This image has particular interest this week as part of the cathedral was burned and altered the Parisian skyline. Notre Dame de Paris or “Our Lady of Paris” was started in 1163 and was largely complete by 1345. For almost two centuries this amazing piece of architecture was under construction.
I wonder what motivated the visionaries that envisioned this house of worship.
What motivates you to do what you do? I enjoy asking this question because you can tell a lot about a person by their answer. In the case of Notre Dame was it to reach the heavens so that people could get closer to God; to honor and give glory to God; to make the cathedral the heart of Paris? Whatever the reasons, people dedicated their lives to fulfill the vision.
When asking people who are discerning how to align their lives with God’s purposes – it takes on an entirely different meaning. I remember when I was a college student studying environmental design I was asking myself this very question. It led me to explore other avenues than I had previously considered, including ministry. My dad was a businessman who was trained as an electrical engineer so ministry was unfamiliar territory. One morning as we were walking and talking, he made an observation pertaining to the internship I was doing at the church where I was raised in the Faith. He made a comment that range true for me and solidified the change I was contemplating. He admitted that he did not understand what a vocation of ministry involved; but he did notice that I was invigorated more and more by what I was doing. That helped me sort through the fog that cluttered my mind and see for the first time what I had sensed in my heart. Words matter – especially when it comes from someone you respect, love and desire to be like.
That eventually led me down the path of seminary and into coaching, to help: emerging leaders and leaders discern what God was calling them to, navigate critical issues to catalyze movements of disciples that start healthy churches that start churches and faithfully serve God in the next chapter of their life.
One of the reasons we created the Personal Calling Collective is to help you and those you coach do just that. Younger leaders have a great need for this type of support AND established leaders need it just as much. CLICK HERE for more information. Here are a couple of resources that might help you, and others, discern what God is calling you to next:
Personal Calling Coaching Guide with Storyboard
Personal Calling Storyboard
Lead Pastor,, Sunrise Community Church
Gary empowers leaders to discover and realize their God-given potential, not by imitating others, but by striving to become the best possible version of themselves.
How many times have you taken people through some kind of process to discern their spiritual gifts, passions, skills or strengths – only to discover that they had not budged in pursuing their calling from God?
When I first started out in ministry my role in the college group that I was serving was to help people understand their spiritual gifts. It did exactly what it was designed to do. People with a gift of service found a place to serve. Over and over again I helped people find how and where they could use their gifts. What I realized is, that this is a good starting point but not how people naturally thrive long-term.
Now, I see that the process needs to be embedded in a coaching relationship, providing feedback on an ongoing basis. When the feedback loop is provided, the person has a chance to reflect on what they are doing, make adjustments then focus more and more on what they enjoy most or – passionate about. I remember one person that I worked with for an extended period is now thriving in a church planting ministry.
However, that support is often-times missing for people who are discerning their way in ministry.
The solution is to have leaders who know how to support people in their unique, personal calling process. One group that we really, really need to help is the up and coming generation. Call them what you want, the younger generation are hungry for this type of attention – that is one reason we created the Personal Calling Collective, LIVE online learning community. To help you learn how to support followers of Jesus to discern what He has called them to do with their spiritual gifts, passions, skills, strengths all in the context of their life journey.
One of the tools that is central to the Collective is the Focused Ministry Coaching Guide & Storyboard. It provides the framework for the self-discovery process. What I like it that it describes the process – allowing you to utilize tools that you are most comfortable with to assess a person’s spiritual gifts, passions, skills, strengths, etc. There are so many available today and every leader has their favorites.
Who do you know that might benefit from being a part of an exciting group of leaders, working hard to help people discern what God has called them to accomplish?
The start date is June 24 and the Collective includes four, 1-hour group sessions with six, 1-1 coach appointments; for a total of 10 contact hours. Please reach-out to me direct and let me know if you have any questions. You can schedule a time to meet by CLICKING HERE.
Below is a breakdown of the topics you will learn how to coaching people through:
- Showing Up
- Trying things out
- Connecting with your passion
- Evaluating your service
- Examining your life journey
- Discerning your calling
- Sharpening your skills
- Involving others
- Training others
- Broadening perspectives
CLICK HERE for more information.
My wife Gina is a health coach. One of the challenges she faces in working with clients is their ability to hear that 80% of weight loss is based on what you put in your mouth. The other 20% is exercise. Many times, it is like that bit of information is lost in translation. Instead of putting the focus where it needs to be (food intake) the emphasis is placed on increasing the level of activity – exercise.
It is kind of like going to a church multiplication conference and walking away with a list of things that should be done and neglecting the need to shift the culture of the church. Culture shift is a much more complicated, riskier and problematic exercise.
