Donald McGavran cited the “professionalisation of ministry” as one of the top challenges for the ongoing cultivation of a movement (“Understanding Church Growth” pgs. 163-164). Specifically, the aspirational goal for credentialed and paid, vocational ministers and missionaries can be detrimental to the very things we need to be doing as apprentices of Jesus. Disciplemaking and church planting are oftentimes lost in the “busyness” of qualifying for, earning an income and doing ministry.

The professional minister is good and necessary – in some cases. In other situations, the pathway to credentialization, the schooling required and financial incentive that many aspire to in ministry, can detract from the making of disciples, caring for the poor and the planting of churches. I wonder how this model influences our understanding of ministry?

I believe the phrase that Neil Cole coined can be helpful: lower the bar of leadership and raise the bar of discipleship. How does this statement influence your understanding of “ministry”.  Let me suggest five characteristics of ministry to accelerate movement.

5 Characteristics of Ministry to Accelerate Movement

Characteristic #1 – Gift-based

Ephesians 4:11-12 is one of my favorites passages. You know of others, but I like to keep things simple and believe that Alan Hirsch, and others, have thoughtful arguments that suggest all apprentices of Jesus are gifted accordingly to one or more of the APEST giftings (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher). Regardless if you agree with the APEST paradigm, the principle is to mobilize people according to their spiritual gifting.

  • Key Question: How are you mobilizing people?

Characteristic #2 – Maximizes ALL opportunities for spiritual fruit

Whether a person is crunching numbers or laying brick or serving in the home – we would be wise to connect what they do to help people take the next step on their spiritual journey. Too often we push aside what people do for the majority of their lives in the workplace or community, as non-ministry. The best place for apprentices of Jesus to reach people far from God is in their place of employment or in the community where they live.

  • Key Question: How are you helping people see their vocation or their service in the community as ministry?

Characteristic #3 – Progresses the movement forward

Movement is simply defined as disciples and churches reproducing into the third and fourth generation. With that as the filter it helps prioritize where to commit time and resources. The real challenge is when other good opportunities are presented that appear good and right but at the expense of movement-building activity.

  • Key Question: How are you progressing you movement forward?

Characteristic #4- Kingdom-focused

The Kingdom of God is not destined for a single church or denomination; it is the reign of Jesus in every nook and cranny of society. This encompasses the three primary institutions addressed in Scripture: the family, government and the local church (including para-church, mission socientes and networks or denominations). For heaven’s sake, we need participation in all sectors of society (business, education, the arts, etc) to establish the Kingdom of God!

  • Key Question: How are you helping people see that the Kingdom is bigger than the local church?

Characteristic #5 – God is glorified

In John 4: 23-24 Jesus states “…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth“. When our acts of service are in alignment with the heart of God, it is pleasing to our Creator – this is how I would define ministry. Perhaps another way of describing ministry is to borrow John Piper’s definition of worship:

The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.

  • Key Question: How is God being glorified?

Once you have a moment to reflect on the five characteristics of ministry to accelerate movement., ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How do I define “ministry”?
  2. What characteristics are firmly established in my ministry?
  3. What characteristics need more attention?

Please like this blog below and share it with you friends.

Here is the second of seven mission critical concepts leaders are re-thinking strategically to create a more robust disciplemaking + church multiplication culture.

Concept 2 – Fruitfulness:

How do you measure fruitfulness?

Have you heard the statement – “You measure what matters” when discussing ministry.

In their book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” the authors introduce Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). From their experience the challenge that comes when a leader and/or team identify WIGs is, EXECUTION! To support leaders, the authors emphasize the importance of Lead and Lag Measures.

Lead Measures are focused on the outcomes you are aiming for in the WIG – these are Predictable and Influencable. Predictable in that if you accomplish this, then you can expect certain results (“this” then “that”). A good lead measure for our church is: 80% of our active adults in small groups to engage our congregation missionally.

