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Start Building

As we strive to be good stewards of the ministry Christ has placed us over we need to think of focusing on what needs our attention.  If we desire healthy growing churches then we must start doing the things that will help us to be healthy and will enable us to also stay healthy.  Our physical and spiritual health depends on diet, exercise, getting the proper rest, and some other important activities. Last week we stressed the need to stop doing the things that are only digging the hole deeper. This week we will focus on the things we need to be doing!

What habits do you need to commit to in the New Year? If you are going to build up and help others then you need to make sure you are practicing self-care also.  What plans do you have to care for your own soul spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically, and mentally?  Dr. Steve Crawley says, “To revisit a thought shared previously, if we use our Life Plan to establish a habit of doing the little things each day that lead to success, it may not seem like much to start, bot over the course of time the impact will sky rocket.” 

First, we need to be praying!  This is where we need to begin, on our knees before our God begging Him for His power and direction.  Are you praying for your church leaders, church family, and for your community daily? When Nehemiah saw the need in Jerusalem we see this godly leader stop, fast, and pray. How much time are you actually spending crying out to God on behalf of the spiritual condition of your church?  One source has reported that 90% of evangelicals pray approximately one minute a day!  

Second, practice courageous leadership!  When God does show you the things you need to be doing, obey! The congregation needs to face the truth of their spiritual condition and godly leaders need to provide that truth no matter how painful it might be.  People need to hear the truth whether they embrace it or not.  The real challenge of leadership is convincing people that the pain of where they need to go is not as painful as staying where they are.  Think children of Israel!  They were convinced they would be better off returning to Egypt.

Third, structure the ministry in your church to get more people involved.  We have even gotten to where we need a committee to determine who will be on the committees.  Some churches that are already struggling think that getting more structure will fix everything and it just does not work that way.  Focus on moving people out of meetings and into ministry.  In The Unstuck Church,Tony Morgan says, “I’d much rather have people invest their time, gifts, and energy in making disciples than in making decisions in a church committee meeting.” 

Fourth, you must sell-out in developing and implementing a discipleship pathway.  Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.”  Read great books on discipleship such as The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman and Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putman.  Most churches do well at the big circle (worship), the middle circle (Bible studies), but struggle at one-on-one discipleship that promotes spiritual mentoring and accountability.  Take a break from working in the ministry only and take the time to step back and work on your discipleship plan.

Fifth, consider changing your church governance system if it is unhealthy or dysfunctional. Is your structure modeling what spiritual leadership should look like?  The primary purpose of church leadership is not to keep the pastor and staff in line.  Their primary role should be to encourage and enable their pastor to lead the way God intended.  Find a structure that recognizes that God often allows the leader to see the direction and challenges first.  All too often a pastor is desired and asked to use their pastoral gifts more than their leadership gifts. 

Sixth, work hard at remaining outwardly focused.  Yes, to some I am sounding like a broken record but to be like Christ we must seek out the lost.  Almost everything we do is for people who are already connected to the church.  It is not possible to be healthy if we never do much to reach people outside the faith and outside the church.  Our evangelism approach may look different today than it did in 1970, but the mission and heart of God remains unchanged.  You cannot necessarily expect to return to the method of the 70’s but we can return to the value!

Seventh, work on building the systems you need to sustain growth.  As important as systems are you must make sure youkeep it simple!  Complexity actually hurts more than it helps.  For example, we think we have a discipleship pathway when in reality what we have is a multitude of programs that teach Bible lessons.  Of course, teaching the Bible is a good thing but you must look closely at your spiritual growth system to make sure it is actually producing multiplying disciples.  Can you trace multiplication to the fourth generation?  (2 Timothy 2:2)    

BMA Missions defines our vision statement as a discipleship based multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches.  Courageous conversations are necessary for your church to figure out how to engage your community and make a difference for the cause of Christ.  Quoting Tony Morgan again, he says that, “We easily become fixated on being the “best” church in our community,rather than being the best churchfor our community!” Methods should never become more important than the mission.  Are you seeing a multiplication of disciples who are discipling others?

