Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Churches are Unique

When I began serving as a Minister to Single Adults, our church was deeply involved in a grief and divorce recovery ministry. That ministry has been going strong for nearly 15 years now. It has been a steady tool of evangelism and discipleship for the church, and will continue to be as long as the ministry continues.

What amazed me, though, was how so many other churches wanted to implement the exact same ministry. Our pastoral care pastor wanted so much to break out and expand to ministry to chemical abuse addictions, sexual addictions, homosexuality issues, etc. He is always looking for the edge. The other churches just wanted a reliable, predictable ministry that they could copy.

I often wondered why smaller churches never specialized.(The one I served in and with whom I maintain membership while on the mission field is a larger church.) It seems logical that one church targeting a specialized ministry area and another targeting another would be extremely beneficial to the overall goal of evangelism in a city. This is not something that can be organized from a hierarchy, however. Even so, if churches payed attention, each one could find a niche ministry, and that would be a good thing.

This concept of churches being unique is explored by Will Mancini. Here is an online version of his book you can browse through Issuu. (Issuu is a great web resource I will be using more in the future.)

The Church Unique Visual Summary is an engaging overview of the key concepts from the book Church Unique by Will Mancini. Have a look.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pastors, Look Here!

Okay, now that I’ve got your attention, I want to point you to a wonderful resource. Joe McKeever is the retired Director of Missions of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. He is very active preaching and blogging.

Dr. McKeever’s blog is full of more good, Godly and practical advice for pastors and ministers than I have found in any other place. Here are just some of his articles that I have found interesting, helpful and challenging.

Ten Foundational Principles to Tell Your People Again and Again - If you have pastored for more than four or five years, or if you are in your second (or more) pastorate, you have learned the hard way that saying something one time to your people does not suffice. Some lessons--the most important ones, particularly--have to be said again and again.

The Trap That Snares Assistant Pastors – Church leaders told the preacher, "From now on, when you see you're going to be out of town, there's no need to bring in guest preachers. Joe can handle it." And that's when it began to happen. That snare that traps all assistant pastors at one time or the other began to be set for me.

Dealing With The Preacher-Eaters in the Pews - Pity the new pastor who walks into a church unprepared to deal with carnal leaders who enjoy their power positions and cannot wait to let the new minister know who's in charge.

Why I'm Angry At Some Preachers - You've heard them, I'm sure. Some well-intentioned but thoughtless man of God stands before a gathering of the Lord's people and in urging us to evangelize our communities will overstate the case. “Jesus told us to become fisher’s of men! He did not tell us to be keepers of the aquarium!”

Twenty Things I Wish I Had Known As A Young Pastor - I found this list the other day, written perhaps a dozen years ago. As a veteran of 42 years in the pastorate, I have made my share of mistakes and have compiled a lengthy list of regrets.

What To Tell A Hurting Church - One of the best parts of serving as a Director of Missions for a Baptist association is that churches in trouble call on you for assistance. That's also one of the worst aspects of the job.

The Ultimate Phobia: Why Christians Fear to Witness - Why are good, normal, otherwise confident Christian people scared to death of knocking on a door? I think I know, and it's not just that we don't know what to do or don't love the Lord enough or lack holiness. Sorry, Henry Blackaby, my dear brother. I think it's something else.

Friday, June 17, 2011

When Values Collide

The heart of this blog is evangelism.

Baptisms have been trending down each year, and churches really are shrinking. Specifically, this blog is about evangelism and discipleship among those who don’t readily fit into a church’s culture. The American church is has been negligent in cross-cultural evangelism. As a result, in many churches evangelism is anemic at best.

It is among those outside of traditional church culture that the fields are white unto harvest. This is where the lost sheep have gone. As Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Many Christians think that crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate. There is a myth that only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us. But, the Great Commission actually commands otherwise! Jesus commanded his mostly Jewish audience to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples. In other words, the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures.  --Joey Shaw via Guy Muse (reposted)

Churches are not transitioning.

One of the great challenges for churches, however, is to make that transition to real evangelism among those who don’t readily fit. Many churches don’t even understand that a transition is needed because they have a skewed perspective of who they really are. These churches readily make bold declarations and purpose statements. “We are a Great Commission church.” “Our purpose is to win the entire city for Jesus.”

