Culture Change, Mission, Vision

When Vision Takes a Back Seat on the Church Bus

 

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In the first post, we painted the picture of what it looks like when vision and relationships are driving the direction of the church.  Now let’s reverse the drivers.  Appearing now in the front seat are structures and ministry.  More about these two elements.  I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  These two components of the church are vital, but they need to be seated in the right place on the bus.  When I talk about ministries, I am referring to ministries that focus on outreach and structures that anchor accountability.  These are talented players but when structures are driving the church bus and ministry is in the front seat here is what a typical meeting agenda looks like.

 

Call to Order

Opening Prayer

Review of Agenda  

  •  Reading of the Minutes from the last meeting

Treasurers Report –

Pastor’s Report –

Committee Reports –

Old (Unfinished) Business

(Items that have been postponed from or not finished from previous meetings are handled here.)

New Business

Adjournment

 This meeting may take two to three hours to complete this agenda and somewhere along the way the meeting gets derailed by older members of the church who go into a church version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”  This is how the song goes.

It was the time in their congregation’s history that every single program and event seemed to work. Whether it was the Ladies’ Aid sewing circle or the men’s workday. They were never at a loss for volunteers, and the building was abuzz with activity. The Sunday School classrooms were standing room only.  The former pastor was a ministry rock star.  And you, being the new pastor will never live up to that legend.  The church had money to burn, and there were multiple services because they could not fit all the people into the building in just one.  Everyone was happy, and the church was growing.  But now your meetings are dull, dry, and long.  Nowhere in the agenda above can you find vision or a plan to build relationships with unchurched people.  You entire meeting revolves around taking care of the people who are already connected to Christ and maintaining the building that houses the already converted.  A vision that could add energy and direction and relationship with those outside the walls have taken a backseat to ministry to the already heaven bound.

It is time to Flip the Drivers.

 To be clear about this point, vision is from God. Vision may seem far beyond our reach and, if so, that may be an indicator that we are heading in the right direction. If the vision is comfortably within our capabilities, God does not receive the glory. But if the vision is “God-sized” in scope, meaning impossible without God’s intervention, then God receives the Glory and Him alone!

So, what do you need to do? You need to start with asking the right questions. At your next leadership meeting flip your agenda.  Put new business first.  Start exploring these type of questions: Do you have a good vision statement that points you clearly to your reason for existence? Who are the people God has called you to connect within your community? Once you figure out if your vision statement is pointing toward those outside your walls you will know it is from God. These are the fundamental questions a compelling and inspiring vision statement will answer:
 What are the end results you will see when this vision is accomplished? (End results being who are the people, stories, events or works of the Holy Spirit that are on full display in your ministry?)
• Who in the community is being impacted by this vision?
• How are you developing a discipleship culture? That is a culture of equipping the saints, multiplying and sending the saints of God into the mission field. 
• How are the members living out the vision and what impact does it have on them and the community we are called to serve?

The first post in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/09/12/how-to-identify-who-is-driving-the-church-bus/

 

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Community Outreach, Mission

Are We Missing the Mission Right Under Our Noses?

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There is this excellent illustration about Catherine Booth the “mother” of the Salvation Army. “Wherever Catherine Booth went,” said Campbell Morgan, “humanity went to hear her. Princes and peeresses merged with paupers and prostitutes.”

One night, Morgan shared in a meeting with Mrs. Booth. A great crowd of “publicans and sinners” was there. Her message brought many to Christ. After the meeting, Morgan and Mrs. Booth went to be entertained at an elegant home; and the lady of the manor said, “My dear Mrs. Booth, that meeting was dreadful.”

“What do you mean, dearie?” asked Mrs. Booth.

“Oh, when you were speaking, I was looking at those people opposite to me. Their faces were so terrible, many of them. I don’t think I shall sleep tonight!”

“Why, dearie, don’t you know them?” Mrs. Booth asked; and the hostess replied, “Certainly not!”

“Well, that is interesting,” Mrs. Booth said. “I did not bring them with me from London; they are your neighbors!”

The illustration above points out that often we overlook the mission possibilities in our backyard.

Don’t get me wrong I love mission trips abroad.  Christians can do great ministry in third world countries.  When I see the personal distress of children, my heart is stirred to compassion.   I applaud those people with the tenacity and determination of a missionary. God bless you and the work He has called you to do.   I wish I saw more people who have a passion for the mission field right under their noses.

Local mission work is not as sexy, but the demands are just as great.  And the cost is greatly diminished because you don’t need to board a plane, then take a bus and a bike to far remote places.  Instead, you get to hop in your car then drive to a neighborhood that you often drive through quickly on the way to somewhere else.  These communities often do not have a missionary agency asking for short-term missionaries, yet their mission needs are just as great.  The human hurt is just as heartbreaking.  The suffering, just as generational. The life transformational potential just as impactful.  What makes this possibility even more desirable is that it does not have to be a short-term mission it can be an ongoing missional relationship.

