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Lets Get Connected

Connecting pic

 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our giftedness is partially by design (the way we are created) and partially developed (the skills we learn). We are born with certain talents given by God’s grace to everyone but we also receive spiritual gifts when we are born again. Particular personality types describing us as a lion, an otter, a golden retriever, or a beaver have also defined our uniqueness. You can learn more through tools such as DISC profile, Briggs-Myers, Strength Finders, and others.

Interestingly, as you look at these tools and observe people you begin to notice two primary types of people: relational and task. Usually there is a combination of the two in each of us but it is good to know if you are primarily relationship oriented or task oriented. Ask yourself if you naturally focus on the “whom” you are dealing with or the “what” that needs to be accomplished. Another way of analyzing your primary nature is asking if you enjoy “conversation” more or “completion” of the task.

The task-oriented individual, if not careful, can become a hostage to tangible things such as meetings, appointments, projects, schedules, and budgets. They want to make sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t’ is crossed. These people are doers and they will get the job done but the danger is they may not give proper priority to the intangibles. They can become so focused on the goal that they will walk right by people and not even notice they are there.

These (the task-oriented) are the lions (king of the jungle) and beavers (busy workers) that have been described as driven and competent. These are the Marthas who are busy in the kitchen wanting to make sure they are the consummate hostess to their guests. In all of their activity they can lose sight of the important relationships in their lives. The person who is primarily relational is all about the journey and the fun along the way while the task-oriented individual is all about getting to the destination, quickly!

We cannot forget that God is all about relationships. Yes, there are tasks that need to be done and accomplished but not at the expense of relationships.

Bill Hybels has defined community as:

  • knowing and being known
  • loving and being loved
  • serving and being served
  • celebrating and being celebrated.

People may come to a church for a lot of different reasons but they usually stay because they are loved.

In 1980, Win Arn spoke about a relational principle, “It takes six to stick!” He said that people must develop six meaningful relationships within six months if they are going to stick at the church. This is 2016 and people probably are not going to stay around that long waiting for relationships to develop.

Hal Seed, pastor of New Song in Oceanside, CA, expresses it this way, “Someone must recognize my face if this is going to be my place.”  Guests need to find at least one meaningful relationship in the first three weeks!

Assimilation is the system that follows up on your guests and it must include enough meaningful and personal touches for someone to remember your guests when they return. If you tell someone, “See you next week!” then you need to be looking out for him or her when they return.

Everyone loves to be remembered and as Hybels has said so well about community, “Knowing and being known!” There is nothing like going back and seeing a smiling welcoming face that you recognize and they recognize you!

This is why connection groups are so important to the health of your church. These are the small groups, Sunday School classes, Bible studies or other mechanism where people can get plugged into the life of the church. This is the circulation system of the church, which sustains the growth of new families when they come your way. Remember, it is systems that enable you to maintain and care for the people that come your way because of all the relational effort you have put into getting to know them.

Hal Seed describes three aspects on the importance and purpose of connection (small) groups.

  • First, from a practical standpoint, your small group system is your connecting system. That is why I love calling them “connection” groups. Their purpose is to “enfold people into meaningful relationships.” This gives everyone a group of people to do life with that they know are making the journey with them. It reminds us that we are not in this alone and we have others to do life and ministry with.
  • Second, from a spiritual growth standpoint, connection groups are your primary discipleship engine. Whatever structure you have, (time, day of the week, location, etc.) you will need to have clarity about how and what these groups study. There are several excellent resources (Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladden; Sticky Church by Larry Osborne; and others) on small groups that you could read and then adapt it to your ministry context and what works best for you.
  • Third, from a pragmatic standpoint, it can be your front line for crisis care. Growing churches struggle and pastors burn out when he is the primary (often the only) caregiver. Connection groups accept the responsibility of making sure they are the first responders to the needs of their group. Others can be called in but they have the pulse of those in the group and are usually the first to be notified when crisis hits anyone in their group. This adds to the definition of community: loving and being loved, serving and being served.

Healthy churches have a circulation system (connection groups) that clearly describes the path for new people to become connected to the church family!

They Came – Now What

Next Steps

 

What do you do if everyone you invited shows up? How do you handle the extra people who do attend? Once they are greeted do you have a system in place to help them come a second and third time? Do you have a plan to help them connect and become fully engaged with the church? There are several things to consider as you evaluate your assimilation process of practicing biblical hospitality!

First, how do you treat the occasional attenders? Faithfulness is not defined these days as it was in times past. Many people see once a month or twice a month as being faithful. This does not mean the “new” faithfulness to church is correct but we must face the reality of our current culture. Split families can mean certain people only attend every other Sunday. People now have to work 24/7 and Sunday no longer is seen as the Lord’s Day.