But the values a church claims to hold are not always the values a church demonstrates by its actions. A church’s true values are revealed in their behavior, not their mission statements. This is the reason transition is so difficult. Churches try to implement new programs without understanding the conflicting values in the church.

Wayne Key gives a good example.

One church brought in a new youth pastor to reach out to the community. But when he began a skate park initiative, the trustee board stalled action so long that the initiative was killed. We helped the church discover it held an unspoken value—“Protect our Christian kids from worldly kids”—that directly counteracted its stated value—“Reach out to youth.”

When values collide, churches stagnate.

Value conflicts, especially between these unstated, unperceived values and the stated values of a ministry can lead to much dissension. The sad thing is, those on both sides of the issue feel like the other side is completely out of touch with what is really important. This can lead to distrust and disunity. It can kill a ministry and split a church.

The unspoken values of a church, revealed only by behavior will always win out over the stated preferred values of a church, unless they are recognized and brought to light. Only then can a church honestly wrestle through what they really value most. Once they have done that, they can change their actions, policies and perhaps even authority structures.

Help me out here in the comments section by suggesting some of the unspoken values that churches may have that can be barriers to real outreach and evangelism when they are prioritized to an unhealthy degree (or at all in some cases). Here are some that I have thought of.

  • Financial Stability
  • Cleanliness
  • Orderly Church Growth
  • Protect our Christian kids from worldly kids
  • Control
  • Convenience
  • Prominence in the Greater Community
  • Formality,
  • Being “Dignified”
  • Being a Pretty or Picturesque Church
  • Familiarity,
  • Protect our singles from singles of other races
  • Entertainment
  • Please add to this list and suggest ways of lovingly exposing these values to the church.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I was right about 50 to 1

In my previous post I said “Years of church baptism reports seem to indicate that in a year’s time, typical church outreach wins about one person to Jesus for every 50 church members.” I was worried about that opening line, because it wasn’t sourced. I figured it out with a calculator and several annual reports from various state conventions.

Now, I can cite Lifeway as a source:

According to this article evaluating the 2010 SBC statistics on baptism and church membership, Southern Baptist churches reported 332,321 baptisms in 2010. Total membership was reported at 16,136,044.

That means that last year our churches won just one person to Jesus for every 49 church members. My observation was right on target.

This is sad. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Getting Beyond Typical Church Outreach. (Update)

I posted “A Guide to Getting Beyond Typical Church Outreach, Part One” a couple of weeks ago. This article has become larger than a typical blog post and needs to be divided up even more. When I conclude I will likely post the entire article as a PDF download. This is an update of part one.

Years of church baptism reports seem to indicate that in a year’s time, typical church outreach wins about one person to Jesus for every 50 church members.

Of course there are many churches above and below the curve. Very large churches with a full spectrum of ministries, large budgets, and multiple staff members are generally able to reach a very predictable number of people each year. (It is actually kind of scary to see how some churches have the almost exactly same number of baptisms year in and year out.)

Sometimes, small churches with part-time staff and virtually no resources are able to out baptize the big ones. I recommend paying attention to those churches.

There are a number of churches, though, that do the outreach programs and follow them faithfully and struggle to baptize more than a handful of people in a year's time. When a church is not evangelistic, it is doing something wrong.

As I counsel churches to begin to break new ground evangelistically, these are things I believe to be essential.

1. Begin with Prayer.

Prayer is essential to reaching a city for Jesus. It is the starting point for everything we do, and should permeate everything that is done. Prayer ought to take up a significant portion of our daily time. When do not pray, our thoughts, our affections, and our work all serve our own interests rather than God’s. Without prayer it is impossible to succeed in ministry. You might as well not even try.

In my experience most Christians do not spend even ten full minutes in prayer each day. They may say prayers at meals, when getting up and going to bed, and during weekly church prayer meetings, but they do not spend as much time praying as they do talking on the phone or even watching commercials on TV.

Change this one thing and watch the Kingdom of God advance.

For further reading, see “Praying for Others as Outreach,” “How to Pray for Other Christians” and by Paul Watson,  "Growing Closer to God through Facebook Prayer.”

2. Elevate Scripture

Scripture is our final authority for faith and practice. It is the source for all preaching and teaching. Everyone should be conditioned to go directly to the Bible for instruction, answers, examples and warnings. If dependence is established on any teacher (or Bible study guide or book), other than holy scripture and the holy spirit, then evangelism will stagnate.

