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Healthy Churches Focus on Discipleship

Disciple Makers

Every follower of Christ needs to be discipled.  Discipleship is mentoring or coaching someone on what it means to obey and serve Christ.  The Apostle Paul invested in the life of Timothy because God wanted Timothy to go where Paul had already been.  Are you personally involved in the spiritual development of someone else?  Every Christian should have a Paul who disciples them and a Timothy whom they disciple.  Where is your Paul and who is your Timothy?

Discipleship really is an easy process (Matt 4:19) but difficult for many to complete:

  1. “Follow Me” (Jesus) – A disciple knows and follows Jesus!
  2. “And I will make you” – A disciple is being changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit!
  3. “Fishers of Men” – A disciple is committed to the mission of God!  (Making more disciples!)

What does the process of discipleship look like in your church?  We know the biblical characteristics of a disciple, but how do you get the new believer there?  Dynamic Church Planting International training says, “There needs to be an easily explainable process of the steps, opportunities, and experiences your church offers to help unbelievers find Christ and grow into spiritual maturity.  Discipleship will not occur without a plan and intentionally preparing your church to be involved in the process.”

In a recent national survey of evangelical church attenders 24% said they are sliding backwards spiritually while 41% said they are static and not growing.  That means 65% are not growing spiritually.   While a healthy church must be strong in discipleship it seems to be one of the greatest weaknesses.  Something is wrong when there is a gap between what we say we believe and what is actually happening.  Bill Hull in The Disciple-Making Church calls us to the three D’s of disciple making: “Deliver them, Develop them, and Deploy them!”

  • Deliver Them: Discipleship begins with pre-believers.  They come with baggage but they are not just delivered “from” their past.  They are also delivered to their present community of believers.  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change a heart and transform a life from the inside out!
  • Develop Them: Discipleship requires that you have a step-by-step process for helping new believers to become maturing saints over time.  Dynamic Church Planting International defines a spiritual growth system as, “When people come to Christ, our job is to partner with the Holy Spirit in helping them grow in Christlikeness.”
  • Deploy Them: The goal must be to make disciple who are disciplemakers.  The real litmus test for discipleship is when we see those we disciple discipling others!  Is it reproducing to the 4th generation? (II Tim 2:2)  Do you currently have a simple process in place that leads a clueless unbeliever to a committed, mature, reproducing disciple?

Discipleship requires someone willing to teach and someone willing to learn.  We must be careful not to overcomplicate discipleship but make it easily attainable and reproducible.  Discipleship is not gaining knowledge and getting a certificate to prove we have been “discipled” but rather it is learning what we need to know and then doing it.  Jesus spent his time preparing the disciples for greater responsibility so that His influence could be multiplied.

In Transformissional Coaching by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl they reveal the following:

  • 5% of learners will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory.
  • 10% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory and demonstration
  • 20% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, and practice within training.
  • 25% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, practice within the training, and feedback.
  • 90% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, practice within the training, feedback, and coaching.

Where is the best place for this kind of training to take place?  In a local New Testament Church!  Equipping our members to be the ministers, members, and missionaries God has called them to be.  The work of the church belongs to every believer in that community of believers (Eph 4:11-12).  We must equip and empower every follower and then release them with accountability to make disciples within their network of relationships!!!

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  2 Timothy 2:2

A disciple is a lifelong learner and follower of the ways and commands of Christ!

The Cross, Community, and Culture

God has called us to proclaim His gospel to the ends of the earth.  According to Matt. 4:19 if we are following Christ we are fishers of men.  The logical conclusion is that if we are not fishers of men we are not following Christ.  Partial obedience is still disobedience.  The truth of the gospel is unchanging and His children are the carriers of that truth.  Interestingly enough, one of the primary challenges to carrying out our mission is the Christian subculture many churches have created.  This has caused them to turn their focus inward instead of outward on those who desperately need Christ.  The challenge for every believer is to transform from a consumer of Christian product to a compassion for those without Christ.   

