Thursday, October 27, 2011
Can the right ministry team grow a church...
If it was true that the right staff is the key to growth, then what happens when they die, leave, retire, or quit? Growth ends? It is as if we can't grow because we can't hire the right ministers, and we can't hire the right ministers because we are not growing. And if not very careful, we end up hiring ministers to do the ministry for us. And they in turn construct ministries and programs to serve us. Study for us, give our kids faith, and do what we are not doing. If a church won't provide these things for us, we'll find one that will.
And yes, those of you who know me realize that I think we should hire evangelists. Worship evangelists, evangelists of the Word. Youth, Children, and Family evangelists. Let deacons organize ministry. Let elders pastor. Let evangelists evangelize. And train and motivate us to evangelize. To have ministries and programs that attract non-believers.
And it is easy as a minister to fall into the trap of taking care of the church. But some ministers get it. They construct programs to equip members for ministry, not just provide ministry. The see their ministries as evangelistic opportunities. And God uses them to grow churches.
The best ministers are not professionals. They are not effective because of their skill set. Or their training. Peter and John were incredibly effective ministers in the midst of the explosive growth in Jerusalem. I think it could be called a mega church. Acts 4: 13 identifies three characteristics concerning them.
They had courage. They had to talk about Jesus. You could not stop them. It was a calling, not a career.
They were not professionally qualified. They were unschooled and ordinary. Probably couldn't get a preaching job in most of our churches.
They had been with Jesus. They lived it. Walked the walk and talked the talk. People knew it.
So if you want to find the right staff to give God the chance to grow your church, then find people who have been with Jesus and are courageous. Find those who will preach, evangelize, and do ministry whether they are paid or not. If they have a great skill set also, then even better. If they have training and education to do ministry, that may help. But skills and training are worthless without a courageous life sold out for Jesus. And if you have that, God will use you to help grow an incredible church.
Given the choice between the two, I'll take Peter and John over the professional anytime. It doesn't have to be either or, but if it is... make the right choice.
And for any ministers that might read this... be courageous to follow the call of Jesus. God will use you. Always has. Always will.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
What is the role of worship in growing a church?
Having said that, think about how many times you have know people who "changed churches" because worship was not the way they thought it should be. When churches begin making worship decisions based on who might leave, or how many might come, it is the wrong focus. Do you play defense? What must we not do because this or that group will leave if we do something different? What must we do because this or that group will leave if we don't do something different? Wrong questions. And remember that I think it possible to have a big church just by focusing on what everyone does, or doesn't want, in worship. Keep yours happy. Get the unhappy down the road to come. But is that real growth? Is that how God grows a church?
But worship is important. Yes it is. But we must not construct worship based on us. Worship is about God. So here is the real question that should guide worship decisions for believers: what will motivate us to love and good works. Read Hebrews 10:24 and 25. It seems that our assembly should be one of the things that motivates us to be Jesus in the world we encounter during our daily vocation. The more you focus on loving God, loving your church family, and loving the lost, then the less you will focus on the worship experience. I want people to leave seeking opportunities to do good in this world, not leaving talking just about how good they feel. In fact, if the hour or so you spend in the assembly is the primary source of your worship, your spiritual growth, and your fellowship ... then you have deeper issues than how worship is conducted.
But what about non-believers? Shouldn't we shape our worship services to appeal to them? No. "Seeker friendly" services come much more from the people than the worship process. Non -Christians are drawn to our services because of what the see in us. That is why they visit. So is the point to make them feel comfortable and not threatened? Or is the point to convert them by what we do? Is the point to be sure they realize that our worship is "correct"?
The point of worship for the non-believer is that he might be overwhelmed by the realization that God is among us. That's what Paul says in I Corinthians 14.
What I am thinking is that the key is not so much the how of worship, but the why of worship. And lots of the discussions I hear is about the wrong focus. And any worship discussion that starts with "they won't stay if we do that" is not the right focus. Or "they won't come if we don't do thus and so." "Or we won't reach the lost unless we do this or that." I just think those questions are missing the main point.
So I am all about excellence in worship. Let's just be sure it is for the right audience and the right reason.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
So are church projects/programs good or bad?
The first is because you need it. This is what happened in the first century church. Act 6 is a ministry/program to feed widows in the rapidly growing Jerusalem church. It was becoming a spiritual problem also. There is another fully developed ministry described in I Timothy 5, complete with detailed qualifications for those participating. It also deals with widows and evidently grew out of a recognized need. So when God is blessing your church and causing it to grow, you may find that their is a need for programs and ministries to have more attention.
