Tuesday, May 12, 2015

WANTED: Apostolic Ministry in Your Church!

A couple of thoughts for readers to ponder and pray:

1). The church has traditionally been way better at making its membership numbers increase, rather than multiplying its discipleship making numbers for the sake of the whole city and nation.  In doing so, some churches have grown in numbers even while diminishing in their cultural influence.

2). This has occurred, in part, because the church has focused more energy and money on training volunteers to work within the buildings of its organizations, rather than training, equipping and encouraging Christian leadership to live as disciples of the organism--- blessing the marketplace of every day life.

I hope to write more on these two points in the near future--- focusing on possible solutions.  In the meantime, let me suggest that one great way for the church (ecclesia) to regain its original purpose of making disciples, is to be re-captured by the biblical 5 fold ministry gift set---  and not just teaching and shepherding, but evangelism, prophecy AND apostleship. 

Let me state for this blog entry, that I believe the church (and, of course, the LCMC) GREATLY NEEDS its apostolic ministry to be matured for increase.  This, for the sake of planting new congregations while revitalizing existing ones.

With that in mind, below is a segment from the newly released book, Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church, penned by authors Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.  I find  this particular section extremely interesting...and spot on.

"Without apostolic multiplication, we stop at evangelistic addition.  Salvation is seen as individualistic as we fail to see how God wants to start a gospel pay-it-forward movement through the life of every believer.

Without apostolic action, we fail to experience the promised presence of Christ.  Spiritual authority comes when we operate as an apostolic people sent to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

Without apostolic clarity, our identity and purpose become murky.  We fail to think strategically about the underlying value systems and core ideologies that define a community.

Without apostolic modeling, we miss out on a culture of releasing and empowering.  Instead, we contend with culture of management and control.

Without apostolic parenting and releasing, multigenerational mentoring and leadership development are replaced by a dependence on the ministry of professionally training clergy.

Without apostolic accountability, we fail to ask the obvious questions of strategy and sustainability behind our best practices.  Consider these examples:  Do we really need to have million dollar budgets, seminary educated leaders, and 50 to 100 Christians to start a church?  Do we need to have land and a building to be the church?

Without apostolic imagination, we fail to ask the questions of scalability.  Instead of reproducibility and scalability, we opt for "go big" and "launch large," forgetting that big movements grow out of small ones done well.  The New Testament is our best and most basic example of this.

Without apostolic vision, we fail to ask the questions of reproducibility and transferability.  We so complicate the message and training process that few know it and are able to pass it on to others.

Without our apostolic passion, we fail to embrace our roles in the big picture of kingdom mission.  Rather, we busy ourselves with the smaller vision and goals of our organizations instead of embracing our calling to actively participate in the global movement.

We believe the idea of custodianship establishes the correct relationship that apostolic people have in relation to the Lord, the gospel and the ecclesia--- namely, that of a slave or a servant.  A great deal is contained in this idea: the custodian both seeds and guards the theo-genetic codes of the church, and this helps generate and sustain movements as well as catalyzes the incredible potential locked up in the ministry of Jesus' church.  Exclude the apostolic, and it becomes hard to see how a fully formed, mature, and expansive ecclesia can possibility take place.  Most likely the church would be limited to good preaching, groovy contemporary worship, and Bible studies.  We suspect that Jesus intended much more for the movement that he started."  The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church, by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Multiplying Momentum for the City

"Go and make disciples...."  

I just returned from attending the annual Exponential Conference in Tampa, Florida.  With me, were 10 LCMC church planters and their planting teams--- for a total of 23 souls amongst 4,000!  Exponential is where church planters and missionally-minded existing church leaders gather for God's inspiration and direction to multiply gospel impact for their cities.

For example, the group was introduced to a Dan Smith, pastor of Momentum Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was wearing a t-shirt that read: "I liked Cleveland before liking Cleveland was Cool."  I'm not totally sure what that means, perhaps it has something to do with LeBron James....?!

Anyway, Dan's planting story is quite intriguing and really out of the box for most conventional pastors.  You see, instead of measuring accumulation (that is, determining success/failure by the size of buildings, the number of butts in seats and budget numbers), Dan intentionally birthed a church that is all about the SENDING impact.  In just a few short years, Momentum Church has sent out more than 100 people to plant churches, while still running several hundred in regular worship attendance.  Dan says the day will soon come when they've SENT OUT MORE people to impact the city of Cleveland, than they will have in their own congregation.  Now that, is multiplication!  Unselfish.  Kingdom-centered.  Biblical.  It breaks the scarcity mentality that many plants have for years.  It's Jesus-like.

Momentum Church is not about a model or a method, but a scripturally-based heart-commitment that purposefully designs the DNA culture of Momentum's people.  They don't wait back and say, "Someday we will do _____ once we get: more people, more staff, more money, etc".  Instead, they created the future in order to break from an unhealthy, or limiting culture, that many churches wind up becoming.

I greatly admire the faith courage of pastors like Dan Smith of Cleveland.  To him, kingdom expansion is not about how big an individual church can grow, but how big an impact God grows through a planting culture of sending out leaders to be the church of the city!  Dan's focus is not on accumulating staff and programs within buildings, but rather about training, equipping and encouraging disciples to multiply themselves so that different kinds of churches can be established to reach different kinds of people.

How about you?  Will you settle for doing church as usual (which, if you haven't noticed, is losing momentum in the culture), or will you actually "follow Jesus" in such a radical way that creates multiplying momentum?