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5 Lessons I Am Learning

 

Twice a year I attend the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship at Lifeway in Nashville, TN.  It has been a very beneficial time for me in meeting other leaders who have already travelled the road I am journeying on now.  Their insights have been helpful and just knowing that I am not the only one struggling to figure this church planting thing out is refreshing.  It has been amazing to learn that so many others are having the same struggles and the same conversations that my tribe is having.  I must admit I have known lesson #1 one a long time but feel that it needs to be said. 

 

Lesson #1  We are not the only ones with a burden and passion to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And God is using many to do great and amazing things!

 

The leaders I have met are godly men who love the Lord and are willing to share the lessons they have learned.  Our Dynamic Church Planting International training defines a mentor as, “Someone who has been where you want to go and is willing to help you get there.”  These men are kingdom minded and are willing to share their discoveries so that it might benefit others who have the same vision: a church multiplication movement in North America!  What I have learned from them has allowed me to develop systems much quicker than starting from scratch.

 

Lesson #2  We do not have to reinvent the wheel!  We can learn from others who have blazed trails to better prepare their church planters to succeed and not fail!

 

The last CPLF meeting was one of the best with the focus on what God is doing globally and what we can learn from them.  There were leaders from Hong Kong, China, Germany, Sri Lanka and several other Asian countries.  One of the speakers has been instrumental in helping to start a movement that has seen almost 2,000,000 receive Christ.  Missiologist and researcher David Garrison said when they began to study the numbers; they were actually higher than what was being reported.  When asked what titles they give to their trainers this leader replied, “We do not give them titles because when they get titles they do not work anymore!”

 

Lesson #3  The churches in North American are not the leaders in multiplication but are the learners.  We need the wisdom of foreign missionaries and nationals more than ever!

 

There are so many materials out there today, some great and some not so great, to help churches get back on mission for God.  Sometimes I wonder if we are closer to the church of the Laodiceans than we are willing to admit.  Rev. 3:17 says, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” The mission of Jesus was to make disciples and we have been commanded to make disciples.  How is that going for you?  Disciple making is not about the transfer of information but the transformation of lives.

 

Lesson #4  It is not rocket science!  We must keep beating the drum to make disciples that make disciples that make disciples.  We need obedience based discipleship!

 

The longer I serve the Lord the more I realize how helpless I am without Him.  In Building a Discipling Culture Michael Breen says, “Growth must happen before fruit is produced.  And growth occurs from knowing how to abide.”  If I want my life to be fruitful I must first abide in Him.  You rest before you work and you abide before you are fruitful.  Michael Breen also said, “Prayer was as fundamental an element in the life of Jesus as breathing.  He inhaled His Father’s presence so He could exhale His Father’s will.”  There is no doubt that Jesus’ fruitfulness was because of His focused and intentional relationship with His Father.

 

Lesson #5  The importance of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is greatly underestimated.  Nothing of eternal value happens without God showing up!

 

God does not need me, nor is He dependent upon me, to accomplish His will but He has allowed me the privilege to participate in His kingdom work. When we are redeemed, God has placed everything inside of us to accomplish what He has called us to do.  We need to have enough confidence in God to believe that He meant it when He said He would finish the good work He has begun in us.  Strategies and plans are important but without God showing up nothing of eternal significance will happen.  The good news is that He wants to show up and He will when we cry out to Him!  

DEAD HORSE STRATEGY

Insanity has been defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Recently, I saw some dead horse strategies shared on Twitter.  I did a little investigating and found various lists on a couple of different web sites.  Honestly, I am not sure who should get the credit but this list is my compilation of what I felt were the top 21.   

One site shared Dakota tribal wisdom which says when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.  Sometimes in the church we “beat dead horses” (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results).  Here are some Dead Horse Truths that will probably make you laugh but I pray will also cause us to do some soul-searching:

  • Buy a Stronger Whip.
  • Change Riders.
  • Threaten the horse with termination.
  • Name the dead horse “Paradigm Shift” and keep riding it.
  • Ride the dead horse “outside the box.”
  • Ride the dead horse “smarter” not harder.
  • Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.
  • Keep saying, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  • Appoint a committee to study the horse.
  • Increase the standards to ride dead horses.
  • Appoint team to revive the dead horse.
  • Create training to increase riding ability.
  • Pass a resolution stating, “This horse is not dead.”
  • Arrange visits to other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
  • Declare ‘this horse is not too dead to beat.”
  • Provide additional funding to increase dead horse’s performance.
  • Form a commission to find uses for dead horses.
  • Re-classify the dead horse as “living-impaired.”
  • Get the horse a Web site.
  • Promote the horse to a supervisory position.

I imagine that a few of these sounded familiar to you as they did to me.    Hopefully, this will cause you to do some evaluation by asking two questions:

            1.  What is God saying to you through this humorous comparison?

            2.  What are you going to do about it? 

If even a couple of these are a part of your strategy you need to consider a new strategy! 

Get Out of Your Bubble

Our family was living in Romania in 2000 and we had a college student come to spend the summer with us.  She was a fine Christian young lady fitting in well with our family and was a great encouragement to all of us.  She interacted well with the Romanians and was always ready to help any way she could.  One of the things she did that still makes me laugh was when someone would get in her space she would say, “You’re invading my bubble, please move back a little!”

While this makes me smile, the way many Christians and churches seem to be living inside a bubble breaks my heart.  We have built a sub-culture where we stay to ourselves and enjoy our Christian friends while giving the impression that no one outside of our bubble had better get into our space.  That bubble seems to define being a good Christian as someone who is faithful in attendance, follows all the rules, and holds a position in the church.

The Christian bubble focuses on our needs and taking care of one another.  Church membership to some is more about entitlement and protecting their rights rather than about enlistment into service.  Churches are in trouble because we have lost our passion for any ministry beyond our own personal bubble.  We do not have time nor space for those on the outside because most programs and activities are centered on taking care of those already on the inside.

The time has come to burst the bubble of being inwardly focused and begin developing intentional relationships with lost people.  Many churches talk about being the friendliest church in town but the people outside of their bubble will never know it because they have not been allowed inside.  We have our circle of friends who are saved and faithful so there is really no space or room for anyone else that isn’t already inside of our bubble.

What if we took a lost neighbor hunting with us?  What if instead of always going out to eat with those who are already saved and nicely secure inside our bubble we invited our lost neighbors over for steak?  What if we decided to pay for a round of golf for that coworker who is unchurched just so we could demonstrate the love of Christ in a practical way?  Maybe instead of expecting them to burst through our bubble by attending an event we should show them Jesus as we do life together with them?

We must seek to engage the culture around us by caring about and relating to individuals on their turf which, I know you know I’m going to say it, requires allowing them inside our bubble.  They should not have to burst our bubble for us; instead, we should burst our own bubble and pursue them.  When we get out of our bubble we will be constantly looking for ways to engage the culture we live in rather than creating programs to serve only those who are already saved.   

Well, did I burst I burst your bubble?  If we are going to be salt and light as the Lord has commanded us to be then we are going to have to figure out ways to penetrate our culture.  We have to find a place of entry where we can contribute to our communities but it won’t happen if we continue to protect our space and stay inside our self-created bubbles.  Matthew 5:16 says it well, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”