Jack Hayford's vision for church: Build Big People

I admire Jack Hayford about as much as anyone on the planet. He is devoted to God. He has led a life of integrity. He is a pastor and leader of undisputed greatness. I have long known these things about him. What I didn't know was what Pastor Jack's approach was to church, and this has made me appreciate him all the more.

Jack took over pastoral leadership of Church on the Way in 1969. From Church on the Way's website, this is the record of his original vision for that church (which, when he got there, numbered some 25 people): "Pastor Jack spoke about the vision to build big people, not necessarily a big church: 'I see us as becoming a truly ministry-minded church. The Lord Jesus is our center. The Word of God is our base. The Holy Spirit, filling us to extend the servant-life of Jesus outward -- that's our objective... This will not be a pastor-centered ministry, but a people-centered ministry.'"

As I wrestle with the essence of what church is, I am struck with Pastor Jack's clarity. The church is to grow people. The church is people-centered -- not in a narcissistic or indulgent way but in a way that grabs God's own heart for people. And God's heart for people is unimaginably huge. I remember a couple of years ago, I felt God speak to me very directly: "The church is about people. Never forget that." And yet, my experience in pastoral ministry has shown that people are often quickly forgotten in favor of ministry objectives and church programs, all of which are slathered in pious language.

Recently my mom said to me in a phone conversation, "One thing I have learned over the years is that the people are the church." That is, church isn't a building or an organization. It is a living community. In the swirl of theories and methodologies of how to do church "successfully," I am refreshed today to listen in on Pastor Jack's comments to his congregation 41 years ago. He got it right.

Incidentally, Church on the Way has gone on to become one of the largest churches in North America. Hayford and others there attribute the growth to God's sovereignty, not their leadership. In 1969, they felt God convey to them that "he had purposed" to do a great work in that church and for them not to get in the way by thinking small thoughts. Jack focused on the people and let God take care of the growth. Now there's a lesson for leaders of any kind.

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