If you treat those who attend sporadically as “second-class” members they will not respond well. If you try to guilt them into becoming more faithful it will not work on this generation. Do you feel guilty for not attending the synagogue on Saturdays? Do you feel guilty for not faithfully going to a Buddhist temple? Of course not, and if they were not raised in a church culture, neither do they. Make sure that everyone knows how glad you are that they are there and you want to help their spiritual walk.

Second, what is your ultimate goal for someone coming? Our mission is not to fill up seats on Sunday mornings but rather to lead people to Christ. Does that mean we do not want to see as many attending as possible? Of course not, but it does mean that church is bigger than Sunday mornings and mere attendance is never the goal. We are not using people to build our church but, rather, using our church to build up people. We believe that someone who becomes fully engaged with the local church will be better off five years from now!

Jesus told the parable of how the Master told His servants to go out and invite so that His house would be full. We have the life-giving truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and should be passionate about sharing it with everyone we can. We encourage people to invite their family and friends but what about their enemies? The gospel is all about reconciliation and Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Third, be focused on connecting people to a small group. Whether it is a Sunday School class, men/ladies Bible study, discipleship class or any other type of small group they need to know how to get connected. In Lasting Impact, Carey Nieuwhof says, “A church that organizes everything around small groups will always be more effective than a church that does not.” The healthiest followers of Christ are those who are serving others, living their faith out, and connected to a small group.

Every person who attends needs a role and a relationship in order to feel that they are cared for and truly a part of the church. They need a role! This is their specific place of service. How will you connect them to a ministry where they can use their spiritual gifts? Do you have a way they can try different ministries and places of service so they can determine if it is a fit or not? They also need a relationship! This is their specific connection with a group who will care for them and love them more intimately!

Fourth, realize the importance of small group leaders! They hold one of the most important positions in your ministry because they give direct pastoral care. They are your first responders to the needs of those attending. They are the first to pray with them, cry with them, encourage them, walk with them, counsel and advise them. Here is one definition of a small group leader. “To help 3-10 (you determine the number) people learn Biblical truth and experience God while developing relationships with Christ, you, and other people.”

Think of it like this and scale the following numbers to your scenario. If you have 200 people attending you will need 40 small group leaders to help care for them. Then you will need ten leaders of leaders and two directors who will lead the leaders of the leaders. The ten are coaches of the small group leaders to make sure they are receiving the same care they are giving to those in their group. The coach (ten) cares for the leader (40) who cares for the people (200).

When my son, Matthew, did an internship at Oasis Church in North Little Rock it was wonderful to see how all of the small group leaders went to him and invited he and his wife, Allison, to join their group. He was immediately shown there was a way to engage and become connected. He was so encouraged by how many let him know they would love for him to be a part of their group. He felt like he was being “recruited” and he was!

Allow me to ask it again. What are you going to do if everyone you invite shows up and how will you try to connect them to a group that will care for them and love them?

Oikos Connections

Oikos

   All of us need to identify our circles of influence, our “oikos.”  It is simply defined as our household; our extended family and friends.  Years ago, Elmer Towns talked about and even had an outreach program called “F.R.A.N.gelism.”  It was a challenge to focus sharing Christ with our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors first.  These are the natural relationships already in our lives that God has placed there for us to share His love with.  Our circles of influence! 

     In The Multiplication Workshop, Dave DeVries defines “oikos” as “the fundamental unit of society involving families, friends, neighbors, and associates.”  The New Testament describes churches meeting in the ‘oikos,’ and it teaches that believers belong to the ‘household’ of God.  The spread of the gospel happens most effectively through close relationships.  Therefore it is vital to explore and expand our ‘oikos’ evangelism.”

     Dave designates 5 keys to working effectively in reaching your “oikos” with the gospel:

  • Time and Availability – relationships that are significant take time.
  • Hospitality – changed lives and kingdom values are best seen in everyday living.
  • Spiritual Intuition – listen carefully to others and the Holy Spirit.
  • Generosity – people are drawn to those who give freely and cheerfully.
  • A Transformed Life – new life in Christ is contagious.

     Central Church and church planter Anders Lee in Southaven, MS, have taken their “Oikos Connections” seriously.  They are not just talking about reaching their circles of influence; they are doing something about it.  They schedule events for their people to invite those who they know are unchurched or dechurched.  Recently they invited over 60 people to an evening of bowling and then a meal at Jason’s Deli.  They funded the evening for those invited based on one of their core values, “Our Dollars match our DNA.” 

    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!  Of the 26 who attended on Sunday, six raised their hands to be contacted to discuss what it means to be born again.