Elevate scripture over constitution and by-laws. Lovingly challenge church leaders to compare policies with those of Scripture as they relate to evangelism, church planting, and providing for leadership. Let this comparison be the subject of prayer and an open forum. If church policies put burdensome prerequisites on obedience to commands in scripture, reproduction will be stifled.

Elevate scripture by teaching obedience. Passive learners, hearers only, are not only disobedient, but they model disobedience to new Christians. Obedience is more important than knowledge. Every Bible study should end with an opportunity for people to share what they will do in obedience to the passage learned. Gaining insight is not spiritual growth, obedience is.

For further reading see: Obedience Based Discipleship by David Watson, and Three Levels of Church Authority, by George Patterson (PDF)

3. Set a Goal for 10,000% Reproduction

That sounds silly, but it is biblical. Through the parable of the sower, Jesus likened the gospel to seed falling on the ground. On good soil the seed sprouts, grows and reproduces 30, 60, and even 100 times. That corresponds to a 2,900%, 5,900%, and 9,900% increase.

By comparison, my home association, the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, reported just over 42,000 church members in 2010 and just under 700 baptisms for the year. That is about a 1.6% increase. Over a generation of 40 years that corresponds to a 64% increase. According to Jesus, the worst yield in good soil should be a 2,900% increase.

Setting a goal requires your church to be intentional about reproduction and to have a plan. That plan must be bigger than your church and, really, bigger than your association. So many pastors prepare “bold” plans to fill their sanctuaries, or the sanctuaries of the new buildings they envision. Regularly filling a dream sanctuary to seating capacity is not a Kingdom goal.

When we settle for mediocre reproduction, we are negligent. Sinfully so.

For further reading see: How to Measure Success as a Pastor. When a Church Changes Size, An Observation of Good Soil and Grow Your Church or Reach Your Community?  

Coming Soon:

4. Do the Hard Work of Evangelism

5. Become a Master of Group Dynamics.

6. Commission, Commission, Commission.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Evangelistic Churches–Things to Copy

Just 3% of the churches in the Georgia Baptist Convention accounted for more than 26% of  all the baptisms in the state association in 2008. These churches reached and baptized nearly 10 times as many people as the typical Georgia Baptist church of the same size.

These churches were studied and the Georgia Baptist Convention published a booklet revealing the statistics and lessons learned from these churches. I missed this booklet when it was first published, but it is free and a worthy read for anyone seriously thinking through what it will take to shift their church evangelistically.

Georgia’s Top Evangelistic Churches: Ten Lessons PDF 2.52MB

Here is my summary of the top ten observations underscored in this booklet.

  1. Highly evangelistic churches prioritize evangelism. It seems too simple, but none of these churches were evangelistically passive. Each one had an intentional plan to reach out and this priority worked itself into all of the church body life.
  2. The pastors of highly evangelistic churches lead the charge. These pastors all had an obvious passion for evangelism, they consistently preached the gospel and called people to repentance, and they stayed with their churches for longer than most pastors do.
  3. Highly evangelistic churches call all of its members to evangelism. In each of these churches, there is a structure of involving and training all of the congregation in evangelism. The work is not set apart for just a few.
  4. Highly evangelistic churches pray for the lost by name. These churches sought to identify who needs to hear and who needs to repent and prayed for these individuals and families regularly, by name.
  5. All ministries in highly evangelistic churches are connected to evangelism. None of these churches had a unique ministry. All of their ministries were the same as ministries in other churches. The difference is that their ministries are connected to evangelism by design.
  6. Highly evangelistic churches reported that a significant percentage of their baptisms came from revivals and vacation bible schools. These two ministries are still a staple of baptisms for many evangelistic churches. Incidentally, these two ministries usually involve the highest level of congregational participation of any ministry.
  7. Sunday School and small group ministries are a hub for evangelism in highly evangelistic churches. 90% of the top evangelistic churches responded that they strategically and purposefully connect Sunday School to evangelism.
  8. Visiting people in their homes is a key strategy for highly evangelistic churches. Evangelistic churches equip and encourage members intentionally to develop relationships with the unchurched and that extends to the home.
  9. Highly evangelistic churches emphasize baptism for new believers. These churches call people from belief to action, from knowledge to obedience with baptism as the first step.
  10. Evangelistic churches involve new believers in body life through small groups. These churches immediately put new believers into small groups, sunday school classes, and new-member classes.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...