TV program. Watch Now

The Beginning of 40 Churches in 40 Weeks

I’m Sharon Bollum.  I’ve served our Lord and His church since 1995 in various forms of ministry roles in several different churches and denominations. I have worked hard alongside some very dedicated and talented ministry leaders over the years.  I’ve been part of some truly great things and I’ve survived some pretty awful stuff. I LOVE serving God. I love His church. I love being a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Being a servant comes easily. Starting a movement is definitely not easy. Every day I think of another reason why someone smarter than I, more experienced than I, more talented than I should lead this project. Every day, God moves me forward anyway. I find myself surrounded by a team of brilliant people and that team is growing larger every day. We are all so enthusiastic about 40 Churches in 40 WeeksTM. The potential for blessing the church and glorifying God is without limits. When I think about all the people I know who love God but have become frustrated with church I know we’re on the right track.

Throughout my years of ministry I shared the responsibility for generating vision, building ministries, helping others to integrate into the community, pastoral care and counseling. I am well acquainted with the disenchantment and frustration that plagues both the church leaders and the people migrating from church to church looking for something meaningful… and someplace to call home. I worked very hard and dug as deep as I could go to find the winning combination that would inspire church members to grow and view their church life as an important and defining part of their everyday lives. 

It’s a lot easier said than done. Anyone who’s worked in church ministry can tell you that. It’s really tough trying to be all things to all people. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.

Boy does that describe ministry life! We really do attempt to be all things to all people don’t we? I can’t help but laugh a little as I remember some of the more creative things we did over the years to captivate and inspire people to stop long enough to listen a little more closely and consider a little more seriously the invitation and introduction to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Mostly we had a great time but every once in a while … well, think belly flop! My all-time favorite disaster was the Great Chili Cook-off of 1999. We had church members cook up their best recipe and then bring it to the front of a local grocery store where we would be serving FREE chili dogs to every patron that happened by. The idea might have been a good one if it hadn’t been July; or 112 degrees outside. Popsicles would have worked better. Maybe watermelon? But NO one wanted a chilidog. We were practically chasing down cars trying to give them away. Meanwhile the BBQ grill flames came dangerously close to setting off the sprinkler system inside the store. The various pots of chili coagulated under the scorching sun and not one of them was fit to win a Blue Ribbon by the time the judging even started. The entire event was an embarrassing disaster. Funny as heck, but definitely a disaster.

Several years ago I began to question whether or not the things we had done in ministry had resulted in meaningful growth for the people we served. Was all that hard work creating new Disciples? Was it raising up new leaders or deepening devotion to God? Was church really impacting people’s lives; or was it mostly just a routine part of the Christian lifestyle? A social club that meets on Sundays. Were the people in the church really growing and changing as a result of all the hours and effort that went into creating the programs, events and weekend services? On the whole, probably not much. It was the same 80/10/10 rule you find everywhere: About 10% of the people were “on fire” for God and were actively pursuing a growing knowledge of Christ and how they could serve Him and become more like Him. About 10% were only there because someone forced them into it. And about 80% enjoyed Sunday morning church but they weren’t affected or changed by it. Worse, they didn’t seem to understand that they were supposed to be.

I believe in the local church. I also believe that we can do better. I believe that there are many wonderful church leaders who are beating their heads against the wall trying to compete with a culture that insists on “great service” but are too busy to serve. A culture who chooses their church based on a menu of programs to meet their needs but don’t understand how much the church needs them to make that happen. And on the other hand there are MANY Christians who long to grow! If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say they were looking for a new church because they weren’t getting anything out of their current church experience, I’d have enough money to start a new church! People actually do hunger for something deeper. People want to be inspired. The people of God long to be close to Him. They are counting on their church to help them get there. When it doesn’t they either settle for whatever is laid before them or they leave in search of a new type of church.

There are lots of different types of Christian churches to choose from. The Traditional church, the Contemporary church, The Post Modern Movement, the Emergent Church, Home Churches, Para Churches… and I love them all. I wonder though, if rather than trying to reinvent the wheel if we would do well to examine who we are on the inside rather than who we are according to the sign out front.

No matter what style the ministry or how famous the pastor; a church filled with people who aren’t learning and growing is not going to please God. People who attend church on a regular basis but don’t become ever more changed into the image of Christ are in no better state than those who sleep in every Sunday.

Churches are supposed to be a launching pad for a life in Christ, not a landing place for people who have learned as much as they feel they need to know to get from here to heaven.

  1. Are there any churches out there building Disciples who truly live what they say they believe?
  2. Are there any churches out there growing because they are bringing new people to Faith in Christ rather than drawing members away from other churches?

The answer is Yes.

We believe that there are lots and lots of churches out there who are not just filled with people, but filled with the presence of God and His Spirit. And we’re going to find some. We want to get a very close look at the qualities that are operating that generate Life – not just popularity.

The hope is that by visiting 40 churches in 40 weeks we can accomplish 3 things,

  1. Infuse church leaders and church members with fresh hope and inspiration to create the kind of church they really want to be a part of.
  2. Raise the banner over churches that seem to have discovered how to connect people to God in such a way that they become increasingly uncomfortable with their own character weaknesses and are compelled by their love for God…to change.

We invite you to follow us as we visit 40 Churches in 40 Weeks in 2014. Join the Journey by signing up today. You can help by sharing your experiences, your insights and most of all your prayers. 

Sharon Bollum
Called into full-time church ministry in 1995, Sharon has served as a Children’s Pastor, Community Pastor, Pastoral Counselor and Associate Pastor. Sharon lives in Fair Oaks CA with her husband of 31 years, and their pampered dogs.

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