What does it take to see a person reproduce the character of Christ in a new apprentice of Jesus? If you’re like me you’ve seen a number of approaches, perhaps, too many to count. Some have been super fruitful, while others not so much.
Assuming the approach includes the key qualities of disciplemaking like the power of the Holy Spirit, application of Scripture, fellowship, prayer and coaching – the soil is ripe for multiplication. In the expediency of time I find many of us are troubled with the lack of reproduction even into the second, not to mention the third and fourth generation. This impatience can and will result in growth by addition – looks amazing in the short-term but malnourished in the long-term.
What can you do to move from expediency to significance?
You have probably heard about the practice of prioritizing activities into Quadrant II – Important and Not Urgent (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey). Multiplication is a Quadrant II activity. Over a three year period, one pastor I have been coaching has changed the expectations of their small groups, which his church calls Life Groups:
Participation: 79% of the congregation are in Life Groups
Growth: the number of Life Groups has more than tripled
Multiplication: 22% of the Life Groups have reproduced into the second generation
Here’s five lessons for your reflection, to keep your eyes on the long-term fruit of a multiplication movement and not get distracted with instant gratification.
Five Lessons to keep your attention on Multiplication
Lesson #1: Be willing to fail – Multiplication requires an element of to risk – which requires faith.
Lesson #2: Be open to learn – The best teacher is experience.
Lesson #3: Be clear with your vision – If you’re unclear where you’re headed, good chance you will get there!
Lesson #4: Be ALL about the process – The joy is in the journey.
Lesson #5: Be realistic with your expectations – Go slow at first so that you can go fast later.
What image comes to mind when you hear the word “church”?
In a world where the Christian apologetic is under scrutiny, Andy Stanley suggests intriguing insights in his book entitled “Irresistable” on the:
New vs. Old Covenant
deeply held theological assumptions.
In the discussion about the church he identifies the first time the term is used in scripture. In Matthew 16:17-18 Jesus says to Peter: “… and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The author goes on to say this is a future part of the New Covenant.
In 1522, William Tyndale began translating the Greek New Testament into English. The Greek word “ekklesia” is accurately translated as “assembly” or “gathering”. The word “church” is not a translation, but a substitution – and a misleading one at that.
Stanley says, that the term “church” should not have appeared in the text at all. Tyndale lost his battle over the term, and others; along with his life. For this reason, “ekklesia” is substituted with our word “church” and used in the scriptures more that 100 times after this.
This makes a tremendous difference in the way we coach, teach and disciple. The connotation of church is very different than the term assembly – as in a gathering of people (whether it be a civic gathering, an assembly of soldiers or an assembly of idol manufacturers as in Acts 19:28-29). What Tyndale was attempting to do was set the record straight.
Today, I imagine, if you surveyed 100 Christians and asked them how they would describe the term “church”, that description would include a building or campus, where people gather for worship. They might describe an organization vs. and organism. Or they might think of the cultural interpretation of the church; whatever that might be in their context.
Which leads me to suggest the following 5 exercise of a local church. These are intended to be broad is scope. The question is intended to help you reflect on your gathering of Jesus Followers.
5 Exercise of a Church
Exercise #1: A community of Jesus Followers loving God Together
How are you and your community of Jesus Followers expressing your love of God?
Exercise #2: A community of Jesus Followers loving their neighbor together
How are you and your community of Jesus Followers loving your neighbor?
Exercise #3: A community of Jesus Followers making Apprentices of Jesus together
How are you and your community of Jesus Followers making disciples together?
Exercise #4: A community of Jesus Followers collaborating with other communities to reach their city
How are you and your community of Jesus Followers collaborating with other gatherings of Jesus Followers to accomplish the mission of Jesus in your city?
Exercise #5: A community of Jesus Followers stewarding all their resources in God-honoring ways
How are you and your community of Jesus Followers stewarding all their resources in God-honoring ways?
Every leader and network of leaders will have their definition of “church”. Reflect on the core exercises Jesus had in mind when he spoke to Peter and his intention for us today. Here are three questions to help you identify how to move forward in your thinking about His community of followers that he has entrusted to your care:
What exercises are you doing well?
What exercises are a challenge?
Which exercises do you need to address now?
Here are a few coaching resources to help you guide leaders.
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:
How do I define “ministry”?
What characteristics are firmly established in my ministry?
What characteristics need more attention?
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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:
What concepts are you rethinking?
How are these changing your approach to disciplemaking + church multiplication?
Please continue the conversation and respond below….
Following are three observations “from the trenches” that are worth paying attention to if you have any interest, or concern over disciple-making movements. This is real data extracted from reliable resources. My goal is to clearly state the problem.
I hope you find the information helpful as we continue the mission of Jesus to make disciples…
Globally, the percentage of the world’s population that have become Christian is about the same today as it was 100 years ago
Approximately 32% of the global population was Christian in 1910 vs. 35% in 2010. The research also shows there has been a shift regionally, which is interesting to note; lower percentage of Christians in Europe and the Americas vs. an increase in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia Pacific, while the Middle East-North Africa has remained about the same – see Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian by The Pew Research Center.
Most churches stall-out after the first generation
80% of the churches in the US have plateaued or are in decline.
Most disconcerting is that of the new churches planted in 2012; only 22% had started at least one daughter church within 5 years of existence – see Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow by Ed Stetzer & Daniel Im (p.14).
Mac Lake suggest that only 4% of churches ever reproduce
Hirsch and Catchim tell us that the church in the US spends over $70 billion every decade on church plants and resources; but even so “we are experiencing decline in adherence and membership at an unprecedented rate” – see Beyond the Local Church by Sam Metcalf (p. 159).
This raises an important question: “With the heightened awareness of church planting as the most fruitful, God-given strategy to reach people far from Him, in combination with the resources (conferences, books and service) available; why aren’t churches able to make the shift missionally?” See Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow by Ed Stetzer & Daniel Im.
Here is my attempt to state the problem of the church in the US today:
The current way we make disciples, do church & plant churches has attracted the low-lying fruit therefore,
we must introduce new ways to make disciples, do church & plant churches.
In the upcoming blogs I will reflect a bit more on these three statistics and identify the signs that lead to Movement Drift.. If it were easy, I believe we would have already figured it out with out human ingenuity. I believe the solution lies not in our capacity to think through the solution but in our reliance on the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit first and foremost.
Please join me on the journey and participate in the conversation.