Category Archives: Church
- The people that have left your church are not coming back.
- Your sponsor church is probably not going to send you any more people.
- If you have denominational funding, it will not flow forever.
- You might attract a few people from another church with a “night of worship” or “Deeper Bible Studies” or “the best ___ ministry in the area” but there’ll eventually be more attractive shows than yours.
- There are not likely to be an influx of evangelicals move into your community.
The answer for the questions, “How do we grow?” “How do we survive?” “How do we turn it around?” AND “How do we grow the kingdom?” “How do we obey Jesus?” IS:
“GO and MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL nations…” Matthew 28:19.
The solution Jesus gives us for church health, kingdom growth, world transformation is REACHING NEW PEOPLE WITH THE GOSPEL. And it’s a solution with “ALL AUTHORITY” backing it (Matthew 28:18).
Not new or better staff, facilities, music, kids ministry, etc. Those are steps along the way of a churches obedience to Jesus’ great solution.
What solutions are you seeking? If it doesn’t include taking the gospel to unchurched people in your community and beyond, SCRAP IT & start over at Matthew 28:18-20.
Sunday night two churches connected that are on the opposite sides of a couple of church growth barriers. The church that’s broken those barriers was Bedico Baptist Church. Located in a fairly remote, rural area on Hwy 22 between Ponchatoula & Madisonville, LA, the church has grown from 27 to near 400 in regular attendance in about 15 years. Last night three lay leaders from Bedico got together to share what they thought were keys to breaking growth barriers & growing a rural church beyond expectations. Here’s what they said were the keys:
- Prayer & Faith.
- Putting the needs of the unchurched ahead of our own.
- Intentional processes for developing people.
I’ll add a couple of keys from personal involvement & observations with Bedico:
- Increased Missions Involvement.
- A Culture of Yes.
Prayer & Faith
When asked what was the number one key to growth, the answer was PRAYER. Glenn Sanchez, retired school teacher who ended up serving on staff with Bedico, said the most important thing that happened was starting a prayer partner ministry that got people praying together for the spiritual needs of the church & community. He said, “When we involve God, we get what God can do, not just what we can do.”
Margaret Wedgeworth came to the church in 1970 & served as a leader during several stages of growth, talked about how many issues came up that there was no human answer for, but God provided when people prayed.
Caleb Miller, who was 10 when he came to the church & now serves as Youth Minister, also said that from a young age he saw how important prayer was to the ministry of the church.
Putting the needs of the unchurched ahead of our own
Margaret Wedgeworth said that she remembered a meeting where the former Pastor Leo Miller, said to the church, “If we’re going to reach this community, we’ve got to look past what people wear, look like, & the color of their skin.” She said she believes that was the point when Bedico began to grow. The condition of the heart & soul became more important to the church than outward appearance.
According to Sanchez, the church put a real emphasis on the unchurched. The clear mission of reaching unchurched people for Christ became a filter for decisions & event planning. Some church events were even moved off site just because unchurched people might not attend if it was at the church. Members were challenged to host home Bible Studies not inviting friends at church but unchurched neighbors, friends, & relatives. Then when they came, not feed them coffee & cookies, but steak & fried fish.
Bedico also had the goal of becoming known in the community. The church is in a fairly remote area & many people didn’t pass by so to become known they focused on community outreach. At one point the church sent out postcards to the community asking if they needed any repairs on their homes. Hundreds of members served specific needs of the community. They conducted Block Parties, Crawfish Boils at members homes & local community centers, etc. ”When we got out, people began to come in” said Sanchez.
Intentional Processes to Develop People
Margaret Wedgeworth recalled intentional efforts to connect with guest & people in need in the community through sending cards & praying for them. The church also started a New Members Class & a Meet Bedico Baptist Church Info Meeting to introduce church life & membership to those new to church. The church restructured internally from committees to ministry teams that were focused on getting everyone involved. Sanchez said, “When we were able to get people connected with a small group & a ministry team, we found they stayed with us for the long haul.”