There is one act of obedience that we can do on earth that we cannot do in heaven.  That is sharing the gospel with our lost friends and family.  The goal in our churches should be to help people get over their instincts to stick together and form a “holy huddle” and empower them to live their lives on mission for God.   We must develop missional communities that remain focused on their neighbors rather than on their church.  Sadly, it appears that we would rather close ourselves up in a sanctuary several hours a week than open up our homes to share dinner with unbelievers who live right next door.

First, we must embrace the cross because without its truth we have no message.  If a church is focused on the community (serving their needs), and the culture (the context in which we live) but does not share the truths of the gospel it offers a Christless mission without hope!  A gospel-saturated congregation proclaims that Jesus is Lord, knows who they are in Christ, knows how to enter into culture without losing their Christian distinctiveness, knows its neighborhood, and exists not for itself but for its city, neighborhood, and block.  CULTURE + COMMUNITY – CROSS = NO Hope!  Any message without the cross produces a dead religion, a consumer Christianity, a social gospel, a country club mentality, and usually salvation by works.

Second, we must experience community because loving nurturing relationships in a local body of believers is necessary for spiritual development and service.  Everyone needs a place to belong.  God created us to function in authentic community where we learn to experience Christ through one another.  Jesus always had “sinners” around Him who could tell how much He cared about them and because of His compassion they were interested in His message.  The problem is that many churches require that you believe before you can belong (not talking about church membership).  CROSS + CULTURE – COMMUNITY = NO CHURCH  A churchless mission produces spiritual orphans, loneliness, individualism, selfishness, immaturity, and forces parachurch organizations to do what churches quit doing.

Third, we must also engage the community where God has placed us.  We must quit making excuses for why we do not verbally share the gospel.  God has allowed us to have impact and favor within our circles of influence.  If we truly desire to bless someone’s life we must tell them there is hope because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Someone has said that everything preaches but not everything reaches.  Contextualization is the particular way in which we as Christians communicate the gospel.  We must consider the context (the setting and the culture) into which we are communicating the gospel.  Darrin Patrick explains it this way, “Contextualization is not ultimately even about the content of the gospel.  It’s primarily about the way you communicate the unchanging content of the gospel.”  CROSS + COMMUNITY – CULTURE = NO MISSION

When we ignore and neglect the culture we live in we become a Missionless Church.  We become isolated and separated from any contact with lost people because of our “Come to Us” mentality.  CT Studd lived from 1860 -1931 and was an English missionary to China, India, and Africa.  He said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  The gospel is our message of our mission and it is unchanging.  The method of our mission is contextualization.  We must admit, though, that the temptation of far too many churches is to neglect our communities and ignore the culture God has placed us in while believing we are protecting our churches.

            Thanks to my good friend Dave DeVries and the development of these principles from his Multiplication Workshop.  Check him out at www.missionalchallenge.com .

Developing a Prayer Strategy

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How will your church respond to the challenges and opportunities in your community or city today? Excuses are plentiful but the scriptures are clear about every church being a healthy body of believers who are following their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in obedience.

Every church is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission and living by the Great Commandment. Every church, no matter what size, is to be making disciples. The path is the same for small and large churches that have a burden to reach their communities for Christ and make disciples.

Some churches will develop new strategies, add a new program, or reorganize their structure looking for the answers. Three areas that need our continual focus for our individual walks and for our churches to be spiritually healthy are:

  • First, you must have an upward or God-focus. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
  • Second, you must have an inward or personal-growth focus. 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”
  • Third, you must have an outward or others-focus. Matthew 22:39, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

A God-focus is a must! Who really transforms lives and develops people spiritually? The Holy Spirit of God! We can cooperate in that process but it is the supernatural work of God that is required in our lives and in our churches. Fanaticism has been defined as “Redoubling your efforts after your aim has been forgotten.”

Have we placed more trust in what we can do than in what He can do? Thom Rainer said this, “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves.” Remaining God-focused helps us to never forget that just like a farmer who plants, fertilizes, and waters the fields, only God can make it grow.

