Monday, June 23, 2014

Part-3: If you want to see a church that may have to start it yourself!

As I have shared with you before, since moving to a new residence in Prior Lake, MN, my family and I have been looking for a new church home.  At first, we thought it would be lots of fun to visit a variety of churches--- something we never got to do when starting and then leading a church plant in Northfield, MN.

Fun at first...but not so much now.   Why?  Because our family has experienced a disciple-shift over the course of this past year.  Here's what I mean:

When we first started looking for a church to connect into, we were still trapped by "Christendom thinking," leading us to ask the following questions....

1. Is this church the best place for us to get fed by the Word?
2. Is this church a place where our souls will be taken care of?
3. Is this church a place for meaningful fellowship?
4. Is this church a place where we can serve God's people and use our gifts?

Every one of those line items sound holy, but did you notice that each question calls church "a place"? In other words, do some people still pick a church as a "place" to go to and receive certain religious goods?  Yes they do.  Is a church a "place" where many are currently relying only on the ministry of shepherds and teachers?  Yes it is.  Is a church a "place" primarily focused on the benefits of its membership?  Often times, yep.

Still, church as place is NOT working for most people and stats prove that true....

Church Planters!  God is calling you to create more than a church in place, but a church in space!  In other words, it's great to gather in a place, but a place has to be for space.  Place has to be for the sake of impacting the rest of the space of every day life.

Christendom is dying, maybe even already dead.  Many churches and their leadership act, however, like all they have to do is work harder at developing those 4 key place questions and they can over-come a decline in nation-wide church participation and impact...when the REAL biblical effort needs to focus on developing disciples--- dedicated followers of Jesus who impact the daily market-space with Jesus!

Friends: Let's start developing apostolic movements that train and equip people to feed themselves on God's train and equip people to care for other people's train and equip people to be in fellowship with co-workers, neighbors, family and friends, even complete strangers where-ever they might be.  Let's train and equip mature believers to better serve new believers inside the church place, ONLY SO they are now trained and equipped themselves to serve the lost and disconnected on the outside space---  the people they work with, know and love every day.

Let's start churches that are more than just "a place" to go into and thus away from the world.  Instead, let's start churches where believers gather to be coached-up and then sent into the "every day spaces" with the transforming power of Jesus.  That's the kind of church my family is looking to be a part of!  BOTTOM LINE:  if we're not currently finding a church that wants to be training and equipping, we may just have to start something ourselves---- perhaps a missional community!

After all, as I have lifted-up in my previous two blogs, "If you want to see something you've never seen before, then do something you've never done before!"'s this thought striking your soul today?  For those who are church planters, it's encouraging, isn't it?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

If you want to see disciples being made...first model it!

I hear the following question raised quite often from our newly start-up congregations in the LCMC: "Help us grow our church!"

My response is aways the same,  "If you really want to grow your church, focus first on making disciples instead of making members."  How?  By modeling what it looks like to follow Jesus!

After all, if you want to see something you've never seen'll need to do something you've never done before! 

People use to flock to Jesus, but they are not flocking to our churches.  Probably because our churches don't look much like Jesus!  Even if we do practice being "little Christ's" inside a church facility, we often forget to follow him out the doors and into the marketplace.  It is there, in the simple, sometimes mundane or regular moments of every day life, where Jesus shines brightest.  For it is "in life as it happens" where people are either attracted to you because of how you look "in Jesus," or turned off to Jesus because of you.  

Friends: If we continue growing our churches by doing membership-like activities, all we will get are more people with a membership mentality (i.e.: what's in this for me?).  If, however, we start our new churches by first focusing on training people to follow Jesus with the help of real-life mentors and models, that's when we will truly grow a church.  It's been said many times that a church's lasting impact is not in it's seating capacity, but in it's sending capacity.  In other words, when churches learn to give themselves away to the community, God will bless that movement and it will grow...maybe in numbers, maybe in finances, but for sure it will grow in influence and city transformation in the life-changing name of Jesus!