Some programs are initiated because of the tremendous opportunity to make disciples. Over the past few years at Southern Hills, we have developed a ministry to Bhutanese refugees. Large numbers of these refugees ended up in Abilene and some of our members got involved. We have served hundreds of these in various ways including teaching English, helping with basic life skills, benevolence, teaching Bible classes, and now leadership training. We have lots of volunteers, then developed a budget, are allocating staff resources, and constantly adding projects as needs develop. It is as if God put a mission field right in our laps. And we have baptized around 30 of them so far.
Some programs begin because a church sees that as the secret to reverse their declining numbers, or to enable them to be the big church they envision becoming. Often the program is one that some other church (often the size they would like to be) has had success with. Or maybe they don't even know if it is succesful but since they do it we should so we can be like they are. And sometimes this approach can swell your numbers but I am not sure that is God growing your church.
So now someone may think it is a great idea to start a Bhutanese ministry. It sure has worked at Southern Hills. I would suggest you check and see if any Bhutanese actually are in your neighborhood first. It works for us because we saw an opportunity to reach people for Jesus and God has caused it to grow.
So I think programs and ministries that arise out of congregaitional needs are wonderful. I think ministries that develop because of the opportunity to make disciples are real blessings. And God may use these tools to grow your church into something you never even imagined.
But if a program is designed because you think it is the one that will save your dying church, or help you become the mega church you are sure God wants you to be ... I would suggest you are chasing the wrong goal.
We plant and water. God gives the increase. When we plan the increase, we find ourselves chasing every program or project that we think will make the difference. So always evaluate the motivation, the reason, for any project or program.
God does amazing things when we let Him grow our church. When we try to do the amazing things, it is us growing the church. Not the same.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
The most important thing ...
Some of you think it is a given that a church would be all about Jesus, but let me tell about one that wasn't. It was a church that worked hard, got a lot done, and worked hard to maintain correct doctrine. It was the church in Ephesus and Jesus threatened to remove their lampstand from its place. Ouch. The problem was they had forsaken their first love. They were being unfaithful to Jesus. Check out Revelation 2.
You can build a church with lots of hard work, many programs, and last a long time. You can nail the right doctrine. And not be a church that pleases God. Not if the core -- the heart -- is missing.
Paul knew a lot about what churches should do and not do to let God grow them. He is the one who reminded us that only God gives the increase. He said the core belief, the most important doctrine, the thing that validates our faith, and the place where we should take our stand is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. It is Jesus. Look at I Corinthians 15.
So why is God not growing your church? Or why are you not as big as you want to be? Why are the people not knocking down your door? Don't evaluate your programs, your staff, your building, or your worship style and structure. At least not first. Start by doing a Jesus check.
I worship at a church of Christ and one the things I worry about is that we work really hard on the first part of that name and take the second part for granted. So I want us to remember that name is not a title but a description.
But aren't those other things important? Only if they are about Jesus. And that's how we get "zombie churches". You know, still moving but not really alive. When the programs, buildings, staff, worship become about us instead of Jesus, God is not going to honor us with growth. And churches have doing that for 2000 years.
The next several posts will talk about some of these other things and how I think they work as tools to honor Jesus and sow seed so God can bless us with the increase. But I will tell you this. If you see a church that is growing and you want to know why... it is not because of the programs, worship, staff, or buildings. It is because of Jesus. And if any of those things seem to really be working well, it is because they have Jesus at the center.
So in any discussion of church growth, the question is always Jesus. Which works really well because he is also the answer.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
So maybe you don't want me to help you grow a mega church...
OK. It is pretty clear by now that no one is going to hire me to tell them how to grow a mega church. I might want too much money and they may think the ideas I proposed were no good. So…
Read my blog yesterday and you can have all those ideas for free. Because if what you want to do is be a mega church, then you can get there that way. In fact, if you want to be a bigger church, you can use those ideas. Or, if you are worried about not getting smaller, you can steal those ideas.
But by now most of you have figured out that I don’t like the idea of trying to be a mega – big – or bigger than you are – church. You are chasing the wrong thing. If that is the goal, you end up in some of the absurd traps I talked about yesterday. And yes, of course I was sarcastic (tho I am still open to the big consulting checkJ).
I am convinced God controls growth. All we can do is control the process. There are two great phrases about church growth.