Growth and transformation are first and foremost the work of God! If we need workers, which we do, the instructions are clear in Matthew 9:38, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” We say we believe in prayer but do we practice what we preach? Are we praying for our leaders, our churches, and our neighbors?

Here a couple of things that E.M. Bounds said about prayer, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle…Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter of prayer; but a capacity for faith, the power of a thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one’s self in God’s glory and an ever present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God…Other duties become pressing and absorbing and crowd our prayer. ‘Choked to death’ would be the coroner’s verdict in many cases of dead praying if an inquest could be secured on this dire, spiritual calamity.”

JD Payne has said it well, “Strategic planning is both a science and an art that involves specific and abundant prayer. If God desires to pour out His Spirit on North America, what can we do to join Him in His work, rather than hinder the work?” Maybe the biggest part of strategy is not figuring out what to do but rather choosing what not to do!

Could it be that in our desire for results we have placed our confidence in how busy we are, how many programs we have, and how must stuff we have going on? Here are a couple of suggestions for implementing an intentional prayer strategy:

  • Protect your quiet time with God. Continue to develop a close intimate relationship with God through prayer. It does take discipline.
  • Make sure you are praying for the spiritual condition of people in your circle of influence even more than their physical needs.
  • Develop prayer teams that meet to pray for the lost, the spiritual condition of your church, and the leadership in your church.
  • When people ask you to pray with them about something stop right then and pray! Stop promising something you usually forget to follow through on.
  • Ask God to show you what you need to be doing and what you need to consider stopping. He is the best strategist.

All strategies need to be birthed out of the word of God and our prayer closets. They must be flexible and adaptable to the leading of the Spirit. There is no better strategist than God and He has called us as His workmen to plan wisely.

Maybe the first place to look is at what we need to stop doing instead of adding another activity. It doesn’t need to be stopped because it is wrong but because it is not the best and wisest way to invest our time and efforts. Psalms 37:23. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”

In A Work of Heart Reggie McNeal says, “God does not want His spokespeople relying on past techniques and methodology (previously, in Exodus 19, the rock issued water when Moses struck it.) He wishes the leader to rely on Him!”

The Power of Coaching

coaching testimonies

Coach training has made a huge impact on my life and my approach to ministry.  It has helped me to focus more on listening than telling.  The C.O.A.C. H. Model® by Keith Webb (Connect, Outcome, Awareness, Course, Highlights) has equipped me with a simple reproducible process that helps the person being coached to discover and implement God’s leading in their life.  Here is Chris Driver’s testimony written to Danny Kirk on the benefits of coaching and coach training.  Chris is the Pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church, Brownsboro, TX.

“I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know just how amazing the Coaching Workshop training was! I’m not really sure what I was expecting that first day, but I got more than I could’ve ever hoped for! On the way home from the last day of training I stopped and had lunch with a youth pastor friend of mine and put it to work right away. My friend walked away with two action steps to help him and his volunteers clear up their vision and definition of what a successful youth ministry will look like for them. TOO COOL!

But that was just scratching the surface, my friend.  I am becoming more convinced every day that this might well be the greatest discipleship tool I’ve ever come across. Here’s why.  I have searched high and low for a curriculum or program or book or theory or anything I could find that would help guide people into a growing, vibrant, intentional relationship with Jesus Christ.  I’ve come across some pretty good stuff but there’s nothing out there that can just be used across the board.  Reason?  Every believer is different in too many ways.  They’re in different places spiritually, come from different backgrounds, are going through different trials and tribulations, and need to work on different things.  So what’s the solution?  Easy!  THE HOLY SPIRIT!  Man, I can’t tell you how hard that hit me during the training.  I can’t replace the Holy Spirit and neither can a curriculum!  But I can help guide a disciple through questions and let them go where the Holy Spirit wants them to go, work on what He wants them to work on, and become who He wants them to be!  WHAT A CONCEPT!!!

