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Don’t Settle For Less

Your church exists to help people find and follow Jesus. Our Lord made it very clear when He said, “Go and make disciples.” The core mission of every church is to help people follow Jesus, walk with Him, and continue on their spiritual journeys. According to Eugene Peterson, “Discipleship is long obedience in the same direction.” Is biblical disciple making really the core that drives your church and everything you do? Will you settle for anything less?

Church culture has developed a pathway to service from conversion to volunteering to service. If you are not careful this can become more of a drainpipe then a leadership pipeline. Everyone should have a place of service but God has so much more for us than being an occasional greeter, usher, or taking our turn in the nursery. Maybe this is part of our willingness to settle for less than God intended? We need a pathway where disciples are trained, equipped, and released to serve.

Disciples make disciples, who become leaders, and then live on mission for Christ. That is a leadership pipeline. Matthew 4:19 defines a disciple as someone who knows and follows Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus. This describes the goal of what we are called to do, accomplish, and become. Goals without practices and habits are only a pipedream. You dream about the goal but your habits remain the same. We settle for less!

We must develop faith habits that produce actions today that will make our goals a reality tomorrow. Are you willing to do the right things today that will ensure kingdom impact tomorrow? One example would be our goal to see a church planting movement like the early church witnessed. If we want to see a movement we must plant more churches. If we want to plant more churches then we must develop more leaders. And in order to develop more leaders we must make more disciples.

A leadership problem is actually a discipleship problem. Our goal to be obedient to Christ demands that we develop a discipleship pathway and a leadership pipeline in our church. Do you have a clearly articulated discipleship pathway so that the people in your church know what their next steps toward Christ should be? Can your members clearly articulate that pathway? If it cannot be clearly articulated then it is not reproducible. You may have disciples but they will not know how to make disciples.

First, numbers are accurate but they are not adequate. If you had 100 teenagers show up for an event that would be great and should be celebrated but does that really define success? Have we settled for less than God intended if we only measure the number? A better metric would be that they are being discipled and they are making disciples themselves. It is not wrong to track attendance but that alone is not enough to according to Matthew 4:19. We cannot settle for less than seeing diciples who are committed to the mission of Jesus.

Second, discipleship is more than attending a class and getting a certificate. Biblical wisdom is not just how much you know and the knowledge you have gained. It is being able to put God’s principles into action in our lives. Is our discipleship pathway more about information transfer then it is life transformation? You do not graduate from discipleship in this life because as Daniel Im puts it, “It is more about a direction then it is a destination.” We do not arrive but continue to become more and more like Christ.

Third, you must learn to read the Bible honestly. We cannot ignore verses that speak of hardships, difficulties, persecution, trials, and tribulation. We must learn to trust God even when we lose things we want to keep and we keep things we want to lose. God allows suffering in our lives sometimes to cut away what will ultimately harm us. It also enables Him to install and insert into our lives what we really need. We should never settle for anything less than God’s purposes for our lives.

Fourth, we must be held accountable. Our discipleship pathway must have an obedience mechanism that holds those we are discipling accountable. We settle for less than God intended when accountability is the missing ingredient in our discipleship. It has been well said, “The faith that does not finish was faulty from the first.” Discipleship demands that we speak the truth in love. The Bible is clear that those who are more spiritually mature must speak into their disciples’ lives.

Fifth, discipleship materials are the least of your problems. Curriculum is important and must be biblically sound but the bigger issue is following through with actually discipling someone. Jim Putman’s necessary elements of a discipleship pathway are worth repeating. Intentional leadership plus a relational environment, plus a reproducible process is necessary. Jesus’ main focus was developing His disciples for the task of making disciples. Do not settle for making disciples but make disciple-makers.

Sixth, lead by example because the speed of the leader determines the speed of the team. We say we need more leaders but how much of your time is spent developing leaders? Do you disciple others weekly? Do you also weekly have a group you pour into because you see leadership potential in them? If not, you need to build these two necessary systems into your schedule. It must be a part of your ministry rhythm to be discipling and to be developing leaders.

Seventh, see the potential in every believer. When Jesus looked at His followers He did not see what everyone else saw. He saw world changers who would lead a movement. God has so much more for us than just volunteering to serve in our church. He sees an obedient disciple who is being transformed by Him and is committed to living on mission for Him. We must refuse to settle for less than God intended for our lives and for our churches!

Bigger Does Not Mean Better

Kingdom Purpose

Interestingly enough, researches tell us that half of all churches average 100 or less in Sunday morning attendance. If you average 300 or more then you are in the top 5% of all churches in North America. We have become enamored with thinking that bigger is always better and that is not always the case. In listening to Rick Warren’s latest Purpose Driven Church training he reminds us that, “Bigger is not necessarily better. Better is better!” Better should equal healthy, biblical, and faithfulness to the vision God has given your church!

Is there any correlation between size and strength? Once again, Warren challenges us to realize that there is no correlation between the two. A large church can be very wide but not very deep. It can be focused on the wrong values and be more about the show and numbers. But let’s be cautious about automatically assuming that if a church is large they must be compromising the truth and they certainly must be “a mile wide and an inch deep!” There are large churches, mega-churches, that are preaching the truth and are actively leading their people into an intimate discipleship with Christ.

We know that large churches are not necessarily healthy but neither is a small church. Some people readily admit that they love attending a small church – but why is that? Do they love it being small for the right reasons? Just because a church is small does not mean that it is unhealthy. There are many small churches reaching lost people with the gospel, discipling their people, and making an impact in global missions. Someone has said it well, “Don’t judge the size of the dog in the fight but judge the size of fight in the dog!”

