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Don’t like your Church? Then leave. Or…

Bigweld

Pastorally, a huge challenge in leading and growing a Church is trying to keep volunteers engaged in the ministry. When you’re small, there’s only a handful of people who are either able or available to pitch in and help. As a pastor I get excited when someone wants to help out. More hands lighter load and all that.

I am also keeping a constant eye on those that are helping to make sure they don’t burn out. This isn’t always possible as some people, for wrong and right reasons, don’t always speak up when they’re getting stretched. That is, until they go past the breaking point and disappear over night. By then, usually, it’s too late to recover and restore them. No amount of, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?” will change things. They’re gone. They might re-gather and get back into things later on, for which I am thankful, but it won’t be with me or at my church. That ship has sailed.

So, for those that are still here, what to do? Being a small Church is still exhausting. And, by small, I mean anything below 200-250 attendance. And by Church I mean a single gathered congregation. Anyhow… The problem hasn’t gone away.

Here’s the typical challenge: By some means, a new person, couple or family shows up (Sunday gathering or smaller group – doesn’t matter). They look around and either on that day or in the couple of weeks afterwards don’t find or connect with anyone with similar circumstances to them. They conclude that this isn’t the place for them. Their needs aren’t being met here. So, off they go. Oh, you’re a nice, welcoming congregation and all, but this is just not what I’m looking for. Bye! 

Challenge 2: This is where it gets worse. Someone else who is regular in the Church sees this person come and leave and realises that they probably could have connected if only they had spoken up sooner or made the effort or whatever. The regular then concludes the same thing. It’s time to go. After all, they’ve stayed here for long enough and anyone that they could connect with doesn’t stay around anyway. Off they go too.

I think both challenges could be taken on by the person in scenario 2. When you’re a regular in a small church, you probably are already half way there. The difference will be whether you sit back or stand up. I have had this conversation every single week of my life in ministry. The regular looks around, they see a gap or a need that just so happens to affect them. They approach the Pastor or Church leader and the conversation goes… “The Church really needs to do something about <this need that I have, but I am pointing at others to make it more urgent>

Instead of simply saying, honestly, “This is something I want for myself, but nobody’s providing it, so I am going to take my bat and my ball and go.” They try to dress it up to sound concerned about others. The technical term for this approach is … Bollocks! Ok, there is a stronger more definite term, but you get the idea. To be fair, sometimes people are this honest. That doesn’t change the challenge or the potential solution.

As argued by Dan Phillips on the Pyro Blog, far more eloquently, in a similar vein, the 2nd person could offer the service they are wanting someone else to give to them. That change in tack is the turning point that moves a Church from small and struggling to small, yet thriving and growing.

Too often, the expectation is that either the Pastor or those already serving in multiple other areas will be the ones to step into this “new” need to breach the gap. And, too often, they try, and inevitably set their own trajectory to burn out or be so busy keeping two dozen plates spinning that they have no time to do any one thing with excellence. It is a recipe for death in a small church. So, if this is the case in your small Church, you could go. Bye! Or, you could see a need, and fill a need! Whadayareckon?

 
9 Comments

Posted by on 02/08/2013 in church, Culture, discipleship

 

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It takes a Church to grow a Church

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Simply, the reason many Christian Churches are dying or, at least, not multiplying their congregations, is because they are not ready to make the changes required and endure the struggle and discomfort necessary that comes with growth. Like begets like and everything reproduces after its own kind. So a church will reproduce a church. But if the Church is focused on maintaining the things as they are then the death knell has already sounded.

When a Church forms as a community around the gospel of Jesus, the way that they work out and live out that gospel does 2 things.

1. Their transparent struggle with failure and inconsistency demonstrates their need for Jesus’ gospel.

2. Their mutual care for each other in the midst of that struggle demonstrates how Jesus’ gospel is good news in the first place.

As Tim Chester says, (Total Church, chapter 5, Church Planting) how the Church congregation lives as a community is what makes the gospel plausible (or not). He quotes Lesslie Newbigin as saying: the congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel. Both of them echoing what Jesus already said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

To which we can also add, “or not”.

There is a type of individualism that is obsessed with self-protection and self-preservation that it avoids being transparent about personal need and eschews any humility of service that prioritizes others needs ahead of their own. But its a symptom that is seen corporately when Churches do things in a way that is self-serving or so obscure and unintelligible that anyone from outside either can’t get in or sees no reason to want to.

