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Three to Thrive

3_to_thrive

 

Years ago this is the statement made by a very well known preacher, ”It takes three to thrive!” He encouraged you to be faithful to Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. There certainly is great wisdom and benefit to being faithful but church attendance does not guarantee spiritual maturity. We should not forsake Christian fellowship and there is not a better place to grow then in the company of other believers.  We need the word God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God (community) to thrive spiritually.

The three to thrive this article addresses our congregational worship, spiritual disciplines, and participating in a small group. These three dynamics are very important for continued spiritual growth to occur. Every church needs to think through the systems they have in place to encourage that these three are understood, available, and can be easily followed. When a follower of Christ is personally involved in all three of these it enables them to spiritually grow faster, stronger, and continuously.

First, understand the importance of Sunday worship. Jesus encouraged those interested in following Him to “Come and See!” The first four months of His ministry were allowing them to watch and observe if He was for real. Sunday morning is one of our best opportunities to invite people to come and see that God is real. What other time do you have where people will feel comfortable attending? There are many entry points to introduce people to the church family but many are not comfortable when connecting through a small group, Bible study, or a prayer meeting.

Do you gear the services more toward the churched or the unchurched? Usually, the message is for the believers to strengthen them. Unbelievers cannot truly worship but they can be invited to participate and it is a wonderful thing for them to watch believers worship. It is a big step for someone who does not know if they believe or not to enter our world on Sunday mornings. One pastor said, “Our theology is for the churched, termed for the unchurched.” This time is also a great opportunity for a gospel appeal to be offered!

Second, emphasize the necessity of daily spiritual disciplines. Most believers know they should read their Bibles and grow but they have never been shown how to do that or what that looks like. Has your church developed a plan that everyone can easily follow and participate in? If a new disciple wants to go deeper in the word of God how do they do that at your church? Is there someone who can show them how to study their Bible and grow spiritually? Corporate worship is important but without personal private worship the believer will not thrive!

Consider developing a plan where everyone in your church is reading the same daily scriptures and challenge them to journal. This builds an environment where everyone is discussing the same truths and asking similar questions. Publish a scripture reading schedule so everyone knows what passage they are to focus on each day. Teach them to approach the scriptures asking a couple of questions. What is God saying here? What does He want me to do about it?

Third, participate in a small group. These groups are an opportunity to share what you are studying and discuss it further. This is where relationships are built and accountability can be developed. When people are not connected to a small group they will not thrive spiritually and many times will eventually drift away from church. This is where they can be cared for the best by other believers on a very personal level. This is the place where they can love and be loved, serve and be served, know and be known, and celebrate and be celebrated (Bill Hybels).

Do you have a system in place to connect people to a small group? It is not enough to just announce it from the platform. Consider ways to sign people up, recruit people to different groups, and give public testimonies of how these groups have helped someone to grow and develop spiritually. People need to realize that the group quality is diminished when they are not faithful to their small groups. In The Disciple Making Pastor Bill Hull says, “When people get to know each other, needs are identified and met. It is vital to good care of people that the church provides such a vehicle.”

What if all three were connected to one another? Our church is having a six-week campaign on The Bible Questions by Hal Seed and it connects all three of these around the theme of “Shedding Light on the World’s Most Important Book.” The elements of the campaign are this:

  1. The sermon on Sunday. The message is meant to hopefully make the Bible come alive and encourage people to want to read it more. The series enables the pastor to focus everyone on what they are to study and why. The messages are designed to prepare them for what they are going to be reading daily and what they will be discussing in small group.
  2. The daily reading. The book The Bible Questions was made available to everyone so they could read daily about the word of God. For four weeks they read a short chapter each day Monday through Friday. There is then a passage of scripture to read and questions to answer. This will take the average person 12-15 minutes to complete.
  3. Small Groups. Then the small groups come together to discuss what the pastor already preached and what they have read and studied during the week. The leader of the group is prepared to answer questions and lead the group into some deeper discussions on the content already covered!

Quoting Hal Seed from the book, “The more your brain has top-of-the-mind-awareness of God’s view of things, the less your heart will want to do the things that hurt you and other people.”