When we think about any church we must think about it fulfilling its purpose. What does God want every one of His churches to accomplish for Him? Warren goes on to say, “If your church will make a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment then you will be a church with a Great Purpose!” When you look at the Great Commission and the Great Commandment there are five verbs that stress what every church’s purpose is as they pursue glorifying God. Whether a church is big or small these verbs ought to direct the actions of the congregation.

First, Go Make! This is evangelism and every church is to be salt and light. We must have contact with those who are far from God so that we might share the gospel with them. We are called to be His witnesses. Who are you actively building a relationship with so that they may see and know the love of God? Who are you praying for daily so that God the Holy Spirit will convict them and make them aware of their need of a savior?

Second, Baptize them! Next, we are to be actively working on our fellowship with other believers. The church is to be known by the love we have for one another and how we care for one another. We take care of each other and we make sure that others realize they are not in this alone. One benefit of being connected to a small group, Sunday School class, or Bible study is that they can be the “first responders” to those in their group when they need extra attention.

Third, Teach Them! Now we get into discipleship and developing a process that encourages every believer to grow into maturity with Christ. What are those next steps in your church’s discipleship process? Hal Seed uses the analogy of the Sower and the Soil. The next steps are described as Dirt, Root, Trunk, Branch, and Fruit. It is moving disciples from babes in Christ, to maturing in Christ, to mature in Christ, and then reproducing more disciples!

Fourth, Love God! We are to focus on worship! We place Him first because it is all about Him. We have been instructed by our Lord to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Anything or anyone that we love more than God becomes an idol. God will not allow us to have any other gods before Him. He must have the preeminence in our lives and rightly placed on the throne in every area of our lives.

Fifth, Love Your Neighbor! This is demonstrated in the way we minister and serve others. How will you demonstrate the love of God daily in a practical way? We have the opportunity to allow our lights to shine through our good works so they might glorify our Father. This can be done through servant evangelism, random acts of kindness, and figuring out how we can bless those who are far from God.

We are reminded by Rick Warren that these five purposes are modeled in Acts 2, prayed for by Jesus in John 17, and explained by Paul in Ephesians 4. Church health can be seen in the importance of these five purposes. We grow stronger through worship! (This is “loving Christ.”) We grow warmer through fellowship! (This is “Belonging to Christ’s Body” – a church.) We grow deeper through discipleship! (This is “growing in Christ.”) We grow broader through ministry! (This is “serving Christ.”) Also, we grow larger through evangelism! (This is “sharing Christ.”)

These five purposes should “drive” the vision and mission of a church. How well are you loving Christ and worshiping Him? How well are you loving one another and caring for one another? How well are you making disciples who make disciples that make disciples? How well are you serving others and serving the city where you minister? How well are you as a congregation sharing the gospel with those who are in your circles of influence? Begin making intentional plans to fulfill these five purposes.

Healthy churches are driven by these biblical purposes!

5 Questions Every Church Needs to Ask

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Recently, Daniel Im, Director of Church Multiplication for @newchurches with Lifeway, shared five questions on Twitter that every church planter needs to answer. I agree that they do need to be asked by church planters, but they also need to be asked by every ministry and every church.

Bill Hybels has said, “The local church is the hope of the world and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” I agree with this but also think it should include “members” because we are in this together. There is a great need to remember what Jim Collins has said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

The old addage says it well, “Don’t forget that many hands make light work!” We must be on the same page and the only way to do that is to lay a biblical foundation that defines who we are and why we do what we do. We are in this together and if we want our team to function properly then we need to provide the training and tools to accomplish the task to which God has called us!

  1. What is the Church? A New Testament church is a local congregation of baptized believers in Jesus Christ who are united by covenant in belief of what God has revealed and in obedience to what He has commanded. The church is not an organization but a living and breathing organism. We are the body of Christ and an extension of heaven on earth. The local church is to be the best expression of God’s kingdom in the here and now. We must not forget that we are a “who” not a “what.”
  2. Why does the Church Exist? The church’s mission is evangelizing sinners by preaching the gospel, baptizing those who believe, and maturing them by instruction and discipline. We should not be afraid of the term “sinners” because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “there are none righteous, no not one.” Member or not, we are all sinners and we are not sinners because we have sinned but we sin because we are sinners. The church exists to be a place of refuge and safety for sinners to hear the gospel.
  3. What Should Your Church be Known For? Hopefully, every church will be known for the mighty God we serve. We should be known as a place of worship where we stay centered on God. We need to always desire to love God more. We should also be known as a family where we stay connected to one another and learn to love one another more. Then we should be a place that is concerned about our communities. We want to love God more, love people more, and then love more people. The early church engaged unbelievers rather than avoiding them. Luke 14:12-14 says it very clearly, “He also said to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'”
  4. How do you Protect Your Church’s Identity? God calls us to an altar before He ever calls us to a position, a platform, or a program. The pastor’s ultimate calling is not first and foremost to pastor the church but rather to walk with Jesus everyday. That is every members’ first priority, not attending every service, not serving a particular ministry, and not even particpating in corporate worship. Our first responsibility is to love the Lord with all of our heart and then reflect the heart of God to people around us!
  5. How do you put your church’s identity on display? The reality is that when people think of your church they first think of the members they know. Right or wrong, they determine what kind of church you are by how members they know live their lives and display the love of Christ. Matt. 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Even more more important than representing our church we are called to be ambassadors for Christ. II Cor. 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.”

It has been said many times before but remember that your life is the only Bible some people will ever read. Do they see Christ in you? Have you been the feet and hands of Christ to the lost, the last, and the least?  Make sure you know the answers to these 5 important calrifying questions!