The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2: 47
When Paul talked about church growth, he said neither he nor Apollos were anything, only …God, who makes things grow. I Corinthians 3: 7
Kingdom growth is about reaching the lost. Troop transfer among the Lord’s army is not growth. If my church grows because all the people from your church came to join us, I am not sure that is kingdom growth. Fear of people going somewhere else leads to those horrible ideas from yesterday’s post. But that is the trap many churches fall into. When you find yourselves asking what do we do to be bigger it becomes too easy to look for the magic bullet. And there isn’t one. And a lot of good and healthy processes get perverted into something very unhealthy.
I see lots of large churches that are not growing. And I see lots of churches getting larger but not really growing. Some churches have gotten smaller but they are actually really growing.
Growing churches – mega or not – never start out to be a bigger church. They start out by deciding to do what God calls His people to do. In fact, many of them don’t care if they are big or not. They let God worry about the results. And the churches that set out to get bigger, never really grow.
So I love those churches that grow from 20 to 25 because someone taught the family next door about Jesus. Or the church that grew from 2000 to 2500 because their members started telling their friends, family, and neighbors the Jesus story.
Or the church that grew from 500 to 300 when 300 members left because this whole living Jesus out in our world was too much to ask. But the ones that stayed bought in to the radical concept of a community of believers living out their faith and inviting others to join them on that journey. And God made them grow.
And some church got those 300 members and may have thought they were growing. So we let God control the growth, or we try to control the growth. One works. One doesn’t.
So let God worry about the result and the numbers and the growth and how big you getSo let God worry about the result and the numbers and the growth and how big you get.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Secret to Growing a Mega Church...
The rest of the staff must be top-flight. They must be able to stucture enough programs and have enough interns so that every possible interest of every member is provided for. If they want it, provide it.
Worship must be top of the line. Professional musicians should be used. I know -- more money -- but we want the best. We want people to come out "blown away" by the experience.
The building must be first class. Acoustics are key. So is the right location. It must be easy for people to drive to because you may need to draw from well outside your neighborhood.
Target the right audience. You need to appeal to those people who have given up on their church. Maybe it did not meet their needs. Maybe it asked too much of them. Maybe worship just didn't "do it" for them. Low hanging fruit. Pick it.
There are a few things to guard against.
Don't expect your members to be involved. You have a top of the line staff to handle all the programs. Your preacher will do the studying. Staff will handle all worship responsibilities. Staff will cast the right vision. Let people come in, have an uplifting experience, and get out on time. Be sure we take care of the children from cradle to college. Parents have enough pressure making a living. If you ask too much, they may move to the church down the road and then they will be the mega-church.
Don't get complacent in worship. Stay cutting edge. Do something different. If you don't, they may find another church whose worship is more entertaining. Oops, I meant exciting. Wait... I meant meaningful.
Watch out for people. they can mess up everything. They have struggles and can really distract you from the programs. Some of them want to be used in Kingdom business. Stick them on a committee or involve them in a program under staff supervision. But do not let them out in the world doing ministry on their own. Growth must be controlled and managed properly.
Finally, watch out for people from the world. They can cause us to lose focus on meeting our needs. They don't understand contemporary and traditional worship wars. Sorry, I meant worship focus. They may ask questions that are awkward. Let the professionals handle them if they must be dealt with.
Remember -- it is a war out there. There are lots of churches and not enough members. You want to be the biggest and best. If you don't please everybody, the next church will. So play defense. Don't do anything to offend anyone. Do everything to please everyone. I know that sounds hard, but you can do it.
You too can have a mega church. Just think how different Acts could have been if they only knew how to grow a mega church.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
On the day she got home from having her stent removed, Avery went into the hospital. Ended up being a nasty virus, but had a couple of scary days waiting on test results.
Got a couple of people fighting for their marriage and we are pretty heavily invested emotionally and with our time trying to give spiritual counsel.
Then just heard about an elder buddy from Brooks Avenue in Raleigh, John Greenwood. I get to travel around the country doing evangelism seminars but get to visit with lots of elders. Many of them develop into mutual mentoring relationships. John was one of those. He suffered a massive stroke and was taken home to be with the Lord last Sunday night. That church has had a tough couple of years. Dennis Conner, their preacher, lost his wife to cancer a couple of years ago. Praying for their strength.
So a little whipped these days. But there are a couple of people wanting to talk more about Jesus this week. That will help.
Thanks for listening.