Brother, I haven’t been this excited about my ministry in a long time.  I’ve been overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion trying to figure out how to carry people or drive people or herd people into real discipleship.  But now I realize all I have to do is sit and listen and ask a few questions and let them and our amazing God have a conversation that changes their life!  Now, that’s exciting…and freeing!  Thanks for everything, my friend. May God continue to bless you and this amazing ministry.”

Here are a couple more testimonies of the blessing of having a coach and being coached:

“Having been absolutely alone on the mission field for a great portion of my life, and without anyone on whom to lean in times of difficulty, it has been really refreshing to me during the past couple of years to have a coach in whom I can confide and depend upon when I need counsel and direction.  I strongly encourage any servant of God to find and use a good coach.” Buddy Johnson, Missionary to Mexico and now the Director of International Church Planting Training.

“I was recently in a conversation with my coach, Danny Kirk, about what small groups look like at Grace Hills, and how we know when a group is healthy. By the end of our conversation, I had seven clearly articulated signs of group health and the kind of metric to apply to each. (And that’s the benefit of coaching!)”  Brandon Cox, Church Planter, Northwest AR

“After I personally experienced the benefits of having a coach, I knew I wanted to learn how to coach others. I recently attended a coaches training with several other BMAA leaders and the skills I learned have already made me a much better leader. Using the coaching method, I have helped those in ministry leadership, my family, and my church discover how to move forward with God’s calling for their life. I have learned that coaching allows the Holy Spirit to lead the person instead of me trying to tell him/her what decision they should make. The results I am seeing from coaching are the reason that I am sold on coaching!”  Todd West, Lead Pastor Oasis Church, North Little Rock, AR.

Learn more about being coached and being trained to coach by contacting me, Danny Kirk, or checking out www.keithwebb.com and www.creativeresultsmanagement.com

Leadership Development

Leadership Development 2

 

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,”  Matt 28:20

 “Lead your leaders well and everything else will take care of itself.”  Will Mancini stated it well in his book Church Unique.  We know what our mission is, the great commission, and we have a vision of how our ministry is to carry out the mission but the mechanism that drives the vision and mission is leadership.  Are we are more interested in the numbers than we are in reproducing spiritual leaders?  How do we develop spiritual leaders?

  • First, determine what a leader looks like!  Do not equate spiritually mature leaders with naturally gifted leaders who may not be spiritually mature.  If anyone relies on their natural abilities to lead the body of Christ that body will be bruised, hurt, and damaged before too long.  J. Oswald Sanders said, “Spiritual leadership is a matter of superior spiritual power, and that can never be self-generated.  There is no such thing as a self-made leader.  He is able to influence others spiritually only because the Spirit is able to work in and through him to a greater degree than in those whom he leads.”
  • Second, make sure the potential leader agrees with the heart and vision of the ministry God has given you.  Just because they were “qualified” to lead a ministry in another church does not automatically mean they will fit into your ministry.  Are they teachable and open to more instruction?  Do they have a servant’s heart and willing to do whatever is asked of them?  One of our core values should be that before you can lead first you must serve.  Move slowly if they try to impress you with how qualified they think they are.  Never place them over other people to quickly.
  • Third, always be watching for potential “spiritual” leaders.  Pray that God will give you leaders out of the harvest.  Always be thinking of how you can better develop a farm system instead of relying completely on recruiting from the outside.  You must know where you want them to be spiritually before you appoint them to a leadership position.  Are they grounded enough?

