How Does a Pastor Create Sending Capacity?
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?