Healthy churches thrive because they have connected the dots of congregational worship, spiritual disciplines, and small groups!

I REFUSE

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The words to Josh Wilson’s song, I Refuse, say it well, “Sometimes I just want to close my eyes and act like everyone’s all right when I know they’re not. This world needs God but it’s easier to stand and watch. I could say a prayer and just move on like nothing’s wrong, but I refuse.” The chorus challenges us out of our comfort zone, “Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care. I don’t want to say another empty prayer. Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself. Oh, I could choose not to move, but I refuse!”

As His disciples, we must refuse to accept the status quo or place our lives in cruise control. We cannot do it all, but we can do something for the cause of Christ. Everyone has something to contribute as we dedicate our lives to following Him. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the truth that there is too much work to be done and too few workers to accomplish it. The need outnumbering the workers is the reality staring every leader, ministry, and church in the face. This is not a new problem and Jesus addressed it during His ministry.

Please fight the temptation to overlook familiar passages without allowing them to speak to your heart again. In Matthew 9:36-38, this is what we find, “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” This passage is actually an anthem for a lifetime commitment to multiplication. A discipleship based multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches.

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that our mission is to “make disciples” and to also “pray for workers.” We must be determined to follow through on that calling and refuse to allow anything to deter us from that God commanded pursuit. There are two elements clearly pointed out here in Matthew 9.

First, every follower of Christ must make himself or herself available for His service. Greg Laurie says, “God’s plans for your life are better than any plans you have for yourself. So don’t be afraid of God’s will, even if it’s different from yours.” It begins by dying to self!

Second, we are called to be faithful in praying to God to send other workers and laborers. Be careful before you answer this question. Is prayer your primary, go to, recruitment approach of enlisting new workers and leaders? In Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull says, “Leaders can employ various recruiting tools: entertainment followed by an appeal; guilt stimulation followed by an appeal; calling in favors followed by an appeal; arm twisting followed by an appeal; an old reliable, the tear-jerker film or story followed by a tear-jerker appeal. These are common, but not commanded recruiting techniques.”

This does not mean there is never a time for an appeal or that using one of these recruiting techniques is unbiblical or unspiritual. It does mean, however, that we refuse to elevate other techniques and methods over the one Jesus said we were to employ. Why is this so important? Let me quote Bill Hull again, “Jesus realized that if the unmet needs before Him were to be met, thirteen men working twelve-hour days would produce more than one man working an eight hour day.” Pastor, you need help and God never intended on you having to do it all yourself!

First, refuse to not be obedient to His mission for His church. He made it clear, “Go make disciples!” That will require refusing to only be busy with busy things. Who is discipled you and who are you discipling? You must refuse to not be intentional in this area. It took Jesus two years of mentoring the twelve before He began turning the ministry over to them. He invested in them before He released them to do the work He had called them to do. Everybody needs a Paul challenging you in the next steps of following Christ and everyone should find a Timothy to pass those steps on.

Second, refuse to not be faithful in praying for laborers. There is not only a personal commitment here but a corporate one as well. Some set an alarm on their watch for 10:02 AM or PM to remind them of the call to pray in Luke 10:2. There should also be a call to pray for laborers on a regular basis during our services and other meetings. A great idea would be to tie the time of prayer to a specific need or needs such as children’s church workers, small group leaders, or a youth pastor. Think about how little we pray at church when Jesus said it was to be a house of prayer.

Third, refuse to gripe about how little everyone else is doing compared to you. One of my favorite passages in John is where Jesus is talking to Peter. As they are walking Jesus asks him three times if he really loves Him, Peter switches the focus to John. Jesus tells him to let Him worry about John and says, “As for you, follow Me.”. Here is the reality. What sacrifice could Christ ask us to make that we should not be more than willing to make? Refuse to lose your focus about dying to self, picking up your cross, and following Him. It’s worth it!

Fourth, refuse to measure effectiveness by only measuring the obvious. Several have made reference to the “3 Killer B’s” of bodies, bucks, and buildings. We should not discount their importance, but the temptation has been to make them the metric of church health. Your size, bank accounts, or wonderful facilities do not guarantee that your church is healthy. Is your church making disciples who make disciples? Are you producing disciple makers?