Here now are just a few simple ways to model to others what it looks like to follow Jesus in a neighborhood:

-When you are outside doing yard work, keep an eye out for others to strike up a conversation.  (People will begin to see you as someone they can know by name and even trust).

-When others are doing yard work, ask them if you can lend them a hand.  (Doors open to talk life).

-Adopt your street in the Spirit and then prayer walk your your neighborhood, sharing the peace of the Lord over every household.  (The spiritual climate will be changed and in your favor!).

-Invite your neighbors over to your home for a lunch or dinner.  God created our need for food for more than keeping us alive in the flesh, but as a tool to stay alive in the Spirit by connecting with others.  (My 21-year old daughter, Aimee, is planning on baking home made pies and gifting them to our new neighbors in Prior Lake...stay tuned for what happens next!).

-organize a neighborhood garage sale, or trip to a game, or a picnic.  (It doesn't have to be complex, just relational). 

As we develop trusting relationships, people are way more apt to share their felt needs.  Their lives become open doors for you to walk into and share your faith story.  Don't worry, they won't reject you, because they now know you better.  They trust you and they want the same joy you have.

Remember: If you want to see something you've never seen before, you'll have to do something you've never done before! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

If you want to see something you've never seen before...

One of my favorite teachers is Ed Silvoso of Harvest Evangelism International.  Ed always says, "If you want to see something you've never seen before, you'll have to do something you've never done before."

This is blog number-1 in a short series on how to implement such a saying into the vision of a transformational-Missional church.  Let's start with everyone's favorite topic: fund raising that raises faith and makes ministry fun(d)!

A couple years ago the giving at my church plant, Rejoice! in Northfield, MN, was pretty good.  Most of the congregation were not only tithing 10%, but were also gracious in giving sacrificially when invited and enlightened to do so for the sake of blessing others.  Still, I wondered what might happen if I had one of our mature partners get up front during worship and share why they are giving to the ministry of Rejoice!.

...because if you want to see something you've never seen before....

It was to be their story, but I coached them to keep the message tight.  It was to be 3-minutes long, including a blessing prayer at the end to trigger the start of passing the buckets while we broke into worship song.

At first, many liked the idea--- so long as someone else was up front talking!  But after several weeks of partner-after-partner getting up front and sharing from the heart, just about everyone had gone from "I hope Pastor Dan doesn't ask me to do that," to just the opposite, "I wonder when Pastor Dan is going to invite us to share?"

Soon and very soon, the giving at Rejoice! took a jump up...and stayed up!  Why? Because the offering was no longer being initiated by the pastor, but being invited by the ministers of the church--the folks!  Shared stories of God's movement were moving people to share God.  This ministry idea not only trained people to share brief faith testimonies with prayer (over-coming three elements of fear-- public speaking, public testimony and public prayer), but it elevated our giving because worship became a place to testify to God's giving goodness!

Think on this: no fancy steward programs, book studies or a fancy message series were used.  Plain and simple, it was me equipping the saints for the work of ministry.  It was me doing my job to equip them to their job!  Try it, and see for yourselves!  After all, if you want to see something you've never seen before, you have to do something you've never done before!"

Monday, June 2, 2014

When Blessing Cancels Stressing

A researcher recently released an article where he stated that "stress-wise," pastoring a church is in the top-4 most difficult jobs in America.  The others being president of the United States, president of a major university and CEO of a hospital.

The study stated that job burn-out is the greatest burden for pastors.  One moment you're working with energetic youth, then you're with a grieving family, then you're counseling a couple with marriage problems, then you're preparing for a night-time budget meeting, topped-off with seeking to create a clever message that will bedazzle your congregation on Sunday while still trying to be a great spouse, parent, friend and neighbor.  With that schedule, who has time to train and equip others?  Oh, I have guilt....

When looking over the report, my first thought was a sense of weird pride, "That's right, everyone, MY JOB is one of the toughest there is...even tougher than president of the U.S. because I don't even have time to play golf!"