Bob Logan gives the following advice on spotting potential leaders::

  • Look for evidence of giftedness in potential leaders; . . . the gifts may not be fully developed.
  • Look for character rather than social standing; . . . they may be a leader in the world, but that doesn’t mean their character has been refined.
  • Look for faithfulness and humility rather than flashes of talent; . . . consistency to follow through with assignments (even when there is little recognition) demonstrates endurance.
  • Look for obedience rather than knowledge; . . . being faithful to do what they know is better than knowing a lot but not putting it into practice.
  • Look for willingness to learn rather than experience; . . . Someone who has “done it before” may not be willing to learn a new way of doing things.
  • Look for available people rather than the overworked leader; . . . too few leaders are carrying too much of the load. Find people who are ready for a new challenge.  (coachnet.org)

Remember that the most important ingredient for leadership in the church is spiritual formation.  Far too many “spiritual” leaders in churches today have no prayer life, do not tithe, will not witness, and are not walking by faith.  They must be equipped in the spiritual habits that are critical in their spiritual growth such as prayer, bible study, worship, and service, giving, building relationships with the unchurched, and sharing their faith.  Before we appoint leaders we must make sure that their values are biblical and their character is above reproach.

If spiritual leadership is not properly connected to the vision then the vision is only a dream and will never materialize.  You must be prepared to recruit leaders, train leaders, and lead leaders.  Do you have an easily reproducible plan to develop leaders in your church?  We will talk about that in the next column.

The Church is the Hope of the World

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The hope for America is in the hands of your church and my church. God has entrusted us with His gospel and it is our responsibility to reach our communities with the good news. That is why our purpose statement for North America is “raising up a generation of church planters to transform their communities with the gospel!”

Stories of life transformation are occurring as church planters step out in faith and obey God’s calling on their lives. These planters are obeying their responsibility to cast their nets and God is responding by filling them.

First, “raising up!”

There must be a system in place to develop leaders through discipleship and mentoring. We are dedicated to assessing, training, and coaching church planters but it is churches that produce church planters (Acts 13:1-3).

Do you have a farm system in place for developing leaders in your church?

  • IDENTIFY potential leaders. Always be looking for young Timothys, and others, that God brings your way to mentor.
  • INVEST in potential leaders. Develop a process that will properly equip and empower them for leadership.
  • INITIATE potential leaders. Develop entry level points of service and ministry. Assign them projects and observe how they do before ever considering them for any position.

Second, “a generation!”

Here are some shocking generational facts Thom Rainer has reported that show how every American generation since WWII has become less churched!

  • Builders – born before 1948 – 65% attend. Boomers – born from 1948-1964 – 35% attend.
  • Busters – born from 1965-1976, – 15% attend regularly.
  • Bridgers – born 1977-1994 – Only 4% attend.

While not mentioned above, no one has forgotten the “Millennial” generation, those 20-to-37-year-olds, referred to as “the most researched generation in history.” The new generation in town is Generation Z. They are still in their teens but are rapidly coming into their own.

What are we doing to reach them with the gospel? Are we equipping the teens in our churches to share the gospel? Barna Research reports, “nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.”

Third, “church planters!”

Our church plants are also producing church planters. While statistics say 90% of church plants never plant another church, two of our church plants have reproduced already.

Grace Hills in Northwest AR has sent out Michael Smith and Cody Woodward to plant in Siloam Springs, AR and Refuge Church in Terrell, TX has sent out Todd Cox to North Atlanta.

Both of these congregations planned well for this step of faith and multiplication. There are always concerns of when is too soon but usually we wait too long!

Dave Browning said, “The time to start a new location is when we have the leadership to execute it, rather than the people to attend it!” He adds, “We have never done demographic studies prior to launching a small group, cafe, or center in a community. If there are lost people in the community and leaders willing to reach them, then we figure we need to be there.” We talk about reaching our nation for Christ but very little missional action is taking place!

Fourth, “to transform their communities!”

Here is an example of how transformation can occur. Church planter Anders Lee in Southaven, MS shared how they rented a bowling alley and Jason’s Deli. Over 60 people, who they knew were unchurched or dechurched, were invited.

They funded the cost of the bowling and the food based on a core value, “Our Dollars match our DNA.” They printed welcome cards that included a simple note of thanks for coming and an invitation to their worship services. There were 34 “Oikos Connections” that showed up.

