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A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHURCH

Difference     Allow me to clarify that this article is an adaptation from Will Mancini’s book Innovating Discipleship!  Please get the book and read it because this book was the motivation for this post.  All of Will’s materials are awesome and I certainly want to make sure he receives the credit for excellent materials!

   “How do you want your church to be different two years from now?”  The typical answer is, “We want more people!”  That can be expressed in different forms such as; “We want our auditorium full!” or “We want to start more small groups!” or “We want to see our attendance grow by 10%!” or “We want to start additional services so more people can attend!”  Everyone wants more people and more people is good.  Jesus wants more people and we should count people because people count.  The problem is when the numbers become the end result.    

     It is interesting that we do not hear the following very often: “We want to see more people desperate for Jesus!” or “We want to see our homes strengthened and more families having devotionals together!” or “We want to see our students on fire for God and living on mission to reach their campus for Christ!” or “We want to see more members building meaningful relationships with people who are far from Christ!”  Yet, despite a wide variety of many biblical and gospel centered answers it seems the default answer is, “More people!”

     It seems that the focus of many churches is on where they can find their next church member instead of how they can equip, empower, and release their members to take their communities and cities for Christ.  Being different will require refocusing your church on the biblical mandate given by Jesus to make disciples.  Will Mancini says this about discipleship in churches, “We traffic in loving lingo and making disciples mantra.  We allow generic output language to validate our intent while we use input data to validate our success.”

     We can no longer allow good numbers and good programs to validate our good intentions of making disciples.  The question then is, “How do we and can we measure that?”  How will we know two years from now that we truly are different?  There are three metrics that will help you in determining your effectiveness in the area of making disciples.  Remember that discipleship is not a program but rather a life-time adventure.  It is more about doing life together than it is a curriculum and is measured more by life transformation than information transfer.

     The first metric is; The Involvement of People!  This measurement has been described as the 3 B’s; bodies, bucks, and buildings. These areas are what is measured the most because they are the easiest to keep track of.  Keeping track of nickels and noses is important but it is only the beginning point not the end.  We have not arrived by how many we have attending but rather by what we are doing with those who are coming.  Does your church have a clear biblical process of how to move someone from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity?  Do you?

     The second metric is; Individual Transformation!  What kind of product is your church producing?  Is there ample evidence of life transformation in the lives of those who are being discipled?  The attendance board is fine and dandy but the bigger question is what are those attending doing for the furtherance of the gospel?  Are they daily in the word of God and developing a powerful consistent prayer life?  Are they daily striving to build relationships with those far from God so that they might be able to share the love of God?  Are they being “salt” and “light” and are they involved in discipleship?

     The third metric is; Impact on the community!  The natural (actually supernatural) outcome of people getting involved and their lives being transformed is the impact it will have on their communities and cities.  The by-product of being a “different” kind of church is that it will not only transform their lives but it will transform the lives of those they minister to.  The number of the homeless will decrease.  The percentage of teenage pregnancies will be reduced.  The high school graduation rate will increase and the crime rate will decrease.

     Our effectiveness is not measured solely by how many we have in attendance, how well our offerings are doing, or whether our facilities are adequate or not.  The real metric is the transformation of our communities and cities that comes when we are walking with Christ and conforming to His image.  So, how do you want your church to be different two years from now?  What’s at stake?  The mission God has given us of making disciples.  Dallas Willard says, “Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them!”

     Healthy churches rejoice when people become involved but are not satisfied until every member is involved in making disciples!     

Say It Again….Again….And Again!!!

repetition

While teaching sermon preparation to pastors in Tanzania, I challenged them to develop an introduction, a strong body, and finish with a conclusion. It is certainly Sermon Prep 101because our messages should tell them what we are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what we told them. Reiteration is a good tool for learning and especially remembering. Several leaders continually say, “Cast your vision, cast your vision again, and when you are tired of hearing it cast it again!” In an attempt to write something new and hopefully inspiring every week it has left me wondering: “In my efforts not to be too repetitive, am I failing to communicate effectively?” Preaching and communicating God’s word in any manner should leave people with a better understanding of what God has said and clearly knowing what He wants them to do about that truth.

When approaching God’s word we begin with observation, move on to interpretation, and then make application! Nehemiah 8 is where preaching becomes a centerpiece of worship. The word is read and then in verse 8 Ezra gave the meaning of the text so the people could understand and obey. This a great example of the exposition of the written scriptures but remember the people left knowing what God expected them to do next! Andy Stanley has said well, “Vision leaks!” Don’t assume that everyone knows where you are going and that they know how to get there! One example of this is that many vision statements for churches begin with the focus on teaching and preaching. While that is fundamentally and vitally important, the Great Commission begins with us going and sharing the gospel first. Maybe it is time to say it again, “We go and then we teach!”

So let me say it again; Every church and every Christian is called to be outwardly focused and to live on mission for God. Unfortunately, we have flip flopped the biblical order to where we teach, baptize and then maybe go – but the biblical order is to go first. Also, many churches appease the lack of spiritual impact in their communities by talking about how much they give to foreign missions. That is a good thing to support missions around the world, but once again, the biblical order is Jerusalem first. Who are the lost people in your Jerusalem? What are they doing and where do they live? What are you doing to build relationships with them and share the love of Christ with them! At the risk of being repetitive, in U-Turn Church Kevin Harvey says, “If we are going to move outward toward those who are lost it will take more energy than most of us dream.”

Again let me say; Every church and every Christian is to be involved in making disciples! If we do not make disciples then we will never develop leaders and we will never multiply! The problem seems to be that many churches have the discipleship terminology down and can talk it very well but when you look closer there is not very much discipleship happening. Will Mancini puts it this way, “Everyone talks about discipleship, but too many churches stick to business as usual. Stop talking, start acting.” Once again, at the risk of being redundant, there is a great formula for discipleship by Jim Putman in Real Life Discipleship which includes an intentional leader, a relational environment, and a reproducible process. Leaders, it begins with us! You have to be intentional. Who are you discipling? Where is your Paul and who is your Timothy? You must develop a process and begin discipling now!

At the risk of continuing to push a button that make some uncomfortable, let me say this again: You can be culturally relevant and biblically sound! While in London I saw the back of a bus where the M & M’s where wearing the hats worn by the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace now that is contextualization! Knowing who you are trying to reach and being sensitive to who they are and what might be able to reach them. It is not starting a praise band just because the big church in the city has one. The question is, what are we willing to do to reach the unreached around us? Do you have children or grandchildren who need to be reached? What would you do to reach out to those generations to provide them a place to say yes to life, to genuine love, and to God’s grace and mercy? Change just to change is not wisdom but remaining the same just to hold onto the way we have always done it is not wisdom either!

Healthy churches verbalized their mission statement and then they say again…..and again…..and again!