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WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSED ON?

fOCUS ON fUTURE

Is your church focused on the past, the present, or the future?  When churches first begin they seem to be focused on the future and have visionary leaders who are risk-takers.  After the church begins to settle in and become comfortable they have a focus on the present congregation.  The status-quo sneaks up on them and the leadership becomes care-givers.  Some where along the life-cycle of the church the members begin talking about the good ole’ days and their focus is now on the past.  They want things to return to how they use to be but the reality is that nostalgia has sugar coated how it really was.  If this congregation is not careful the leadership will become undertakers and the church will die as the older members graduate to heaven.

First, are you focused on the future?  Visionary leaders will not trade off what is better for the future for what is easier in the present.  Visionary leaders have discerned God’s will for their church and they are fully committed to carrying it out.  They are like Joshua and Caleb who saw the obstacles in the promised just like the other ten spies but choose to believe God would help them to be overcomers.  Visionary leaders have a resolve to be true to God’s direction even though their are skeptics, naysayers, doubters, and even enemies to the vision God has given them.  They are like Paul who said in I Cor 16:9, “because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me —yet many oppose me.”  There will always be opposition but visionary leaders are determined to love people while being obedient to the vision God has given them for their church.

Churches focused on the future have a vision to impact their communities with the gospel.  Their priority is the Great Commission and living by the Great Commandment.  They are not just focused on gathering but scattering to be salt and light in their neighborhoods.   They realize that every member is called to live as a missionary in their zip code.  They are not afraid to experiment and try new things as long as the gospel is presented clearly and biblically.  The church focused on the future has leadership who invest a lot of time and energy in pursuing God’s vision with an expectation that He will in fact guide them.  They practice a high-risk faith!

Second, are you focused on the present?  Things were going so well, at one time, that the temptation and desire was to freeze time.  The eventual outcome was turning innovation, in the beginning, into the traditions of tomorrow.  Habits became routines and unfortunately people began to just go through the motions.  The church of the present becomes very good at “doing church” but forgets about being the church.  The church of the “present” has a solid congregation with solid finances.  They have good programs, good staff, and very nice facilities.  Unfortunately, many become focused on their rights as members and a sense of entitlement begins to permeate though the congregation instead of a spirit of enlistment into service.  The church of the present becomes program-driven and no one is allowed to monkey with the machinery of the ministry already set in motion.

Churches focused on the present give priority to who is already there It has been said well, “In reach has its own voice, but outreach needs an advocate!”  Whenever a church begins to ignore its community it will ultimately find itself plateauing and eventually one  the backside of the life-cycle.  many times because of multiple ministries there are multiple visions and core values trying to co-exist.  The main focus becomes the programs and filling the positions needed to make sure that the machinery chugs along.  These leaders are totally committed to following God but are also committed to guarding and protecting what is “proven” and true.  They practice a low-risk faith!

Third, are you a church that is focused on the past?  This church talks about the glory days when Bro So-and-So was here.  The vision to penetrate the culture and impact their community is gone.  They have become slaves to the programs that were once effective and served a wonderful purpose in their day.  They are unwilling to change anything because that would mean admitting their mistakes and having to make some very hard decisions.  Churches focused on the past are overly fascinated with organizational charts, committee meetings, budgets, and business meetings.  Future-oriented churches are vision-driven.  Present-oriented churches are program-driven.  Past-oriented churches are structure-driven.  There is nothing “wrong” with many of the things they are doing but the structure becomes all-consuming!

These leaders desire to go back to some former time in the church.  The innovations of their former glory days became the traditions of the present day church but then became legalism.  While vision-driven churches are focused on the community and the program-driven churches are focused on the congregation the structure-driven church becomes consumed with the core.  One church consultant makes this observation, “Key influencers in this core often prove to be barriers to growth as they remain entrenched in their authority and hold the congregation hostage by means of authority and influence.”  This church practices a no-risk faith!

Healthy churches are future-focused, vision-driven, community-focused, and practice a high-risk faith!

MENTOR LIKE JESUS

Mentor Like Jesus

   Recently I had the privilege of attending a forum that focused on discipleship and mentoring with several national leaders.  The highlight to me was having the opportunity to listen to Robert Coleman and see his passion for the Great Commission at the age of eighty-six.  He challenged all of us present to ask ourselves, “Am I doing more and more of what is really important?”  A personal audit should also include: “What are we doing?”  “Why are we doing it?”  “Does it have anything to do with the Great Commission?” 

          In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Dr. Coleman reminds us of how Jesus concentrated on the few in order to reach the many.  He says, “Better to give a year or so to one or two people who learn what it means to conquer for Christ than to spend a lifetime with a congregation just keeping the program going.”  Jesus influenced twelve but He invested in three.  We must ask ourselves, “Who are the people we are intentionally investing in who will go and do the same?”  We cannot just be telling others what they should be doing we must model it for them!   

     Dr. Coleman also shared, “You won’t be intentional if you spend all your time with people who will not let you be intentional!”  In his book Mentor like Jesus, Regi Campbell remembers when he heard Tim Elmore say, “More time with fewer people equals greater kingdom impact.”  Can that actually be true?  Regi challenges us that above all else, Jesus was a mentor.  “Through their efforts, arguably one-third of the world’s population believes in what they taught.  From eleven people to two billion people…Jesus was a pretty good mentor.”