Leaders also emphasized daily quiet times as a part of growing the church. Intentional effort was made to reach new people & then help them grow.
A few other things I’ve noted as keys to growth as I’ve been a part of Bedico’s story over the past 4 years:
- Increased Mission Involvement. In 1997 & before, the church reported on it Annual Church Profile a big zero under mission involvement. Beginning in 2002, that began to change. In 2002, 40 people participated in missions. In 2007, 68 participated in missions & in 2010, 136 participated in missions. Along with an increase in missions participation, Bedico sent out 12 people & over $60,000 to start a new church in a neighboring community.
- A Culture of Yes. I can say that I’ve experienced a “can do” spirit from the people of Bedico Baptist Church. As a congregation they see the possibilities, they’re not afraid to make sacrifices & face challenges. And over the past few years, I’ve asked some crazy questions: “Can I borrow 100 tables?” – “Can you house 100 volunteers in your SS rooms?” – “Can we park four trailers in your parking lot?” & more, but have always gotten, “Yes, we can do that!”
Today Bedico is working on breaking the 400 Growth Barrier but continue to reach unchurched people in their remote community. In a state where 82% of the churches are 125 & below, we need more breakout stories like Bedico’s if we’ll continue to push back the darkness into the next generation.
What have been keys to growth at your church? Does your church have prayer, reaching the unchurched, & intentional discipleship as part of its makeup? Growth takes intentionality.
- “What difference does it make if your church grows but the community stays the same?”
- “If community transformation became the measure of our success, how would our churches and our communities look different?”
- “If the church were absent from the community would anyone miss it except for its own members?”
- “If you asked someone in your community who doesn’t go to your church what your church is known for, what would they say?”
- “How sad we’ve settled for a growing campus instead of striving for a transformed community.”
Challenging questions/quotes from Bob Roberts books Transformation & Multiplying Church that have pushed me to measure more than just the nickels & noses on Sunday’s at church. It’s easier to count nickels & noses & its more instantly gratifying. Now, after four years of insisting on community impact along with a growing crowd on Sunday, we’ve found the community tallying up our success for us.
This week officials from our local sheriff’s dept called to confirm some of the numbers from our ministry called Project 180. It’s a 26-week Discipleship/Recovery Course that seeks to prepare men in local work releases for re-entry into society after incarceration. We currently have over 125 men in the course in two facilities. We’ve had over 500 men participate since 2010 & 210 have completed the course & been rewarded with time off their sentence by the Dept of Corrections. The sheriff’s dept informed us that these numbers mean that our program has saved tax payers around $238,000 since 2010. They’re also tracking a decrease in recidivism (inmates returning to jail after release, which costs on average $24,000 per year) & credit programs like ours for helping with that. Great to see the community measuring the impact of the body of Christ!
And for us, we’re still tracking the church growth stuff as well. 30+ men have been baptized, over 100 have been saved, over 100 have participated in a Sunday morning Bible Study at the jail each week, and over 100 volunteers have served at the facility.
How is the community measuring the impact of your church? What is a big need in your community that your church could begin to address? Where is the church not, & how can you go there to bring community transformation?
2 Corinthians 4:5 HCSB
What thought do people walk away from our churches with? “That church does cool things” or “Jesus Christ is Lord”? In today’s world of ministry design & branding, which I love, I don’t want 2 Corinthians 4:5 to be untrue of my church. If people walk away with knowledge of how to weave through our church system, but without Jesus, we fail. If I spend more time talking about how cool my church is than I do about Jesus, I fall short of giving them something of eternal value. If I invite people to church, but not to Jesus, I may be just another of millions of sales pitches a person hears along their journey through life.
Logos, signs, T-shirts, websites, Facebook banners, Series graphics will fade away. So lets be sure our ministry design doesn’t overshadow & points people directly to the truth: Jesus Christ is Lord!