When we ignore the mission opportunities outside our doors, Christians are failing to live up to their full mission potential.  This example says it all. Imagine this: Jesus has come to earth on a special mission. And one day God speaks to Him and says, “Lay hands on this blind man and heal him.” But there’s a dilemma, Jesus has two withered hands. Then God says, “I want you to go and raise Lazarus from the dead.” But suddenly, Jesus collapses and can’t control His legs. Every time God tells Him to do something, something goes wrong. You’re probably thinking that that would never happen. But the church is a body of believers who are Jesus in the flesh on earth today. I wonder if God feels a little bit like that’s the way it is with the church when we don’t live out our local mission.  How powerful could our witness be if the people outside our walls saw and experienced the same level of missionary zeal that so many Christians practice in other countries?

Pray that God opens our eyes to the mission potential in our communities so we can make the most of that opportunity with dogged determination.

Community Outreach, Mission

Are Missional Communities a Threat to the Local Church?

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Missional communities continue to be an instrument by which we can live out what it means to be a missional church in the 21st Century.- Keith Haney

 The new standard for information, Wikipedia, defines “missional communities” this way:

“A Missional community is a group of people, about the size of an extended family, who are united through Christian community around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships.”

I have to admit that is not a bad definition.  One congregation that has a robust mission community philosophy has the following as their definition and vision.  This plan comes from Christianity Today.

 

“What is a “missional community”?

 A community of Christ followers, on mission with God in obedience to the Holy Spirit that demonstrates and declares the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a particular people group.

Missional

  • They are committed to having spiritual conversations that lead to sharing the Gospel of Jesus and the Word of God with the people group.
  • They are committed to regular, passionate prayer for a people group.
  • They are committed to intentionally living among the people group.
  • They are serving the people group in tangible ways.

 Community

  • They are committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus and the Word of God with one another.
  • They are committed to regular, passionate prayer for one another.
  • They are committed to intentionally sharing life with one another.
  • They serve one another in bearing burdens. ” Christianity Today

 

Sounds a lot like what the local congregation is commanded to do.  Are you perhaps reflecting on the realization that the very thing people are seeking in missional communities should be available in the ancient church?

Gathered around the mission

At first glance, two main factors stand out.  The local church today struggles with carrying out the mission. Churches are not assisting folks in substantive ways.  If you take a step back and analyze, many churches outreach plans appear to miss the mark of connecting with the needs of the community in a manner that affect people’s ordinary circumstances.  The simple explanation is that the church struggles to have meaningful contact with unchurched people.  Relationships have not been established to serving people in tangible ways.  Believers at times do ministry “to people” instead of in partnership with others.  Missional communities schedule regular meetings with people, with prayer, and spiritual conversations. During these gatherings, needs are dealt with and religious questions examined.   Building community is done deliberately.  Community happens on Sundays but how intention is our interactions?

 

Gathered around to form meaning communities

Secondly, these communities are gathered to live life together.  There was a powerful connection in Acts when the new church regularly came together to live life as in a community.  A community focused on prayer, mission, and helping those in need.  One could argue that mission groups are not some new-fangled, thing, rather, the church is just going back to its roots. Luke describes how mission communities functioned in Acts 2:42-47, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 

 

Would it be wonderful if every congregation could have people living on mission in their homes?  Imagine how the gospel could spread as the number of seed spreaders increases.

To answer the question: “are missional communities a threat to the local church?” No, they are the local church doing the mission Jesus commanded among people who are not knocking down the churches doors to get in. Missional communities take the mission to the people.

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/07/19/how-missional-communities-are-not-your-fathers-small-group-ministry/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/08/01/what-void-are-missional-communities-filling/

 

 

Devotional Message, Mission

Five Key Truths About The Great Commission

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There is much debate today regarding who Jesus gave the Great Commission to that is found in Matthew 28. The discussion in my tribe circles whether Jesus gave the mission mandate only to the twelve apostles (the clergy) or was it given to the larger group of disciples (everyone). While this might be a fun subject to debate, I don’t have the time nor the stomach to take that fight on. It would not achieve my goal of this message is to encourage and inspire disciples on their journey of faith.

One of the main challenges you face when you take on a topic like this is people have diverse understandings of the word “mission.” To address this, allow me to make sure we are at least talking the same language and define the key terms.

Definitions:

The word “mission” means “sending.”

The term “missionary” is “one sent.”

Those tasked with the getting the gospel message out are called “missionaries” they are the “sent ones” of the Lord, ambassadors of Christ.

Having laid out the foundation and language moving forward let’s dig into the heart of discussion on missions.

Key Truth Number One:  The Mission Is Important, and we have the full weight of power Christ behind the mission. 

As we begin this discussion, we will focus on two of the Great Commission passages.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Matthew 28

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned.” Mark 16

You can see the words are different, but the meaning is the same. Here is a recap of Jesus’ missionary command:

 “I the Lord, Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority in heaven and on Earth, command you, my devoted disciples in every age to go to the ends of the earth, to teach all people of every tribe and nation my gospel. Make all people my disciples who will produce other disciples to expand my kingdom to the ends of the earth.”

 Key Truth Number Two: The mission strategy is straightforward and urgent.