Quit Digging a Hole

It has been said, “If you are in a hole, rule number one is to stop digging.” That certainly sums up many other statements that could be made about a church that is no longer healthy.  Yet, all too often, that church continues to do the very things that made her unhealthy.  In The Unstuck Church, Tony Morgan says, “What got the church on life support will not make it healthy again.” There is such a need to consider prayerful evaluation of where your church is (healthy versus unhealthy), why it is unhealthy, and what needs to be done to make it healthy again. 

There is another saying that goes like this, “Hope springs eternal.”  The problem is that biblical godly hope is not just a pie in the sky dream.  It is more than just wishful thinking.  Romans 5:5 says, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  You see the hope of God will not disappoint because He acted on that hope and came to provide us a way to have a relationship with Him.  It is not enough to think that hoping things will change will actually produce healthy change.

We constantly say things like; “I sure hope someone fixes that”, “I sure hope someone shares the gospel with them”, or “I sure hope things get better.”  Hope by itself alone will not win people to Jesus, disciple new converts, plant a church, keep a church healthy, or get a dying church off life support.  The reality is that hope is not a strategy and you need a plan to quit digging and know what to do after the digging stops.  God had a strategy to deliver hope, “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”  (Gal 4:4)

How do you stop digging deeper?  Begin by evaluating where you are and if you are healthy.  

First, will you develop a clear and compelling vision that all of your people can clearly articulate.  A lack of vision is one characteristic that shows up in churches that begin to drift from their mission and begin to decline. Your vision needs to specifically describe the next steps your church will take to begin getting healthy by developing healthy steps and practices for your people to take.  Mission is why you exist and is where you are headed.

Second, how will you make disciples and what does discipleship look like in your church?  Jim Putman in Real Life Discipleshipdescribes discipleship as an intentional leader, with a relational environment, and a reproducible process.  Discipleship that is complicated and confusing will not produce healthy disciples.  Chances are they will not produce disciples at all.  Do you have a reproducible process with clear steps that moves people from where they are to where God wants then to be?  These steps lead from spiritual birth to spiritual parenthood. 

Third, how will you lead your church to remain outwardly focused with a heart of generosity?  The church does not exist only for those who are already there. Tony Morgan in The Unstuck Churchsays, “It’s impossible for any church to be healthy and experience growth if nothing they do is designed to reach people who are outside the faith and outside the church.”  You must prioritize people who are outside your church by showing them the love of Christ in practical ways.  You have to quit digging the hole of only focusing on who is already there. 

The second part of this is by being a generous church.  Ask yourself whether or not your church leans toward being generous or protecting and holding on to what you have?  When we lean toward being a generous church then we lean more toward being like Christ.  When we lean toward being stingy then we lean further away from Him.  Romans 5:5 says, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  His loved was poured out to us so that we would pour that love out to others. 

This principle of generosity is stressed in Galatians 6 by telling us we should not get tired of doing good and with every opportunity we have we should labor for the good of everyone.  This biblical principle of practicing generosity should always characterize how we treat those outside the church.  We should remain generous regardless of how many times we think that people have taken advantage of our generosity.  Resist the temptation to focus on maintenance and preservation of what you already have.  God gave you what you have to invest it into His kingdom work! 

 Fourth, lead your church in these areas with strength and courage.  You must do whatever is necessary to get your church healthy and reach new people with the gospel.  Some will want to continue digging the hole deeper and deeper but you must lead them to lay down their shovels and crawl out of the hole.  There will be opposition but you cannot wait for everyone to get on board.  Pray hard and then begin to develop a plan of attack on how you will get healthy, your church leaders will be healthy, and then so your church will be healthier.  

Lead your people with a vision of making disciples who make disciples.  The time is now to become a strong leader. Until you begin to make the necessary changes to become healthy the plan has only been a conversation.  Once you begin to take the actual steps toward becoming healthy there will be opposition.  Not everyone will be happy that you have decided to stop digging the hole deeper and deeper.  Lead anyway toward biblical church health!    