Transfer Growth is the term church leaders use when members swap churches. It’s not the preferred method of church growth, but accepted as part of ministry in our “church of your choice” culture. This topic makes for a lot of hallway conversation at Pastor’s conferences & is brought up as issues of concern for pastors in regard to church planting & revitalization efforts. I’ve written about the Transfer Growth Boogie Monster & its implications for church multiplication. There ARE good reasons for Christians to transfer, i.e. moving to a new community, being led by the Spirit to connect with another church’s mission, or being sent out by a church to start something new. And bad reasons: “I’m not getting fed”, difficulty in relationships, “they’re too judgemental” – i.e. the church confronted my sin, wanting to disconnect from responsibility to serve. Here are some of the issues that transfer growth creates and has created for the church:
- Designing ministries for Christians. As church leaders, it’s easy to strategize & plan either out of fear that people might leave for another church, or in hopes that Christians will notice our church & jump on. So, instead of equipping/releasing people for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) & focusing on the needs of the unchurched culture, we slowly begin trying to hold onto or attract people by giving them what we think they want.
- Low Commitment, Disposable Relationships. Our low commitment culture has crept into the church & produced shallow relationships that are disposable after one difficult conversation or awkward moment. We grow spiritually & relationally through such conversations & moments. Without them, shallow, superficial, non-confessional faith could result. Seen this in church lately? How can we teach that commitment to Christ & a community of followers, not a cooler church with more going on is the pathway to spiritual growth?
- Greener grass thinking. Today, we have people that have transfered two to three times and found the same issues at every place and have given up completely on church. What if leaders could have used it as an opportunity to teach about commitment, that relationships are tough & messy everywhere & that God wants to use these issues to shape & form us? Grass gets green because you water & fertilize it. In church that means commit to Christ, obey his word, & do it with others – consistently.
- The appearance of success. Churches growing by transfer growth appear successful & can be the envy of ministry circles, but the real measure is the influence on the community. Only allowing the gospel to infuse the cultural context & change indigenous unreached people will result in a transformed city. What difference does it make if our church grows, but the community around us remains the same?
How can we fulfill the Great Commission, teach people to honor commitments, be a unified church in our cities, and make room for those swapping churches? A few ideas from a sojourner:
- Develop a vision for expanding the kingdom, not growing one church. When your church grows by transfer growth it may be at the expense of another church. If that church is small, big holes may be left to fill. How does that help the kingdom? Can I help that Pastor? Should I hold these people accountable to fill the commitment they made at the church? I heard Bob Roberts say years ago, “What’s good for my church numerically is not always best for the kingdom, but what’s best for the kingdom is always best for my church.” I think that applies well to transfer growth.
- Get to know other pastors in the area. When people know that you’re not in competition with Pastor ____ & that you actually like him, want to see him succeed, & intend to honor him at every turn (Romans 12:10), you will help them get a vision for the kingdom & release any ill will they may have. Especially those who are coming with an axe to grind. I learned pretty quick in ministry that when someone comes to my church with an axe in the back of a pastor down the street, it won’t take long for that axe to be in my back. If you ARE in competition with Pastor ____, REPENT, & get a kingdom mindset, then invite an area pastor or two to lunch or join or start a network of ministry leaders working for the good of the region.
- Assuming you have intentional process for developing members - When people are transferring ask, “Have you talked with your current pastor about this?” If we believe that church membership is a spiritual decision, then God will confirm it. Encourage them to talk with their current pastor about how God is leading them. This is a another way to honor our brothers in arms pastoring other congregations in our area. It also communicates that this is a serious decision & that you’re more interested in spiritual growth than gaining another satisfied consumer of your particular religious goods & services.
- Assuming you have intentional process for developing members - When people are transferring ask, “Have you made any pledges or commitments that you need to honor or be released from at your current church?” If we believe that church membership is a spiritual decision, and if we believe what scripture says about commitment (Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:4-6), this is a great question to ask of transfers. Especially if churches in your area are in the middle of building or capital campaigns. Pastors, we have little right to complain about lack of commitment in our congregants, if we welcomed them in at the expense of their commitments to another congregation.