Somewhere along the line, a Church moves from making new disciples of Jesus to simply upgrading the ones they already have. Their interest is focused on keeping existing members happy or comfortable and most of their energy and resources are spent on filling rosters, roles and responsibilities to keep up something from the past. The suggestion or thought of doing evangelism or being mission minded is almost an insult. Don’t they have enough demands on their time already? How can they care for their family. make a living and keep up with all those time hungry rostered responsibilities and then do something new on top? It’s an unreasonable expectation. Maybe they should consider moving Churches before they burn out. And so goes yet another failed Church.

While all that’s happening, they are seen as boring, irrelevant bigots out of touch with reality by those they should be trying to (and actually) reaching.

If instead, a Church decides that the uncertainty of having an unfilled roster or not maintaining a legacy to some (now) empty tradition is worth the price of living with others in a way that makes sense of the gospel then that gospel plausibility can be recovered. What if the Church lived and interacted as a community with their community where mutual discipleship was a priority (serving one another and doing all the other “one another” verbs mentioned in the New Testament)? That would involve some sacrifice, struggle and personal discomfort. But it would not be inconsistent with Jesus’ call for a disciple to take up their cross and follow him. Like will beget like, and something different to before will be reproduced. What if?

 

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Risky Business

Christians have a reputation for being conservative. Whether that reputation is deserved or correct is debatable. Nevertheless, in the minds of many, to be Christian equals low risk and moderation. Today, when a Christian or Church or denomination exhibits extravagance they are considered uniquely innovative and revolutionary. Some may argue, that being careful and conservative is more in line with how the Bible describes followers of Jesus. Really? Really!

When Peter wrote his second letter it was time in history when merely being a Christian was enough to have you arrested and thrown into the nearest amphitheater to be mauled by wild animals or tortured and slaughtered by gladiators. Yet he wants to stir them up to grow in grace and live fruitful Christian lives. The confidence to do that comes, Peter tells us in v19, not from our experience, understanding, skills, emotions or intensity, but from the declarative propositional truth of God’s Word given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Consider how grounding your certainty upon Jesus and his Word could affect your:

  • Faith: You can boldly witness for Jesus knowing that you don’t need to be a world-famous evangelist in order for God to use you.
  • Family: You can courageously lead your wife and children to serve the Lord. If you make a mistake, that’s not the end because your certainty isn’t based on whether you have a wonderful marriage and family, it’s based on Jesus death, burial and resurrection.
  • Fellowship: You can give and take part in the life of the Church and be free to use your gifts for the furtherance of the kingdom of God on Earth.
  • Finances: You can generously and sacrificially support the growth of the Church without being risk averse because your certainty isn’t based on successful ministry but on the success of Jesus payment for your sin on the cross.

Peter says, if you genuinely know Jesus, have experienced his power and are resting in his promises, you have been given everything you need for life and godliness, so appropriate it! Build, Grow, Develop, Mature and Lead – the way for the Christian is forward. Don’t maintain a low profile! He says that Christians, who are confident (sure and certain) of their calling by God, will be active, effective and fruitful in living for Christ. The way for the Church is forward. We need not be risk averse – we can be certain that God is at work through the gospel & will continue calling people by his own glory & goodness. How are you ready to risk being extravagant for Christ this week/month/year?

 
 

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A fool in the pulpit

Mark Dever answers a question about Church growth and explains how to tell, if you, as a pastor and preacher, are a fool.

 

 
 

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Where good apologetics comes from

 

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Thick as a brick

Peter says we are: “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” – 1 Peter 2:5

Living stones” are like modern day bricks used for building construction. Consider this, a brick never:

  • challenges or disobeys the builder;
  • rejects the builder;
  • complains about other bricks;
  • resents other bricks for being more prominent;
  • feels sorry about having to be broken to meet the builder’s purpose.

A brick, once used in a construction, stands, together with the other bricks and building materials, as a testament to the craft and design of the builder! When looking at the bricks, it is the designer and builder that gets the praise for the finished product not the individual bricks. :)

we are … God’s building” – 1 Corinthians 3:9 – we could learn much from bricks!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on 01/09/2011 in church, discipleship, Jesus, worship

 

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