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?

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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….