- “…do the work of the evangelist…” 2 Timothy 4:5. The evangelist is concerned about growing the flock from those outside of it. And that’s what we must do to turn the tide of decline in Western Christianity. In their book On the Verge, Dave Ferguson & Alan Hirsch, outline the strategic problem facing the church in North America. “The majority of churches in the US are using a model of church designed to reach 40% of the population. This leaves around 60% outside the reach of the church.” Simply put, we’re all fishing in the same pond. We need churches that design ministries for the 60%. Churches that will step out of the church of your choice circle of influence & send people to the hard places, to have hard conversations with people who have little inclination to be impressed by our music, programs, building design, or clever sermon outlines. Churches that won’t be as concerned about size as they are about reach into the unchurched community. Churches that see the opportunity to take mission trips into their communities just as they do into foreign countries. Churches that will ask “Where is the church not?” & go there until the gospel message has been heard by all.
Not all transfer growth is bad or bad for the kingdom. But my desire is for commitment, honor, evangelism, kingdom growth, community transformation to take precedence over a bigger crowd at my church next Sunday.
What are other issues created by Transfer Growth? What do you do as a ministry leader to disciple transfers? Does this matter at all?
If I came to your church next Sunday, I’m sure I would be impressed. The music, the preaching, the smiling faces, the facilities would inspire and refresh. However, because of the way I’m wired, I would not be content. There’s something in me that whenever I’m on the inside of Christendom, whispers, “This is great, but what about all the people out there.” I may even lose track of the sermon for a minute thinking about the trailer park I passed on the way or all the people gassing up their boats at the marina or the story of the broken home I’d heard the week before. As a member of a church, if I voiced these whispers, I might be seen as off the reservation. A trouble maker who needs to get with the program. Or a contrarian that can’t be pleased, always pointing out what we’re not doing, instead of what we are doing. Now, some people are just off the reservation, trouble makers, and contrarians who need to be corrected. But what if God gives these whispers to a segment of every church so that the church could have some outward energy? What if we as leaders heard these whispers and considered them God’s leading and potential open doors for our church? What if God has given you all the tools you need for expansion of the kingdom in the form of that person always pointing out where ministry is not happening in the community? I believe He has done all of this and more through the different gifting in every church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says,
“And HE GAVE some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…”
The person I’m talking about is the first in the list, the little “a” apostles. They are God’s gift to our church to stretch our thinking outside the walls.
If we’re describing the church as a flock, here’s how I think each of these descriptors would play out: the apostles are always looking for new territory, the prophets are warning of danger, the evangelists are passionate about adding more to the flock, the pastors or shepherds are concerned about taking care of the sheep we have, and the teachers are given to guide the flock in truth.
Today’s church seems to have grown heavy on the last two, shepherds to take care of what we have and teachers to teach us what we don’t know. And the other three are relegated to itinerant ministries at best, taught to set down and shut up at worst.
Are we missing valuable pieces to what God wants our church to be? How do we recognize and empower little “a” apostles for the building up of our body?
Here’s a few things I’ve learned about the work of the little “a” Apostle:
- He/she feels the needs of the community, the way others feel the needs of the church. They experience the drive to church differently. They see the world differently. Their perspective will open the eyes of others to ministry opportunities.
- He/she wants the church to grow wider, more expansive in influence. They are interested in reproducible processes & fast moving systems. Don’t put them on the long range planning committee. The urgency of expansion to new fields is the greatest need.
- He/she does not want your money. Most pastors hear an idea from these people & see big dollar signs,. But money is most likely not in the apostles mind when they’re sharing ideas. However, if you give them a little money, they will do more with it than you can imagine. Like the apostolic leader in Africa that our church pledged $100 a month to, hoping they would get some chairs & a roof on their building. Six months later, they’re still sitting on the floor with no roof, but a church planting movement is happening in an unreached area 10 hours away.