     Anders attended The Multiplication Workshop and immediately began implementing the training into the outreach strategy of his church plant.  It is not just for church planters but will benefit anyone desiring to make disciples who make disciples.  The training is based upon the Multiplication Cycle developed by DeVries.  It has seven elements:

  • Seize the Mission of Jesus – Embracing the mission of Jesus as your own.
  • Adopt Missional Thinking and Behavior – Thinking and acting like a missionary in your zip code.
  • Exegete the Culture – Identifying your unique circle of accountability.
  • Incarnate the Gospel – Being Jesus to everyone everywhere around you.
  • Multiply Disciple Makers – Helping others to help others follow Jesus.
  • Form Communities/Churches – Gathering disciplemakers into Missional communities.
  • Mobilize Leaders and Teams – Empowering others to lead on mission.

Church_Cycle_with_Text

     If you have never gone through The Multiplication Workshop you should.  We will be hosting the next training in August (exact dates TBD) at the Global Ministries Center in Conway, AR.  You can contact me at larry@bmaam.com    Also, check out Dave’s website: www.missionalchallenge.com or email him at dave@missionalchallenge.com          

     Also check out “Circles of Influence” at http://larryjbarker.com/?p=441          

     Healthy churches are always focused on building strong relationships through “oikos” connections!

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!!!

What Happens When?

Be a Blessing

I am writing this while flying back from Philadelphia after having the privilege of teaching The Multiplication Workshop at First Baptist Church in Blackwood, New Jersey.  David McMurray has been the pastor since 1975 following his father, Silas McMurray, who planted the church in 1968.  First Baptist is a very diverse congregation having almost a 50/50 ratio of Caucasian/African American. 

Also attending was the Living Word Fellowship, an African American church in Glendora, NJ. It is wonderful seeing two churches working so closely together.  Their pastor, Dr. King, preached an awesome message on Sunday morning.  When I opened the Sunday bulletin I was thrilled to see an article Bro. David had inserted.  It was exactly why we were there and what we were challenging the church to implement into their lives.

“Most people have heard something about Jesus and, truth be told, whatever they’ve heard or seen has give them ammunition to form an unpleasant understanding of Him. Their perception or limited understanding of Christ is distorted or blemished. We all agree that Christianity—and subsequently, Jesus—has an image problem.  So how will outreach and evangelism impact and influence this cultural context over the next ten years?  Numerous answers and possibilities exist, but here, I offer a truly essential one: real human relationships.

Why do they matter?  Relationships matter because they help debunk and break down fears, stereotypes, caricatures, myths, pain, and anger.  The answers that will speak to and deeply engage the dis-churched, overchurched, and never-gonna-step-into church kind of people aren’t buildings, more conferences, more theology or even more doctrine.  While these all have important value and purpose, something is so simple and profound about the power of human relationships. 

The story of God, leading up to the time of Jesus, became very confusing and inaccessible to everyday people.  The message was blemished by sin, deceit, legalism, abusive power, and false teaching.  What changed?  The story of God became truly accessible through the power and mystery of the incarnation.  One of the most profound and irrational scriptures is recorded in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (The Message).

What’s next?  The future of outreach and evangelism will take many shapes, forms, and turns. This is inevitable because change is constantly taking place and at a pace more rapid than at any point in history.  As our churches continue to weave through this inevitable path of change, we need to remember what we can be accomplished through the power of real relationships.

  • What happens when our churches move out from their buildings to engage the community?
  • What happens when we embrace our neighbors as part of our great calling?
  • What happens when we share time with our neighbors and learn their stories?
  • What happens when we drop our routines and deadlines and focus on relationships for the sake of the mission?
  • What happens when we start eating with sinners, once again, like Jesus?

What happens?  That’s what we need to find out again in a fresh way.  Remember, God calls us not to be a light to the light, but a light to the world.  Let’s enjoy our churches and Christian communities, but let’s not forget to move into the neighborhoods and, in doing so, point people to Jesus by the way we live our imperfect lives by God’s grace.”

What happens indeed?  We cannot afford to wait any longer; every believer must begin now to be a missionary in their zip code.  God has placed people in your circle of influence so that you might point them to Jesus.  A great way to build real relationships is to:  First, ask them questions about their lives and listen to their story.  When you are willing to listen to someone you are telling them that you value them.  Second, tell them your story.  If you are born again you have a testimony you can share about what God has done in your life.  There is no stronger witness than a transformed life that loves people like Jesus loves them.  Third, when the opportunity opens, and it will, share His story.  It has been said, “Share the gospel and use words if necessary.”  At some point and at some time it will become necessary!