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Reighard intended NorthStar as innovative from inception

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“We’re getting out of the church and into the community. We’re trying to love people until they ask us why,” said Ike Reighard, pastor of the innovative NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga.
Begun just four months ago northwest of Atlanta, NorthStar had 365 in attendance when its first service was held Jan. 5 in a hotel conference center. Reighard soon moved worship services to a high school auditorium because of continual growth in worship attendance, which now averages 750 per week.
Reighard, on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary April 22-24, presented the seminary’s annual Gurney Evangelism Lecture Series during the chapel hour, describing the innovative approach his church has adopted to reach its community for Christ. He also presented a two-day conference, “Effective Preaching: Communicating the Gospel in Today’s Culture,” at the seminary’s Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth.
With experience as both a youth minister and pastor over the past 25 years, Reighard cited research of George Barna, Leith Anderson, Rick Warren and others as he explained ministry today must focus on evangelizing America’s urban centers and reaching individuals uninvolved in church life.
Reviewing current and developing trends in society, such as the accessibility of international communication and information to the individual, the dramatic growth of America’s cities and contemporary mobility and demographic changes, Reighard said, “In a world where there’s so much chaos and change, it’s nice to know that Christ is unchanging.”
He and others organized NorthStar “to introduce the unchanging Savior to the changing community,” Reighard said, while at the same time “starting a church differently.”
Groundwork began in October 1996, he said, by first locating an area in need of a church. Through demographic study he found the Kennesaw area to be 65 percent unchurched and then — before they even had a building or congregation — he pulled together a full, full-time staff, “diverse, not lily-white,” Reighard said, “so all will feel included” in the wide range of programs the church would have to offer, including music, preschool, youth and other unique ministry programs for men and women in various stages of life.
Curious to see “what kind of an impact” a new church could have on a community if it were “a quick start,” Reighard said, “we had a preseason,” describing NorthStar’s beginnings with support and resources from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board and Sunday School Board, the Georgia Baptist Convention and the local Noonday Baptist Association, as well as individuals interested in supporting a new church.
Outreach, preliminary to the first church service, began with cell Bible studies called “Good Neighbor” groups. “People in the neighborhood went to people in the neighborhood,” Reighard said. From the start, he emphasized “there is a place for everyone in the ministry.”
It is not appropriate for church members to believe the church exists to meet their needs, Reighard said.
“If church members feel the church staff is there to meet their needs, then the church will grow only as much as the church staff can meet their needs. …
“But if church members feel they are ministers, then the church will be limited only by how many people will fit in the facility,” Reighard said of NorthStar’s emphasis on the mission of the church to reach people for Christ rather than on caring for facilities.
NorthStar was planned from the start to be “outreach-focused,” Reighard said. They had several community mission opportunities ready-to-go from the beginning, he said, including a crisis pregnancy center, hospice care, an adopt-a-grandparent ministry and a free service of car oil changes for single mothers, thereby offering “total personhood outreach.”
“A church has got to go in and make a difference in the community,” Reighard said. “We are going to have to take church out of the box and put it into the community. … Church is something we do daily.”
Describing NorthStar’s plan to remain an outreach-focused church, Reighard gave four aspects to the outreach strategy:
— evangelistic outreach: using personal evangelism and traditional event evangelism.
— servanthood examples: taking the church into the community to make a difference.
— world missions emphasis: understanding missions through education and giving missionaries support.
— total personhood outreach: caring for individual needs.
“We look at where we can go out and begin to make a difference,” Reighard said. “We try to meet physical needs by being proactive.” His church staff includes an associate pastor whose job description is “to be pastor to the community.”
“A pastor needs to create vehicles for doing something with the information presented in the sermons,” Reighard said. “Information without application brings frustration, and frustrated church members fuss and fight. But I’ve never seen a growing church that sits around fighting.”
The most effective outreach has been the use of laypeople in the church to lead Good Neighbor groups and head up new areas of ministry as needs are discovered, he said.
Reighard suggested the role a pastor can play in creating an outreach-focused church includes:
— sharing the vision to reach the lost.
— stating the vision with clarity.
— understanding the pre-conversion process.
— developing new “doors” for people to enter the church.
— using a celebration style of worship.
— keeping preaching relevant.
Reighard’s first pastorate was New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., where he began serving in 1978 after five and a half years as a youth minister.
Under Reighard’s 18 years of leadership, New Hope baptized more than 3,200 people and started three mission churches. In a 1986 HMB study, New Hope was listed as the second-fastest growing church in the SBC. In a 1987 study by the state of Georgia, New Hope was listed as the state’s fastest-growing church of any denomination.
Before he started NorthStar Church, Reighard, 46, was the senior associate pastor at Atlanta’s First Baptist Church and was pastor to the church’s satellite congregation during 1996.

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