- Just like in Acts, the little “a” apostle naturally builds relational networks that make kingdom expansion possible. Tap into it, by asking them if they know anyone in that neighborhood or area you’d like to reach or the apartment complex or the city government. If they don’t, you’ve said enough. Step aside & watch them work their relational networking powers for the good of your church in no time.
- He/she doesn’t want the credit, just the experience. Shepherd/Teachers will think this leader is looking for glory or influence. They’re not. The African leader in the above story, called me a year later to say, “Come & see what YOU HAVE done in Africa!” I didn’t even write the check, but he was more than willing to give the credit away.
- 1-3% of your congregation thinks outside first. They don’t say it out loud, because they don’t want to seem contrarian, but their heart is to see the church out there: at the trailer park, the local bar, the gym, the coffee shop. They are God’s gift to expand the tent of the church.
- Many of these folks have heard no so many times from church’s that they are serving alone. They would love to serve their church, but they cannot say no to the needs of the community. I’ve met them at local jails where they’re leading discipleship groups, serving on community boards, starting new things to make life better for underprivileged neighborhoods. You asked them if they’re doing this through their church, & they’ll say no with a frown.
How can I as a church leader recognize and empower the little “a” Apostle:
- Listen to their ideas just like you’d listen to the health related prayer requests of a senior adult member. They are just as serious to this person.
- Say yes. “Could we start a Monday night service for restaurant workers?” “Could we start a small group at the Tattoo Parlor called Labeled?” “Could we adopt nursing home residents with no local family?” “Could we start a food pantry at the local trailer park?” Find a way to say yes with limits to the risky, off the wall ideas every now and then & see what happens. Consider it the Research & Development arm of your church.
- Give them outside of the building research & ministry projects. “We’re thinking of starting a new campus in ____. Could you find out the potential in the area?” “I’ve heard there are a lot of Asians in _____ neighborhood. Could you verify that for me?” “The coffee shop owner is asking about us doing a Bible Study at their location on Sunday morning. Could you pray about leading that?”
- Don’t let them kill themselves. The danger for the little “a” apostle, is that they see every good opportunity as possible. Help them set boundaries.
What are other strengths of the church that can be found in the apostolic gifts? What ways have you seen this gift set utilized to grow the kingdom?
For more info on the little “a” apostle:
- The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century by Alan Hirsch.
- Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World by JR Woodward.
- Three Overlooked Leadership Roles, 2008 Leadership Journal article by Alan Hirsch.
- Five Fold Ministry Test – Spiritual Gifts tests based upon Ephesians 4:11-12
- Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Church Out of the Ashes of the 21st Century by Peyton Jones
I’ve heard this saying over & over again for the past 15 years or so from Pastors and church leaders from all different perspectives of ministry. But I haven’t seen much about how to expand the SENDING capacity of a local church or a real change in strategy to developing SENDING capacity. Many pastors are frustrated because of the inability of the church to penetrate the lost culture. Cycles of transfer growth are disheartening to many, both OUT (people leaving one church to join another church that has more or different) and IN (the only growth being people coming from other churches).
Let me suggest we must add a SENDING mindset to our idea about church life. Recently I got calls from two churches that are large & “successful” asking what church I knew that could do ______ ministry, because they didn’t have anybody that could do it. I thought, you’ve got more people than 99% of the churches in the area and you don’t have anybody that can be sent into the community to meet a need? The answer: Yes they do! Now, I know every church can’t meet every need. That’s why we network & affiliate. And I know that some pastors are trying to send, but the season the church is in may make it difficult. But the challenge is, do we see the church as a body to be sent? Do we see mission as a necessary component to spiritual & church growth? Do we see sending capacity as a measure of success? Do we see the people of the church as ambassadors of Christ to bless the community? Do we see our role as an equipper of the saints to do the work of the ministry? It’s a mindset.
Here’s a simple mindset exercise that I was taught by mentor & friend Jim Gerlach that helps me remember my role as a sender/equipper. In preparation, am I thinking:
They’re coming, how do I get ready? or They’re not coming, how do I get ready?