Several couples were asked to greet and have conversations with their guests using the “tap” method. If one couple was talking to a guest and another couple came up, before they could leave they had to “tap” them on the back to let them know they were handing them off. It worked because 26 of the 34 came to worship the next Sunday and 4 families said they would definitely be back!

Transformation of communities begins with the transformation of hearts by building relationships with them through “oikos.”

Fifth, “with the gospel!”

As we send out church planters all across North America we are sending them to proclaim the gospel which is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). Verse 15 says, “So I (Paul) am eager to preach the good news to you.” Our church planters are eager to share the good news of the gospel to the people God has called them to reach. They desire to be culturally relevant and community sensitive but their first commitment is to be Biblically sound. Jesus is the only answer!

Every church should increase their involvement in church planting! Many think we have all the churches we need but the opposite is true. It has been estimated that there will need to be 700,000 more churches planted by 2050 just to keep up with population growth. It takes all kind of churches to reach all kinds of people.

We have a responsibility to reach as many people, in as many places, in as many ways as we possibly can! . Samuel Johnson gives us this challenge, “We need to get urgency up, fear down, and complacency down. We have to get predisposed to go anywhere, to go to anyone, and to go now.”

Be Attractional and Missional

Missional Living

 

Many churches rely almost completely on attracting people to their churches through their worship services, programs, and their friendliness.  All of those are great things to have but is it enough?  We must become also become “Missional.” We need to be living every day as a mission trip.  Missionaries work hard at relating Christ in the best way possible to reach the people in the culture where they have been called.

This means that we are intentionally and strategically representing Christ in the community at large.  We are getting close to people who desperately need Christ so that they can see Him in us.  Attractional churches do everything they can to draw non-christians to them and their ministries.  Missional churches refuse to become inwardly focused or “sociologically cocooned.”

A good friend recently shared that he attended a recent training where they were required to decide whether their church plant would use a “Come and See” or a “Go and Tell” approach.  He raised his hand and asked why it couldn’t be both?  Exactly!  The goal is to have as many doors where people can connect as possible.  Doors are entry points where people can connect with the church.

Some examples of doors are: Worship Services, Activities, Oikos Events, Small Groups, VBS, Back Yard Bible Clubs, and YOU!!!  Yes you!

Attract away but also live on mission.  Here is a definition of  missional from Reggie McNeal, “An inherent understanding of our being the people of God partnering with him in His redemptive mission in the world.”  Notice the ingredients of being missional:

  1. Being: What you do comes out of who you are.
  2. Partnering: As the Father sent Jesus now Jesus is sending us.
  3. His: This is God’s plan and there is no plan B.
  4. Redemptive: It is all about His gospel of salvation and redemption.
  5. Mission: It is not the church that has a mission but God who has a mission and has churches and followers to carry out that mission.
  6. World: He is not willing that any should perish.

Here are some steps to being missional (partnering with Him):

  • Be Incarnational: We must focus on living, demonstrating, and offering Biblical community to a lost and dying world. We have become very good at doing church but are we being the church every single day?
  • Be Indigenous: We do not choose the culture we live in but we can choose whether we withdraw into the comfort of the church cultures we have created or thrive where He has planted us.  How can your church reach your community better?
  • Be Intentional: There is nothing wrong with being strategic in how we minister to those around us.  Are we willingly die to personal preferences so that Christ’s name may be proclaimed in the most effective way possible in our context?

In Breaking the Missional Code, Ed Stetzer says, “It is the discipline of seeing your context through missional lenses and then exercising faith by taking risks to live the Great Commandment in such a way that you can fulfill the Great Commission.”  A great need today is to figure out how to get beyond the institution into the places where people live and hang out!  A couple of thoughts here:

  • Choose engagement over retreat.
  • Build bridges don’t burn them..
  • Open up more doors for entry points.
  • Be willing to meet people where they are.
  • Engage unbelievers, don’t avoid them.

In Revolution in Leadership Reggie McNeal says, “Authentic renewal will come to the North American church when God’s people are led to accept their commission to live on mission with Him in the world.”