by Alex E. Andrews
Many people have asked, “Why is Bayside growing so rapidly?” Some have said it’s a specific process or program. Bayside Community Church growth may be attributed to some of these strategies, but in its simplest form, it is our DNA. To unpackage it a bit more, Bayside has a core value that the founding pastor, Randy Bezet, lives. We call it being “life-giving.” In addition to our pastor living this way, he has been able to ensure that his leadership teams also possess this quality. In essence, being life-giving is how we do life at Bayside.
A life-giving person is someone who has decided to live his life by focusing on the love and grace of the Lord Jesus as opposed to the law. It’s not just a saying; it is a way of living a daily personal relationship with Christ, with great dependence and expectation.
People are attracted to life-giving people.
Others sense when people have an overflow of the love of Christ. This “life-giving” nature attracts people and helps them feel immediately welcome and at home. It is a reflection of the life-giving nature within our recreated spirits. All Christ-followers have the capacity to be life-giving; however, it’s not automatic. This nature must be released through our wills. Simply put, we decide to be life-giving.
Life-giving people smile…a lot!
Life-giving people have smiles on their faces a lot of the time. Their joy is attractive and engaging. They are loving and helpful. They are enthusiastic and selfless. They decide to think the best of others and are confident, not cocky. They also have a passion for empowering those around them. That’s the overflow of the love of Christ at work.
It is said that Abraham Lincoln, when he was president of the U.S., was advised to include a certain man in his cabinet. When he refused, he was asked why he would not accept him.
“I don’t like his face,” the President replied.
“But the poor man isn’t responsible for his face,” responded his advocate.
“Every man over forty is responsible for his face,” countered Lincoln.
Life-givers are full of infectious joy
“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.” ~ Mark Twain
The reason joy comes in the morning is because it has to be fresh. It’s about opportunity, creativity and getting another chance to make a difference in someone else’s life. And just like the miracle of the fish and loaves, it grows every time we break off a piece of it and give it away. Joy bleeds away the stiffness of uncomfortable situations. It warms the hearts of those who are sad. It’s infectious! To get the full value of joy we must have someone to share it with, so start with your family, your staff, and then all others. There is nothing like joy in the natural w or l d .
So be the thermostat and set the temperature in the room to “JOY.”
Life-givers are loving.
Relational pastors know that churches don’t grow without the key element of relationships: love. When people visit your church, do they get a sense that the people there really love each other? I’m talking about outside-the-church-walls kind of love. Are they spending time together, not just doing church, but also doing life together?
Being a life-giving person means loving people, and not just on Sunday mornings. Hanging out together must be planned. It must be put into your Google calendar, your Blackberry or your smart phone.
“Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.” ~ Zig Ziglar
We Have Fun.
“Churches are really just like local bars, the difference is they serve up a different kind of spirit” ~A.E. Anderson
Life-giving people are always up to some kind of fun. Relational churches are like relational families. They have fun. I mean a lot of fun! Fun is a natural part of everything they do. You can tell it from the greeters in the parking lot to the weekend message. Have fun. Have fun for yourself and for the sake of others.
Have fun in the halls…Have fun in the messages…Have fun in the meetings…Have fun in your small groups… Have fun at adopt-a-block…Have fun in the annual performance reviews… yes, even then! Celebrate everything you can think of from birthdays to salvations. Just have fun all the time. It feels good, and others are attracted to it!
Life-givers are enthusiastic.
Originally, the word enthusiasm meant “a person possessed by a god.” Christ followers are no exception, but they are possessed by the God.
“Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.” Zig Ziglar
“It’s not what happens to me that matters, but what happens in me.” ~John Maxwell
It’s not just the good times in our lives that others are drawn to, but how we respond to those “other times,” as well. In fact, our response to those other times is what strengthens relationships and causes churches to rally around one another.
Life-givers think the best of others.
Seek understanding before you fall into the sin of judgment. This is part of the life-giving vocabulary that reflects the culture of a relational church.
It’s really hard to think at all when we are hurting. The feelings of disappointment, stress, or even anger that we feel at the time, are real. But how many times have we all wished that we had waited and asked a few more questions before we acted, based on how things appeared? Relationships take time and a whole lot of seeking understanding. Having the ‘first response’ to seek understanding requires a decision to think the best first. In a life-giving, relational church, this is one of the most critical habits to master, but well worth the self-discipline and emotional investment. It keeps small things small and allows big things to be worked out between staff, leaders and members. Think the best and seek understanding.
Life-givers are confident
Self-confidence does not necessarily imply self-belief or a belief in one’s ability to succeed. For instance, we may be inept at a particular sport or activity, but remain confident in our demeanor, simply because we don’t place a great deal of emphasis on the outcome, i.e., the win or the loss. When we decide not to dwell on negative consequences, we can become more self-confident because we are not worrying about failure or the disapproval of others. We are then able to focus on the actual situation, which means that enjoyment and success in that situation are also more likely.
“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”~ Zig Ziglar
Life-givers empower others.
One of the principles of Relational Church Growth is “Giving Ministry Away.” Only a life-giving, confident person can empower others to take their job. It’s so counter-intuitive.
Many people of the world are trying to climb that corporate ladder while stepping on the fingers of the person behind them. For someone to enthu-siastically want to help another get ahead, at what seems like his/her own expense, well it’s…just not normal!
Giving honest compliments and taking the time to listen is very em-powering. It helps others feel valued. In addition, giving others the opportunity to fail, with you there to give helpful, life-giving feedback, is crucial to developing and empowering your leaders. Only life-giving leaders will truly empower leaders at that level without being either intimidated or fearful. Few will have the courage, but those who do will set a standard for relational growth that will create great leadership capacity. This is every bit as important in sustaining church growth as having enough empty seats at opportune times.
New Cultural Language
New cultural change starts with new vocabulary. Most cultures transmit their DNA through what they celebrate and through their languages. Here are just a few of Bayside Community Church buzz words:
Smile a lot
Just for fun, here is a checklist of things you can do to help create and cultivate an even higher life-giving nature in your church community. Cut up and joke together as a staff. Think of funny things and smile a lot.
Do fun things together. Go ride go-carts.
Surprise each other and do unexpected kind and loving things.
Start all meetings with praise reports.
Decide not to judge other’s actions. Take them at face value and seek understanding if you don’t understand.
Enthusiastically support each other.
Here’s a few interesting results of all this crazy life-giving activity.
You create a fun place to work.
Newcomers will sense the life-giving nature their very first time at church.
People will stay and the church will grow.
You will attract other life-giving people. More life-giving members, volunteers and staff will come.
The community will notice.
Church becomes a fun place to hang out.
Salvations will increase along with everything else that is life-giving.
Hey, give this crazy life-giving “thing” a try and let me know what happens!
Alex E. Anderson serves as a Senior Associate Pastor and strategist at Bayside Community Church in Bradenton/Sarasota, Florida. Bayside was named by Outreach Magazine in 2011 as the 10th Fastest Growing Church in America. He also serves as the Vice President of Relate Coaching, relational church growth specialist.
He writes the monthly Spiritual Wellness column for the southwestFlorida’s Health and Wellness Magazineand is the author of the book,Dangerous Prayers.
Alex has been married for over 28 years to his best friend, Kim Anderson, and together they eventually raised three children. He has been a minister for over 30 years, but don’t hold that against him. He was also a businessman for 18 of those years.