In the first question, we’re thinking inwardly, how do I communicate the message to these people I know, how to meet their needs best, my presentation, what people will think of ______, making sure everything’s perfect, how do I shield criticism, etc. Necessary & not bad stuff. But the second statement pushes me to recognize the reality: there’s a world out there that is unreached, so how do I get the message to them? This helps me shift my thinking from meeting these people’s needs, to sending these people on mission / equipping these people for mission in our world. How can I get the message out creatively to different population segments? etc. Balancing these two questions is the work of the leader that desires to create sending capacity as seating capacity grows.
And in most of our communities unfortunately the second statement is coming true. They’re not coming. In my community, less than 10% attend an evangelical church. Most pastors are shocked at that stat. I was too, because I was so focused on getting ready for those that are coming. We must change our mindset if we will continue to push back darkness in our world.
How do you create sending capacity? What other questions should we be asking?
Ever thought about taking your churches children’s ministry to the streets? I think we should. Most children’s ministry is focused on reaching/teaching/discipling kids that show up at my church on the weekends or midweek. Some of the questionable outcomes of this:
- Can teach kids that church is all about them & most importantly, about them having fun, falling just short of disciple-making.
- Wanting to grow our churches, we sometime start talking about kids as only a hook to get their parents “butts in the seats” (to quote Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act). “If the kids have fun, the parents will come back” ~ church growth quip.
- Children’s facilities can cost mega bucks.
- Can cut the rug out from under parental responsibility for discipling kids as they become more and more dependent upon the “professionals” down at the church.
AND the big one, that our team has been grappling with: WHAT ABOUT THE MAJORITY KIDS THAT ARE NOT COMING TO THE FULL COLOR KIDS MINISTRY EVENTS AT OUR CHURCH EVERY WEEK?
In my region of 345,000 people, demographic reports show that around 21% of the population is age 14 or below. That’s around 69,000 kids!!!! In my denomination, which is one of largest in the region with 11,500 worshipers on any given Sunday, approximately 18% of that number are children under 14. Meaning on any given week only 2,500 or so kids are attending, which is only about 4% of the population in the 14 and under age bracket. We average about 7,000 each year for Vacation Bible School, which is a 1-week, 4-hour overdose of Sunday’s Kids Ministry. That gets us to 10%. Add the other evangelical groups to the mix and best figures, after consulting with other church leaders, give me a number of 4,500 kids in an evangelical church each Sunday for faith & fun. That’s only 7% of the kids in our community. And many of these kids are growing up with absolutely no access to the Gospel story or a Christian witness in their lives. Are we losing a generation as we strategize on how to improve our children’s facilities? (& considering the # of kids that need to be reached, can we even build a big enough facility to do what’s needed?) & preach loudly about God being taken out of schools? & order next years Vacation Bible School curriculum? & continue to think of kids ministry as a facilities focused ministry?
A New Vision for Kids Ministry
What if we began to consider the 93% in our Kids Ministry strategy? Not neglecting the 7%, providing faith & fun on Sunday’s as we are, but also thinking of new ways to get God’s story into the lives of kids in our community. When you think of it like this you’ll realize there are more opportunities then you might imagine. Here’s a few ideas:
- Encourage your congregation to get involved in schools on their terms, not yours. There are a variety of mentoring, tutoring, encouraging opportunities that will equal relationships with unchurched families in the community & opportunities to invest in kids. Our church recently provided free popcorn for an area schools open house & met several families in need.
- Partner with local kids organizations that are serving children & asking (if not begging) for volunteers. In my community, there’s the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, local multi-housing complexes, private schools. And we’ve found many of them are open to you sharing THE story as part of your work.