That was my flesh speaking.  In the Spirit I had a re-thought, "That's not the way it's suppose to be."  Indeed, pastoring is difficult because working with people is difficult.  (In fact, I'm pretty sure pastoring would be the easiest job on the planet if it weren't for people!)  On the other hand, working in God's purposes is not to stress us, but to bless us.  After all, He is the Master of all the Universe!

What to do?  How about this simple, but powerfully true answer: Instead of working and worrying so much through what our flesh says is truth, let's act like we believe the Word of God is true--- that because we have been given the advocate of the Holy Spirit we now have supernatural power in the name of Jesus!  It's a blessing that cancels all the stressing!

With that in mind, here now are 4 suggestions for all of us to practice, together...

1.  Start living like Ephesians 4:12 is our official job description: " prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ."  Serving others doesn't mean doing things for people, it means helping people do things!  It means equipping them to live/work/serve as Christians!  So, let's stop going through all the religious activities that add burden to our schedules; and instead, be missionally-relational where the burden is our delight rather than our duty.  A missional life-style is now no longer another thing on the schedule...IT IS THE SCHEDULE!  If we pastors are following Jesus as the light of the world, he naturally rubs-off on us, making us little lights of Christ's.  The burden is now on Jesus and we get the delight!  When others now "see us" full of His hope even when days are dark, they will see blessing that cancels stressing!

2.  Use a kingdom scorecard.  Instead of using the worldly scorecard of bigger is better: bigger budgets, bigger buildings, bigger programs, bigger butts (or, at least more butts in the seats); use instead, a biblical scorecard: bigger influence!  Instead of asking, "How is my church doing?", ask, "How is my city doing?"  In other words, church growth shouldn't be focused inward, but outward.  (Me is stress, He is bless).  The purpose of your church is not to grow itself, but to grow disciples that grow transformation in the city.  It's blessing that cancels stressing!

3. Understand who is the real enemy.  Ephesians 6:12 says our enemy is not flesh and blood, but darkness and its principalities.  In other words, let's stop competing against other fellow Christians and start pulling together to be "one church" for the sake of the city.   Unbelievers look around and see churches biting at each other.  No wonder they say, "Why do I want to join that mess?"  We can certainly keep our tribes, but Christians must support each other against the real competition: darkness that wants to rule our cities!  When we think and act this way, it's blessing that cancels stressing!

4. Subtract clutter in order to add power.  I recently heard a pastor friend of mine say he doesn't have time to be in his church's missional community.  That's because his church meeting schedule was so packed that connecting with his huddle seemed like just one more thing.  The look on his face, however, was worth a million dollars when I said, "Developing a missional community is all about dropping all those other meetings.  They are no longer needed.  All the work of committees and counseling are wiped-out by the purpose of a missional community!"  Again, being missional in all you do is not to be an add-on to an already busy schedule...IT IS the schedule!  To my pastor friend, it was a breakthrough.  It was blessing that cancels stressing.

Friends: it seems like everyone is taking on stress these days, but we don't have to.  Everyone seems like they are one match strike away from complete burnout, but it doesn't have to be that way.  We Christians should know better because we get to know God better.  Blessing is of God.  Stress is not.  Let's DO GOD to each other and live as people of the resurrection.  Pastors: in the spirit of Ephesians 4:12, this gets to be our job--- to lead the way in what it means to be free in Christ.  Others won't learn or experience it, unless we first model it.  If people leave your church because you're casting this biblical vision, let them go.  Many, many others will come out of the cracks of life because they will finally see what they hoped church would be: a place and a space where we are all equipped for the work of ministry--- to be blessers instead of stressers for the sake of God's kingdom.

PS: Here is something I've used many times when I've gotten trapped in the difficulty of pastoring, trying to gain more, or seeking approval from man.  I've asked myself, "Dan, when will "Jesus" be enough for you?"  

When our Lord died at the cross, He cancelled OUR stress of sin and death, and rose again to give us HIS blessing of a life in joy!  When we please God by letting Him love us so we can love others, we will automatically be a blessing to the work God wants done.  Practice that, and the next study will show pastoring in the top-4 "BEST JOBS" to have!