     There needs to be a major shift back to a focus on mentoring and discipleship.  First, it begins with our family!  The family unit is the most ideal setting for developing a mentoring, discipling culture.  Do not start anywhere else before you first focus on your own family.  If it doesn’t work at home then do not try to export it somewhere else.  Jesus mentored through developing a family environment where He and the disciples lived in community together.  They watched and observed Him every day as they ate, travelled, prayed, talked, and shared together.

     Second, mentor your staff and other leaders.  Make sure that you intentionally pour into these individuals by investing two of the greatest things they need: your time and your interest.  Intentionally plan times where you can share your heart and life with them.  Regi Campbell says, “I wanted to share my life with these guys…teach them from my own experience…share plays from my own playbook, to use a football analogy.  But every guide I looked at seemed canned, stiff, and programmed…Is this going to be another Sunday school class where everyone sits in rows, looks up answers, fills in blanks, and walks away unaffected?”

     Third, make sure that you spend a minimum of 50% of your time mentoring the few who can reach the masses.  Regi Campbell says this about his call to mentoring, “My goal is five generations of multiplication.  If that happens, more than one million men will have been equipped to manage life better.”  He has developed a plan where eight men, by invitation, sign a covenant to spend three hours together a month for one year.  He then has an individual meeting with each one of them monthly.  All of them must agree to mentor eight others in the future when they are ready!  Jesus’ mentoring began in the context of a group!

     Fourth, mentor them in the areas they need help.  Jesus was showing them daily how to have a deeper relationship with the Father by going away for a time of prayer.  He modeled for them how to love and serve others selflessly.  They learned about spiritual warfare, trusting Him in every area of their lives, and much more!  The goal of mentoring is to help the mentorees  become the men and women of God they were intended to be.  Those younger in the faith must be shown how to interpret what is happening in their lives scripturally and how to discern His will.

     Jesus modeled for us what He wanted us to be like.  He became flesh and lived with a select few and allowed them to be eyewitnesses of who He was and what He expected.  Regi Campbell goes on to say, “Mentoring is not about coming to know something; that would be education.  Mentoring isn’t about learning to do something; that would be training.  Mentoring is about showing someone how to be something…And as someone said, you only know you’re a follower of Jesus when you’ve helped someone else become a follower of Jesus.”

     Healthy churches mentor like Jesus!!!

CHURCHES HELPING CHURCHES

Churches Helping Churches

   “God helps those who help themselves!”  Unfortunately, many people quote that as if it is a verse in the Bible.  The truth is; it is not!  The bigger problem is that many think even if it is not a direct Bible quote it certainly sums up what the Bible teaches.  Once again; it is not truth!  Actually, Jesus says, “Without me ye can do nothing!”  In fact, the truth is that God helps those who cannot help themselves.  He saves those who cannot save themselves.  He sustains those who cannot sustain themselves.  He secures those who cannot secure themselves.   

     God does not need us but we desperately need Him!  We take far too much credit, sometimes, for our accomplishments when the truth is that it is the work of God in our lives. Jer. 9:23-24 says “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”

     We have also heard, “hurting people hurt people!”  That is often very true, but what I am wondering is why do helped people and helped churches not help others more?  We all need help and we all should have a burden to help others.  Is your church helping another church?  What is your church doing to be a blessing and an encouragement to another congregation?  Have you thought of things you could do and ways you could help a congregation that could definitely use a helping hand?  Let me go ahead and say it now, “Healthy churches help other churches!”

     While there are many ways to be an encouragement to another church such as prayer, advice, resources, and fellowship here are some practical ways you can be a blessing to another congregation and/or a church plant:

     First, mentor them!  Allow your staff and volunteers to spend time with the other church’s leadership in order to share ideas and brainstorm.  It is always good to have a fresh set of eyes to look at your situation and invariably they will see things you do not see.  Everybody and every church have blind spots and it is healthy to cross-pollinate with others who are striving for the same goals.  There are blind spots we cannot see but others can and we should always be willing to learn from others.  Remember, a mentor is someone who has been where you want to go and is willing to help you get there.

     Second, spend time with them!  It doesn’t have to be through a training or consultation that you spend time together but also just enjoying each other’s company.  Here are some ideas: A joint baptism service or prayer service, plan a praise and worship service together, a service project in the other church’s community, a family camp or retreat together.  You could even both travel together to go help a non-profit ministry such as a rescue mission, a food pantry, or a pregnancy crisis center.  Dream and envision ways you could spend time together and be a blessing to each other and to others also.

     Third, share your resources with them.  There are all types of resources but quite often expertise is not thought of as much as finances.  Some churches could use a web-site person, talented musicians, equipped teachers, and many other skilled people.  Take the initiative to find out what the other church needs and then connect them with someone in your church who can meet that need.  Phil. 4:15-16 says, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.”

     Fourth, take a short-term mission trip to help them on a particular project!  Take a group over the weekend or for a week and tackle a project that maybe they could not accomplish on their own.  Provide the person-power needed that they do not have presently.  Our church just returned from Nixa, MO, helping church planter John Herring.  We helped clean-up after a city event hosted by the chamber of commerce.  We were excited to hear how thankful the city officials were for a church that was willing to truly be servant minded.  It was a huge win for Refuge church.

     Healthy churches help other churches!