- Multiply what you do on-site, off-site. You’ve made great backdrops & costumes, produced cool videos & posters, you’ve bought expensive curriculum, & prepared awesome crafts, & you’ve trained volunteers who are loving it. Why not look for an avenue to multiply that in the community? Do the VBS at a local multi-housing complex or another church that would not be able to do it for the kids in their neighborhood on their own. Do a one day kids ministry event at a local park or multi-housing complex utilizing all the stuff you’ve done over the past few months.
- Local Festivals provide opportunities to show kids & families that faith is fun by providing some of the crafts or games or other elements you do each week. This is a great way also to build trust with community leaders & parents. And you can say, “if you like what we do here, you’ll love our Kids ministry at ______ Church on Sunday.”
- Get the Kids involved. Instead of seeing them as hooks to get more “butts in the seats.” See them as missionaries who can invest in their friends & demonstrate that faith is fun & meaningful in the community. Teach kids that it’s important to serve & that faith is not just about them but others, by taking them on a local mission trip to the park or festival or multi-housing complex for Kids Ministry Day.
- Start or get involved in a mentoring program for children without dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster children, etc.
- Instead of VBS. I heard of one church that instead of VBS they encouraged neighborhood Bible Clubs during the summer & trained & empowered people to reach the kids & families around them, utilizing the same curriculum sets & production quality, but in yards & subdivision common space all around the city.
- Other ideas?
We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep preaching about culture decay, God kicked out of schools, & bad parenting. We’ve got to get involved. The doors are open in our communities. It won’t be easy, but salt is no good left in the salt-shaker. Could our churches add salt by taking your kids ministry to the streets?
Just thinking. Please share other ideas, opinions, corrections, smart remarks, etc. in the comments.
Recently traveled back through the book of Acts in conjunction with reading Thirty Years that Changed the World by Michael Green. A lot of work, volumes of books, rants and raves, doctoral dissertations, op eds, and more are being produced about the decline in American Christianity. I’m always struck by the simplicity of early Christianity. Here’s 4 things that jumped out at me that I want to personally lean in on in the coming months:
1. Disicpling: Relationships being built around an open Bible. It all started/starts with people gathered around the Word of God.
2. Faith in Action: Relationships being built around a ministry/mission or the needs of others. Growing Christians in Acts and today are others focused and mission driven. Follow the lives of early Christians in Acts and the first decades beyond and you’ll be struck by the incredible capacity for meeting needs. From pastoral care within to church planting in other regions, evangelistic campaigns, responding to disaster.
3. Apostolic Networking: New Relational tracks being established for the Gospel to run on. The big “A” Apostles established networks for the Gospel to take root. Today, with the declining influence of “the Church” and “the Bible says it” not being a good enough answer, we need new apostolic leaders to establish relational tracks with community leaders, neighborhood “elders,” Christianity’s critics, government agencies. Deeper than invitations to invocate at events, but to establish beach heads for the gospel to spread. More on this must be developed. Alan Hirsch’s newest book The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century is a long look at this. Also, check out his Christianity Today article from a few years back, “Where have all the APE’s gone?”
4. Multiplication: More people in more places doing 1, 2, & 3.
And they did it without manuals, conferences, podcasts, computers. May the Holy Spirit stir such simplicity in us.
Loved this statement of values and definition of discipleship by a new church out west:
…a community bent on extending God’s Kingdom by building relationships that point to Jesus.
– Impacting our culture outside the church walls.
– Going into the world and Serving those in need.
– Invading secular space by gathering at beaches, coffee houses, parks, homes etc.
We Value… growing, worshipping and serving in community and making disciples who are…
- Developing habits that bring us to maturity in Christ
- Practicing accountability in the area of personal growth
2. Easy-Bleeders (Sacrificing self for others)
- Involving ourselves in social justice endeavors
- Participating in missional opportunities…serving the poor and needy
3. Passionate-Breeders (Multiplying God’s kingdom)
- Going into the world, engaging our culture to build relationships that point to Christ
- Making disciples who make disciples
Agreed! Praying for more Self-Feeders, Easy-Bleeders, Passionate-Breeders.
via Dave Devries.