Lag Measures are focused on the goal. Here are four good lag measures our church set this year to engage our people in mission:

  • Two Mission Weekend
  • Two Mission Trips
  • Two Missional Moments
  • Two Missional Invites – view Going Together sermon for more.

These are really important to our church; therefore, we track the weekly attendance in all our small groups. We believe that people who are engaged in a small group will have a much great chance to being engage missionally. Every church has their WIGS.

WIGs simply give focus with language to establish what is important (Lead Measure) track and assess where you are (Lag Measure).

I was discussing the idea of goals with a leadership team at a church and they were clear that they did not have any goals – by choice.

If you are of that same line of thought then I would point you to the notion that God knows the exact number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7 & Matthew 10:30). This could be figurative – communicating the Lord’s care and concern for His people. But would it be fair to say that if he cares this much about hair follicles that He probably cares a lot more about the individual lives we are able to influence with the love of Christ? And could it be possible that He might be pleased if we gave focused attention to that in our efforts to make disciples?

Many churches do a competent job of tracking the low-lying fruit e.g. nickles and noses.  But to move into a missional paradigm I suggest 5 metrics of fruitfulness in ministry.

5 Metrics for disciplemaking and church planting movements using a coach approach

This is not an exhaustive list – but is a good start:

Disciples taking the next step on their spiritual journey

  • What percentage of your people are in disciplemaking communities?

Caring for the poor

  • What percentage of your time and resources are dedicated to serving the poor?

Disciples making disciples

  • What percentage of your people are reproducing apprentices of Jesus into the third and fourth generation?

Leaders being developed

  • What percentage of your leaders-in-training are taking the next step in their development?

Planting new churches

  • What percentage of your time and resources are dedicated to the planting of new churches?

Once you have that data the three questions below can help you set WIGs to measure fruitfulness of your ministry:

  1. What percentages do you want to alter?
  2. What is your lead measure(s)?
  3. What is your lag measure(s)?

Please continue the conversation and respond below….

Here is the first of seven mission critical concepts leaders are re-thinking strategically to create a more robust disciplemaking + church multiplication culture.

Concept 1 – Discipleship:

What is your discipleship pathway?

Immediately when I asked this question to a youthful church staff regarding their list of “indicators” for a disciple – the notion of a  non-organic, results-oriented disciplemaking process was rebuffed. Over the next few minutes I attempted to logically explain the rationale behind my question. I earnestly explained my “why” observable behaviors are important for a growing disciple are essential – but lost that battle!

Whether you have a relationally driven, organic disciplemaking process or a highly structured approach, the point is, every disciplemaker has a process they follow. A deeper question is, what are the essentials of a growing disciple?

My conclusion is that a discipleship pathway that leads to a disciplemaking movement embraces the following missional behaviors:

Grounded in Biblical principles

  • You can have disciples of all kinds, such as, religious, philosophical schools of thought, diets, etc. For apprentices of Jesus the Scriptures are the moral compass we follow.
  • Key Insight: Stay true to the Word of God.

Clear understanding of what a growing, reproducing disciple does

  • I like Covey’s Habit #2: “Keeping the End in Mind”.  The principle holds true to making disciples.  A framework with the essential outcomes, like the Making Disciples Storyboard, is helpful to keep the end in mind.
  • Key Insight: set boundaries for disciplemaking relationships, then stay within those.

Values relationship(s)

  • Some leaders gravitate towards 1-1 vs. others leaders who think 2-3 OR some leaders think small group vs. missional community.  Crosspoint Community Church is the local church I attend with my wife, Gina where we lead a small group of 15 apprentices of Jesus. Our church consistently has 85% or more of the adult church attenders in small groups which is one of the strategic focuses of our disciplemaking process.
  • Key Insight: Relationship(s) trumps content.

Takes a coach approach

  • I write a lot about this. Essentially, taking a coach approach is anchored in the ability of the disciples to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit and the disciplemaker helps the disciple draw out new insights by listing and asking questions.  See 5 Shifts to be a Great Coach blog.
  • Key Insight: Listening & asking questions help disciples go further, faster.

