In case you missed it a recent report was published comparing the views of four Christian groups in a number of areas – see graphic above.
The American Worldview Inventory 2020, conducted by the Cultural Research Center (CRC) Director of Research Dr. George Barna, surveyed 51 beliefs and behaviors among Christian groups and found that rather than transforming the culture around them with biblical truth, the opposite is happening. American Christianity is rapidly conforming to the values of the post-Christian secular culture. Key findings of the survey include:
Evangelicals are embracing secularism
Pentecostals and charismatics take secularization a step further
Mainline Protestants are the most secular of the four faith families
Catholics are increasingly secular and permissive
If you are like me this information is both alarming and confirming – that is, it might affirm what we already sense is happening in the church!
What does this mean for the advance of the gospel?
Your life and ministry matters
It is easy to read data like this, hear yet another account of a leader who trips and falls or listen to the voice of the media take a sucker punch at the church or Christianity. In some cases this is well deserved. But the reason Christianity exists today is because people like you have taken a stand and refuse to retreat, give-up or give-in.
Coaching Question: Where can you take a stand today?
Continue the work of making disciples
If you are part of the problem – change or get out of the way. Seriously! Now, if you are still with me – leverage your influence. Remember your values. Take action. Sometimes the little things we do, matter the most.
Coaching Question: What values drive you to take the next step in helping someone on their discipleship journey?
Go small and deep
Jesus was a friend to the disciples. He cared. Jesus went deep. If you have experienced the fruit of a small band of believers you know the deep impact that can be made. Culturally the time is ripe to go small and deep: see MEGA-MULTI-MICRO
Coaching Question: Who are you partnering with to multiply disciples?
Take courage my friend – this battle is not over. More and more Christians and local churches are being marginalized, ignored and hated for what we STAND AGAINST vs. what we STAND FOR. Be strong and courageous (I Cor 6:13)!
One of the important transitions over the last 30 years in the church in the West are the three shifts mentioned in the title of this blog (Mega-Multi-Micro) which is based on a recent webinar hosted by the Multiply PDX Third Thursday series. Their special guest was Ralph Moore and the theme was “Embedding Multiplication DNA in your Church Culture”. Following is a critique of what has happened that has forced the transition with a reflection question for you and your church to continue to make the shift from Mega-Multi-Micro.
Mega: When I was in my early years of ministry (1980s) I served as an intern at my home church. Skyline Wesleyan Church was one of the most innovative churches in the US at the time (see Elmer Townes book: “10 of Today’s Most Innovative Churches: What They’re Doing, How They’re Doing it & How You Can Apply Their Ideas in Your Church”). Mega churches (1,000 members and above) have obvious benefits and certain limitations. Most of all, because multiplication is not commonly built-into the DNA, mega churches will inevitably hit ceilings like: when their members outgrow facilities, when finances become a limiting factor or when the vision is not big enough. At some stage, every mega-church hits a ceiling.
Reflection Question: How can we grow bigger by getting smaller?
Multi: In 2008, InFocus was hired to coach the 22 campus pastors of the NorthPoint Partnership Group. For the next 3 years I learned a lot about the multi-site model. Mega churches that continue to grow and eventually outgrow their home campus have gone multi. When a church reaches maximum seating capacity AND enough people drive more than 20 miles to reach the campus, new sites or campuses are launched to create more space for new church members. The critical mass needed to support the launch plus the 20 mile drive existing members make to the main campus informs the decision to launch a new campus.
Reflection Question: How can we mobilize more leaders to start more campuses?
Micro: This model is not new but it is not the type of church that catches the attention of mainstream Christianity in the West. Two distinctions mark the micro-church . First, micro-churches prioritize multiplication, leadership development and church planting. Pastor’s of micro-churches tend to be co-vocational, learn from on-the-job-training and are entrepreneurial. Second, because micro-churches meet in homes or neutral spaces, they have low overhead. Facilities do not play a prominent role as in the Mega and Multi.
Ralph Moore shared two observations that are unique to this time in our history that present a special opportunity for the micro-church.
This last year has changed the way American culture perceives the church. At best, the culture has ignored the church. But this last year has heightened the hostility towards the church and that trend, according to Moore, will only increase over time. Micro-churches allow churches to operate under the radar. Imagine a church that meets in your home to gather your neighbors.
Mega and Multi churches tend to reach homogenous groups. This presents a special opportunity for the micro-church. Flexibility, focus and intentionality of reaching affinity groups are traits of the micro-church.
Reflection Question: How can we reach affinity groups that are ignored by the existing churches in our community?
Will the Mega and Multi-site church cease to exist?
This is a hard question to answer. Here is my critique on what will continue to happen with the church in the West. From the work of Ralph Neighbors and others, the church of the future will be bigger AND smaller. In the US though we have not hit the scale that other countries have experienced. Larger churches on the global scale are in the 100s of thousands – see Global Megachuches by Leadership Network. AND churches will get smaller. Cell churches, micro-churches, and house churches are examples of how the church will continue to get smaller. A better question in my estimation is the place of the mid-size church and how it fits into the landscape of the church in the West in the future? That in my opinion, is the challenge for the future.
If you would like to view the webinar in it’s entirety – CLICK HERE.
Check-out Ralph Moore’s book on a modern-day church multiplication movement in the West!
One of the cool things with advances in technology is that you can leverage data to get better and better. Take Strava, the exercise app used by runners, cyclists and swimmers. I have discovered the power of tracking data while mountain biking. I have refined my riding over the last couple of years by comparing times on the same trails (called “segments”). One trail I am challenging myself with this year is a technical downhill that has boulders of all sizes with steep drops and sharp turns. Large boulders, stacked, rounded, sharp, gnarly – you name it, “Overdrive” has a bit of everything. I am improving my times little by little. Getting better and better with each ride. I know this because I have the data to support my times.
How does this apply to ministry?
We all measure what matters. Whether we do this formally or informally, we have some internal or external mechanisms to assess whether we are progressing, plateauing or in decline. We can probably agree on a few universal measures that most church leaders track like quantifying the disciples your church is making, leaders being developed and churches planted to name a few. In a related topic I wrote a blog entitled: WHAT DOES IT COST YOUR MINISTRY TO MAKE A NEW DISCIPLE?
My colleague in Australia, Colin Noyes expanded on the topic in a recent blog with some helpful insights and process questions to arrive at an ROI for making disciples in your church. You can read more by CLICKING HERE.
This may or may not be a helpful question for you to be asking right now. It is easy to criticize the church for what it is not doing well but it is also important to remind ourselves what we are doing well. If you want to focus on a particular area right now where you can improve and get better and better, here are a couple of questions to help you arrive at the measures that matters most to you and your ministry in this season:
What is the most important indicator to assess the quality of relationships occurring in your church right now?
How will you track the quality of relationships?
What is the most important indicator to assess the quality of disciples being made?
How will you track the quality of disciples being made?
What is the most important indicator to assess the quality of leaders being trained?
How will you track the quality of leaders being trained?
Bottom line – this stuff matters!
Embrace what matters.
Assess your starting point.
Get better and better!
If you are interested in exploring our Leadership Collective and want to learn from a regional perspective the impact this can have on your churches – CLICK HERE. We will launch our next cohort on March 8. Please contact me direct – CLICK HERE.