P5 MULTIPLICATION

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Allow me to cast a vision for a North American church multiplication movement which is God sized. Dave Olson, the author of The American Church in Crisis, recently said that over 600,000 churches there will need to be planted by the year 2050 just to keep up with population growth and to replace the 3,000 – 4,000 churches that are closing their doors every year. Paul Becker, the President of Dynamic Church planting International, coined the phrase that God placed on his heart, “700K in the USA.”

This God size vision must be cast nationally but we need to implement it locally. So now allow me to share with you a process and strategy to the preferred future that we believe God desires for all of churches. We have developed a track to help every church carry out the Great Commission and to help each church determine their level of involvement in this movement.

Every church big and small can and should be involved in church multiplication.

First – Pray!

While I realize that this is understood by most we must be careful to not overlook this all important step in this process. In our Dynamic Church Planting International Essentials training (which is Bible principle based not a model) there are four phases; The Macedonia Phase which is God to you, the Ephesus Phase which is You to Your Team, the Jerusalem Phase which is Your Team to the Church, and the Antioch phase which is Your Church to the World. Each phase begins with the same key component; a prayer retreat. We must set aside scheduled times and days that are dedicated to prayer and fasting as we seek His vision for our church. Principle #1 of the DCPI training is the Boss Principle which says, “God is the Lord of church planting and He has a vision for your new daughter church.”

Second – Prepare!

The preparation phase is so important to the church, the church planter, and the missionary. There is the process of assessment that is used to determine an individual’s giftedness, readiness, and where they would be the most beneficial in the Lord’s work. Every church ought to send their possible candidates through the assessment weekend (contact me at larry@bmaam.com). Preparation should also include training such as our Multiplication Workshop which teaches the simple reproducible process of making disciples that make disciples that make disciples.

Our DCPI training has five tracks: Church planting Essentials (for the church planting/missionary team), Churches Planting Churches (for the parent and partner churches), New Church Dynamics (years 2-5 of the church plant), Mentoring Church Planters (how to mentor/coach the planter/missionary), and Church Planting Movements.

With our eyes on the Great Commission we must develop transferrable methods that empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things. What if every church (churches could also cooperate) developed a Ministry Multiplication Center?  I will blog on what that looks like soon!!!

Third – Partner!

Church planters and missionaries could not accomplish what they are accomplishing without partners who have committed to praying, encouraging, visiting, and financially supporting them. They must be willing to give the rest of their lives to suffering for and serving the church. Money is not the limiting factor – leadership is! We must create a culture where we answer the call to mission not salary.

If we rely on external motivation, a paycheck, to reach the world it will never happen. The planter and missionary must have internal motivation; God’s calling, to do whatever it takes to be obedient to His will for their lives. God gives churches and individuals the opportunity to partner and come alongside of them to reach our nation and the world for Christ.

Fourth – Parent!

This requires a much larger commitment from the church. It could be a larger amount of financial support and closer relationship with the church planter/missionary family but it could also involve raising up, discipling, assessing, training, and sending a team out of the church to birth a daughter congregation. A parent takes full responsibility for their children but usually needs some partners (brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents) to help with the nurturing of the new baby. The Churches Planting Churches (DCPI) track is a must with a lesson on “Determining Your Involvement” in the church plant. Every church ought to multiply.

Some say, “We are not healthy enough to multiply!” Then your goal should be to become healthy enough so that you can multiply!

Fifth – Plant!

If we had a sign to hang in the window at our Global Ministry Center it would read, “Church Planters Needed, Apply Inside!” If you think that God might be calling you to church planting we have a tool that you could use to help determine that. The Church Planter Candidate Assessment tool is available on line at cpca.lifeway.com

The truth is that you cannot disconnect church planting from New Testament missions. It was not always the result of their disciple making efforts but it was always the goal. Maturity is the ability to reproduce and we have worked hard to provide churches an easy process for a disciple based church multiplication movement.

Let’s get moving!