Healthy church members have this mantra, “Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself.”

Creating Buy-in!!!

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Allow me to say it again. For the dream to work the team must work. The emphasis is not about team effort as much as it is about chemistry and cooperation. It is hard work to build a team that can work as one unit and it requires even more effort to keep it that way. You must communicate where you are going, why you are going there, and how you will make the trip.

In The Disciple Making Pastor Bill Hull says, “Any system for church organization that allows the unspiritual and disobedient to dictate is wrong.” Strong words but this truth cannot be ignored. How will you handle conflict, especially, if it is in a leadership position? What will you do when there is a vision clash that challenges team harmony and threatens to derail the mission of your church? Expect there to be opposition and know that you will never be able to make everyone happy.

One of the first steps in understanding team dynamics is to realize that everyone has a primary voice they speak from. In 5 Voices: How to Communicate Effectively with Everyone you Lead Jeremie Kubick and Steve Cockram cover in depth what these 5 different voice look like. We will look at them briefly asking, “What is my primary and secondary voice?” All 5 voices are valuable and contribute to the team.

First, are the nurturers! They are always concerned about other people’s feelings and work hard at making everyone know they are valued. They are very compassionate and often have a very large dose of mercy. They are great listeners and will fight for the highest possible good in others. Their temptation is to be very slow about getting on board with an idea because they want to make sure everyone on the team is in agreement before they will commit.

Second, are the guardians! These individuals are always watching the core values of the church very closely. They are protectors and stewards of the church’s traditions, resources, and what they believe to be the established paths already determined by the church. They ask the hard questions that need to be asked. Their temptation can be to allow traditions to become traditionalism where legalism can place the traditions over the word of God. Remember, their voice is needed!

Third, are the creatives! They have great ideas and love to think outside of the box. They give perspective from a unique angle that many will never think of. They love to challenge the status quo and often ask, “why not?” They really do not understand why others may struggle with their concepts believing from their heart that their idea is a great idea. Their temptation is to “always” have a better idea. They believe so strongly in their ideas that they may struggle listening to others.

Fourth, are the connectors! They enjoy networking and getting everyone in the right seat on the bus. With a good understanding of the team concept they busy themselves in helping everyone to see their role on the team. They move quickly and easily in a group but will sometimes struggle in slowing down enough to get to know the people on their team well. Their temptation is to overly focus on the group and not focus enough on individual’s relationships.

Fifth, are the pioneers! They are forward thinkers and blaze new trails. The pioneer is very comfortable with problem solving and making tough decisions. They are risk takers and if it has never been done before they believe that is exactly why it should be attempted. They have the courage to make difficult decisions and communicate an attractive vision of the future. Their temptation is to not give everyone’s view a fair listening because their mind is already made up.

Creating buy-in comes from listening to everyone on the team and how you communicate to different team members. There are basically five responses that are common to your leadership and vision. There are the innovators, the early adopters, the middle adopters, the late adopters, and unfortunately, the never adopters. How you speak to each one of these groups is crucial and you must have realistic expectations for each group.

  1. The innovators are looking for involvement! They want to know how they can help and are ready to get started right away. You should immediately look for ways they can be directly involved.
  2. The early adopters are looking for support! They may not be directly involved but they love to champion the cause. Their support is an active endorsement and you know they are on board with the direction God is leading you.
  3. The middle adopters will give their acceptance. Their support is more of a passive endorsement but remember they are not against you. When your team has agreed upon the direction of the ministry and the next steps required they are ok with it.
  4. The late adopters will hopefully tolerate your decision. You are not expecting their buy-in but you are asking their commitment to withhold negative comments until there has been adequate time to give it a try.
  5. There is not much you can do with the never adopters! Listen to Bill Hull again from The Disciple Making Pastor, “Sadly, many church problems find their origin in the immature and selfish agendas of church leaders. Commonly, the hardest group to get along with in the entire church is the leaders. They often are argumentative, close-minded, power hungry, and dedicated to keeping a firm hold on their territory. Once the church’s core becomes corrupt, you have almost no chance of renewal.”