Revolves around transferable concepts

  • I remember a conversation I had with my mom when I was first starting out in ministry. She was an amazing leader who discipled many people, families and groups over her lifetime – that are still making disciples to this day. However, to my knowledge she never completed the 1-1 discipleship program our church (which is a great church) had introduced. In my niavete, I had a conversation with mom to critique the way she had made disciples over her lifetime to help her see “the enlightened path” I was following. Needless to say, she did the program and I am sure benefitted – to a degree. To this day, I regret having this conversation with my mom who is one of the most influential disciplemakers I have ever known.
  • Key Insight: transferable concepts have the potential of reproducing disciples into the 3rd-4th generation.

Take a moment and reflect on your experience:

  1. What missional behaviors do you practice?
  2. What missional behaviors do you need to adopt?

Please continue the conversation and respond below….

There are seven mission critical concepts that you must grapple to create a robust culture of disciplemaking + church multiplication.  Each worthy of deep reflection, prayer and adept coaching.  I’ve listed these as “concepts” along with a key question.

Here they are:

Concept 1- Discipleship:

  • What is your discipleship pathway?

Concept 2 – Fruitfulness:

  • How do you measure fruitfulness?

Concept 3 – Ministry:

  • What is your definition of ministry?

Concept 4 – Church:

  • Describe what constitutes the local church?

Concept 5 – Time:

  • What can you do to move from expediency to significance?

Concept 6 – Gospel:

  • List your Gospel imperatives?

Concept 7 – Love:

  • How do you express your love of God?
  • Who is your neighbor?

You probably aren’t surprised by these.  On the other hand, you may have others you would add to the list.  Take a moment and reflect on your experience:

  1. What concepts are you rethinking?
  2. How are these changing your approach to disciplemaking + church multiplication?

Please continue the conversation and respond below….

Three statistics worth reviewing on the state of the mission of Jesus include:

  • Globally, the percentage of the world’s population that have become Christian remains about the same
  • Most churches stall-out after the first generation
  • Few churches plant churches

A natural question to ask is “why?” – “Why do disciplemaking + church planting movements stall out?” Here are 10 markers that you might have observed:

  1. Convoluted understanding of what is going on in the world – this goes beyond “vision”, it has more to do with a relevant approach to making disciples that results in disciples making disciples + new churches planting churches.
  2. Stories from the good ‘ol days – recent stories of disciplemaking + church planting are non-existent.
  3. Church decline – the current models of disciplemaking + church planting have attracted the low lying fruit and it is no longer an issue of “working harder & smarter!”
  4. Financial mismanagement – more and more money is going to “church consumer-like” expenditures in exchange for disciplemaking + church planting efforts.
  5. Relational disengagement – apprentices of Jesus have stopped gathering in small groups or the groups they are meeting in have lost a missional focus.
  6. Theological apathy – an underlying theological bias that over-shadows or dismisses the need for a Savior-Redeemer.
  7. Ego-driven leadership – more attention is garnered by the personality of the leader than the pursuit of genuine Kingdom fruit. 
  8. Celebrations cease – achievements are celebrated that have little to do with the Gospel of Jesus and the making of disciples.
  9. Faulty missiology – such as:
    • an “either-or” orientation to mission e.g. local OR global mission
    • an “either-or” orientation to growth e.g. church growth (quantitative) OR church health (qualitative)
    • an “either-or” orientation to outreach e.g. attractional OR missional
  10. Apostate teaching – Gospel-centric focus has been lost in the cultural distractions of secular thinking

This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list.  But it does capture some of the essential reason that stall-out disciplemaking + church planting movements, from my experience.  You probably have others that you would include in the list…

I’d love to read some of your views.

  • Does this match-up with your experience?
  • What’s missing?

Please continue the conversation below and feel free to share this with you friends.