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Houston pastor tells how church grew after becoming more ‘kingdom-focused’

PHOENIX (BP)–Sal Sberna, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston, found himself at a crossroads seven years ago. Like the Pharisees who questioned Jesus, Sberna described how he started questioning what he was doing as a pastor and what his church was doing to change lives.

“My problem was that I was a church-focused leader — not a Kingdom-focused leader,” said Sberna, speaking at a LeaderLife luncheon hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources June 16 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Phoenix.

Sberna said he began asking himself why people felt so uncomfortable with “sinners or outsiders.”

“Outsiders felt comfortable around Jesus Christ because he was the ultimate outsider,” Sberna said. “I started asking myself — do people who don’t know Jesus feel like they can come to a place and feel like God loves them there?”

A massive change began taking place in Sberna’s approach as a pastor and within his church.

“We had to understand people the way Jesus understood people,” Sberna said. “Your focus must be in a constant state of evangelism.”

Partnering with LifeWay’s church resources division, Sberna said his church took what they felt were necessary steps toward becoming Kingdom-focused. They canceled Sunday night services in order to implement LifeWay’s FAITH Sunday School-based witnessing program. They made changes to music. And Sberna changed the way he was preaching to what he described as “more authentic and more transparent.”

The changes are working. The church has grown from 1,250 in Sunday School to more than 2,800 — with an average of 3,400 in worship. More than 400 church members participate in FAITH outreach each week and more than 2,200 people have accepted Christ, he said.

All of this has occurred in seven years.

“LifeWay is committed to connecting with pastors for life … [and] providing solutions and developing relationships with our pastors,” said Jay Johnston, director of LifeWay’s church ministry leadership area. LeaderLife is a part of the LeaderCare area.

Gene Mims, president of LifeWay’s church resources division and author of the new book, “The Kingdom Focused Church,” pointed out the number of times Jesus mentions the word “church” in the Bible compared to the word “Kingdom.”

“Jesus doesn’t mention the word church that often,” Mims said. “But over 900 times, the Lord speaks about the Kingdom of God.”

Mims encouraged pastors to become Kingdom-focused in their ministries and to realize the importance of embracing a fresh approach to ministry and evangelism.

“If you will get a Kingdom focus, you will never have to worry about your priorities,” Mims said. “Every person we meet is worth redeeming — every person is worth being transformed.”
LifeWay will offer a Kingdom Focused Church Conference in October. For more information, contact LifeWay at 1-800-254-2022 or go to www.lifeway.com.

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  • Sara Horn