March 26, 2012
I have a very foundational belief that no guest enters into the midst of a church, whether a conventional church structure or an unconventional gathering place, by happenstance. Rather, those who visit, are there by divine appointment. No one ever comes into your church, come by whim or without reason. Rather, those who come are wrestling with life, looking for answers and they have been prodded by the Holy Spirit to come to your gathering.
So, why mention this? Why does it matter? Because what we believe about this issue will impact how we treat those who come and how passionately we pursue them. I was recently reminded, while attending a church, that we often do a very poor job preparing for and following up with those God sends us. Every church wants guests, but few really know what to do with them when they come in the door.
Answering these questions will help you determine how well you prepare. When someone new shows up; how do you gather his or her information? Are you consistent and passionate about gathering that info? Do you view gathering their info as an act of evangelism or just a recurring act that seems meaningless? How do you follow up once you gather that info? What strategies do you have in place for those who want to say "Yes!" to Jesus?
In my travel I worship in numerous churches of every kind and size. I am amazed how often most don't take the time and effort to find a way to harvest my information. What if I was looking for a church? What if I needed some deeper answers? What if I just needed a little more prodding in order to make my way to Jesus? If you didn't take the time to strategically plan on how to reach me, then you just lost your opportunity. In fact, that may have been my last chance to give the church an opportunity.
Do you believe that guests are coming to you by divine appointment or is it just luck? If God has sent them to you, what is your responsibility? I believe God stops sending guests to those who are not prepared.
March 5, 2012
There can be no more fundamental step in the process of watching a church become healthy than finding the right spirit filled and god-gifted leader. Those called of God, prepared for ministry, and wired to plant new life-giving churches. Whether you are planting a fast-growing church or a more organic house church, who leads is often the most important issue to be determined. Too often the wrong people are placed in the wrong circumstance, with the wrong expectations and a new church becomes at best anemic or at worst, dead.
When will we learn that a personal proclamation or desire to plant shouldn't be the qualifying factor for sending someone out on the field? Just because I say I am a brain surgeon, doesn't make me one! (I am open for appointments if you want to believe it.) Yet too often well-meaning leaders are moved by an individual's "call to plant" and send these self-proclaimed leaders out into field. Whatever happened to "do not be hasty about the laying on of hands"? (1 Tim 5:22) have we become so anxious to start a movement or make a name for ourselves as "movement leaders" that we hastily overlook a very fundamental issue?
It has become increasingly important to help an individual discover God’s shape for their ministry in order to ensure the long-range survival of a new church. The task is far more complex than a simple nod of the head or pat on the back. Neither is it an issue of trained clergy or laity. As Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great”, it is about getting the right person on the bus.”
Over the last decade the war has raged on in the church-planting world over models and methodology. We have clamored for the latest and greatest way to plant a church. A myriad of solutions have been offered in an attempt to suggest “the right way”. (If it weren't so sad, it would almost be comical to watch.) Whenever a God-ordained, God-gifted leader starts a new church with great success, everyone jumps on the "new" wagon and proclaims a “new way" of doing church.
One man plants an organic church that explodes across a city, multiplying many times over and the pendulum swings. Across the state a woman leads church as a bi-vocational pastor and experiences great success: The pendulum swings. Then out of nowhere, a planter rises up through the ranks as social justice leader without any intention to plant and church. He experiences great success: The pendulum swings.
My point is this; We watch an exceptionally gifted leader start and grow (not always numerically) a ministry and we automatically proclaim that this leader must have discovered the new “way”. Worse yet, if the leader grows a church in an unconventional way or something that smacks against the norm of the established methodology, then we proclaim that a “new era has arisen”. We mark the birth of this new movement as proof that our culture has changed.
So, the solution is reduced to a thought processes, which might sound something like this: Frank planted a church as a bi-vocational leader. He was given no resourcing and needed no salary to begin with. So, since he was successful like this, things in our culture have changed. We now need to teach pastors to become bi-vocational, then we would experience greater efficacy. Right? What they fail to take into account is the simple fact that if bi-vocational ministry was the issue, then we should already be winning the war. The greater percentages of pastors today are bi-vocational!
Maybe we should stop throwing so much money at a church plant and do it on a shoe-string, then we would have greater success. Jane Smith did this and had great success. Yet, if that was the solution, the Church around the globe should be knocking it out of the park. The average church works with paltry sums of money from which to do ministry.
Use any other argument you want. You cannot properly draw a universal positive from one instance of success.
The clear answer must be then that we should simply become better disciple-makers, (as if this is a new problem just now plaguing the Church) then we could see a real move of God. Over the last ten years, I have watched whole denominations change strategies every time a "new way" was discovered.
While all of these issues are worthy of a discussion, are they the primary, foundational issue? The problems are many and far more complex than reducing it to a simplistic model or methodology. In fact, there is a whole plethora of issues we could bring to the table. But, models and methods “how we do church” has been elevated above everything else.
I believe we have focused for too long on the wrong issues. I would dare say that ninety-eight percent of the speeches you have heard about “doing” church–planting centers around “how” rather than “why” and the call to plant. It ceases to amaze me that through all the smoke and mirrors, we have failed to stop and look at one primal issue: The leader!