Healthy churches seek a team leadership approach where everyone’s voice is valued and heard.   They move forward with those who are ready to get on board while understanding some need more time before they are ready!

Shared Leadership

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What is the primary role of the lead pastor? Unrealistic expectations by many congregations can lead to much misunderstanding and great disappointment. There are misconceptions on both sides of the issue. The congregation may feel that the pastor is there to care for their every need and serve the congregation. The pastor believes he is there to primarily preach the word and pray. When there is such a great disparity of perspective you can almost guarantee an eventual confrontation, congregational uprising, or a pastor becoming discouraged and leaving a church way too early.

People need to be cared for, but who has that role as their primary responsibility? The pastor is to deliver the word of God correctly and be a man of prayer – but is that his primary assignment? Is it wisdom for the pastor to announce to the membership that he is there to “serve” them? Has your church clearly defined the role and expectations of the pastor and membership according to the scriptures? Every member of a local church is to serve and to be a minister. While the importance of preaching can never be overstated, discipleship and leadership development is even more important.

The worship service is important but it is not the end in itself. It is the first step in the process. Yes, Jesus preached, but you see Him pouring into the disciples as He leads them through a “come and see” to a “come and be with me” process. The majority of His time (at least 20-24 months) was spent giving the twelve specialized training preparing them to carry on the ministry without Him. Jesus was focused on leadership development and He valued shared leadership by modeling how to reproduce not just followers, but also leaders.

Allow me to suggest that the primary role of the lead pastor is to train leaders to do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 makes it clear, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” Bill Hull stresses the importance of this passage by saying, “The pastor, singular, implies that one person is equipped to meet the needs of the entire flock. This simply is not true.” We must believe and practice the priesthood of every believer.

The pastor needs to see his primary role as preparing people for works of service. One example would be pastoral care. We see in Acts 6 that the people were not happy that some of their needs were not being cared for properly. The solution was not for the leaders to work harder or put in more hours. The answer was to get help from others who could help minister to the needs. It is not the responsibility of the pastor to care for everyone but it is his responsibility to make sure everyone is cared for. The real leadership task is to get the body functioning correctly through training.

The lead pastor must focus his effort and attention to intentionally being committed to reproduction of mature fully functioning followers of Jesus. Your top priority is not preacher but, rather, to be a teacher, trainer, and equipper of more leaders. The only way for any church to experience the multiplication of ministry, as it was meant to be, is through the preparation and participation of every member.

In The Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull says, “In the Ephesians (4) text Paul uses katartizo as the primary task of the leadership to bring about corporate maturity. This text presents the only methodology that guarantees corporate maturity. The prescribed means to maturity is the lead pastor’s dedication to preparation of people for deployment into ministry. To ignore this is tantamount to disobedience.” The passage develops this process: prepare God’s people, the preparation and proper training will build them up, and that is how the body will grow up and be mature.

He also says this about Ephesians 4, “Instead of pouring energy into the clear formula for effectiveness, the church has chosen to worship this text rather than obey it…..If applied, this text’s principles unlock the key to corporate maturity, effective evangelism, and a self-perpetuating growth.” Ephesians 4:16 makes this clear, “From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” Pastors must mobilize the congregation toward this goal.

What is meant by “shared” leadership?

  1. The biblical description of pastor does not mean that he is to do all of the work of the ministry.
  2. Every member needs to work and be involved in ministry. Notice in Ephesians 4:16 that it says, “every supporting ligament” and “the proper working of each individual part.”
  3. Preaching is important but you must also be focused on developing leaders who develop other leaders.
  4. To properly pastor any church it will require the combined gifts, wisdom, and faith of a team of godly leaders and team members.
  5. Bill Hull reminds us that, “No one person has the time, energy, or gifts to pastor a church and do it right.”
  6. If you want more out of our team then you must put more into your team. This will require an intentional plan to develop leaders.  Always be looking for those who want to go deeper and desire to do more.
  7. Don’t be guilty of understanding Ephesians 4, agreeing with its truth, but not carrying out and following through on its teachings. The truth is that the work of the ministry is to be done through shared leadership and responsibilities.

Healthy churches teach that every member is a minister and trains every member to do the work of the ministry!