An intriguing study was released in March 2019 from Exponential by LifeWay Research entitled: “Small, Struggling Congregations Fill U.S. Church Landscape” (used with permission). The article highlights some of the findings that will confirm, or contrast with, what you sense is happening with the church in America. Essentially, the trend remains stable with about 72% of the congregations remaining about the same, or showing slight increases in growth, as the graphs above suggest.
I’ve tracked this trend over the last 30+ years. It is disheartening to read that the situation is not changing. But I also have two reasons to be hopeful.
- Smaller (much SMALLER) Churches Prevail
- Bigger (much BIGGER) Churches are Needed
First, the data suggest that small churches are more effective at making disciples of people far from God.
Forty-six percent of smaller churches (fewer than 50 in worship services) say they had 10 conversions or more for every 100 in attendance, while only 18 percent of churches 250 and above meet that benchmark.
My experience supports this, along with research beyond the US, from the international community (see “Is Bigger Really Better? The Statistics actually Say NO!” by Neil Cole) My observation is that small churches should remain evangelistically effective by making disciples through the reproduction of disciplemaking communities. Culturally, the US is less receptive to creating a culture of multiplication for reasons that I won’t go into here; but the fact remains, the single most important question, that surfaces through the international data from Natural Church Development is an affirmative response to this issue:
Our church consciously promotes the multiplication of small groups through cell division?
It is sort of like when people go to Gina, my wife, the health coach. When she explains to clients in order to lose weight “you must eat healthy and introduce exercise incrementally” there is dissonance. The external response is often at odds with the internal response!
Second, we need more bigger churches – much BIGGER!
The mega-church in the US has traditionally, and continues, to attract the low-lying fruit (people looking for a church home who are for the most part, already followers of Christ). In 2018 the largest congregation in the US had 43,000 people in worship services on a weekly basis – CLICK HERE for more information vs. the top 20 largest congregations worldwide with worship service attendance starting at 250,000+ through regional house church networks – CLICK HERE for more information (albeit dated, but still relevant for my purpose). In the future, I predict the large church will be re-defined by two characteristics in the US:
- Disciplemaking communities with the DNA of multiplication that will reproduce into the third, fourth and fifth generation
- Regional churches of hundreds of thousands of disciples of Jesus vs. tens of thousands we currently see
This is what we have been learning from the international church. However, the ramifications are much more significant than what we can imagine. My experience suggests that until the pain reaches a tipping point where the way we are making disciples and planting churches really and truly is not working OR the resources are no longer available – change will be constrained to the pioneers
Here are three broad changes that are and will continue to occur in the future:
- Simplify requirements of leaders – namely denominations
- More relevant training processes to development leaders – namely seminaries
- Proliferation of bi-vocational leaders – namely the local church
Each of these are hotly debated among denominations, seminaries and local congregations. Humanly speaking, If data alone drove change, then change would have happened long ago, Ultimately, apart from the miraculous work of God, the driving force will be the resources required to run these institutions. What gives me hope, and prayerfully excites you, assuming you’ve stayed with me so far; is that the next generation and the generation after that are looking for deep change AND the Lord of the Harvest is using institutions that have traditionally been unwilling to change, display an openness to change. A number of examples can be given in each of the three categories above on large and small scales – but the window of change is opening.
Here are two examples of what I mean:
- More relational approaches to make disciples and develop leaders through coaching:
- Every notable church planting network, mission agency and reproducing church has embraced the power of coaching.
- Simplifying and creating relevant delivery systems for higher education:
- Fuller Theological Seminary is downsizing their geographic footprint to reallocate resources to reach more students through online delivery systems and making degreed programs fully accessible to leaders around the world, in a manner that would not be possible if they had remained in their Pasadena location.
These examples are like the story of so many of Gina’s clients. The pain and discomfort of remaining in an unhealthy state is overshadowed by their desire for a healthy existence. When they reach that tipping point, deep change begins.
May the Lord give us insight and wisdom to seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.
Change Management Resources:
I have reflected on this for some time. Like the last 30+ years. What is your answer?
When I asked a church staff this question, they responded a month later with a list of qualities that described a disciple. For example: Godly character, biblical literate, service, humility, shares faith, etc. And the list went on and on. I was exhausted at the end of our meeting because I was convinced that no one I knew would ever measure-up; including me.
What I felt they were describing was a list of behaviors to make better disciples, but not to MAKE disciples.
This was troubling to me. You could pragmatically help your people become better disciples but miss Jesus’ command to make disciples. Jesus set the tone of His mission by showing His disciples that the best way to become a better disciple is by making disciples.
Taking this a step deeper. Is your ministry making better disciples or more disciples? What is the fruit of a disciple? Simply put, the fruit of a disciple are disciples who are making disciples.
We have taken the mystery of what a fruitful disciple does in the Disciplemaking Collective. We use a simple path to help disciples assess where they are on their disciplemaking journey called the Disciplemaking Coaching Guide and Storyboard (see image above). CLICK HERE for more information.