Jesus first gave us the missionary command, and he also gave us the mission strategy.

  1.  He said pay no attention to national boundaries.

“Go into all the world” translates as go wherever people live, breath, move and have their being. Find them. Join them on their life’s journey as they go about their daily lives.

    2.   Have a sense of urgency that Mark 16 expresses.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned.”

What a bold, majestic command of our Lord and Savior. No one else would dare make such a decree.  Not only does Jesus command we “go out” this same Jesus backs up that order with all the authority of heaven and seals it with the promise of salvation in His precious blood shed on Calvary’s cross and verified with the empty tomb.

As this King Jesus, who has all authority and power, is about to take his rightful place on the throne of heaven.  Jesus sends out ambassadors to the ends of the earth to proclaim to all the peoples of the land that this final King of the Jews.   He is calling all the people of the land home under His kingship for all eternity. Our mission manifesto is that we go forth with the promise of Jesus’ presence and the backing of his almighty power. All the authority of heaven and earth supports this mission manifesto.

Key Truth Number Three: We have the necessary tools to accomplish the task.

When any king sends his troops into battle, he takes careful, attention to make sure those troops are properly trained and empowered to accomplish the mission he is sending them to perform. Our King Jesus sends his troops out with only one weapon to win the world for His kingdom, “the Gospel.” The mission mandate is clear, “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

Baptize all the nations, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” Mark 16:16. The preaching of the Gospel includes baptism. Baptism is also the Gospel. It is the “visible Word.” King Jesus equips the troops for mission armed with His message of salvation; the Gospel converts the enemy, and the recruit seals that promise of eternal life with the waters of baptism. Baptism seals the promise and the certainty of God’s grace and salvation. What an excellent weapon to take into battle with Satan and his army.

Key Truth Number Four: The goal of the mission is clear.

When the Apostle Paul addressed King Agrippa, he describes how Jesus personally recruited him for the mission work. In Acts 26:16-18, “Get up! Stand on your feet! I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you as my servant and witness of what you have seen and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your people and the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes. Then they can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, and receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy by faith in me.’”

What Paul discovered in a personal way through his encounter with the Resurrected King Jesus Christ was the Gospel alone is the means by which humanity is rescued.  Jesus sets us free from the hands of Satan.  Humanity receives a release from the chains of sin through forgiveness of sin won from us through the King’s offering of his life on Calvary’s cross. This new faith comes with an inheritance in heaven and an adoption into God’s family of faith.

Key Truth Number Five: We know the objective of the mission.

This mission work is hard. The mission is done not for personal gain, as a matter of fact, it comes at a significant cost. You could lose dear friends and family. You could suffer persecution, even loss of life. You will not be popular. Instead, you will most like be alienated and hated. You may not be famous or be tasked to run a Fortune 500 company. None of those things is our target; that is not why we are here. We are here for the sole purpose to bring eternal life to the perishing, to build up the Kingdom of God. To place living stones, the lives of the regenerated, into the new Temple of God. The results of our mission work, its milestones, its landmark defining moments are not measured here on earth. That moment comes to light, is revealed; we see the treasures the mission work accomplished in heaven.

This mission accomplished moment does not point back to the missionaries; it is a Holy Spirit work, it is his celebration. The captives being set free, the lost sons and daughters are found, the afflicted soul comforted, that is what this Church thing is all about. It is not about meetings and building projects, or even denominations conventions and politics. It is about the lost, the brokenhearted; the disenfranchise all finding their place in the King’s kingdom through faith. This is the burden of the Gospel; this is the responsibility of the Church’s mission. This is the sole reason that we exist, move and have our being. God Bless His Church, and God keep our eyes always firmly grounded in our mission.

 

Mission

Is The Hurt Suppose to Affect Me?

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There was a line in the movie Field of Dreams; “They will come. They won’t even know why they are coming, but they will come, by the millions.” The stranger, the foreigner, the broken hearted, the oppressed, and the lost are searching for something. They used to come to church seeking it.  Sadly, that is not the case nearly as much anymore.  Those seeking peace and wholeness did not always know why they were coming. Those nomads were not quite sure what they even hoped to find. Some were seeking a clear conscience for their lives were a mess.  They had made terrible life choices and were feeling the weight and guilt of those decisions.

Those troubled souls came seeking a kind word, and forgiving heart and whether they totally understood it or not they were seeking a clear and complete wiping of the slate clean.  They need forgiveness.  Not just a casual “it’s okay, we all make mistakes.”  No, they needed the complete and total forgiveness for all the bad decisions they made on their earthly journey. For the pain, their broken relationships, their broken promises, the effects, and consequences of their misdeeds had caused not only on themselves but also on those they cared for so deeply. These millions of lost souls are seeking someone to, as the movie points out, “ease their pain.”

They are seeking something that I can’t provide, but I feel profoundly affected.  I can empathize with those who come to the well’s suffering; I can feel how deep the hurt is, it keeps me up at night.  It has been a relief the last nearly ten years not being a shepherd of a congregation because then I got relief from that anguish. The last ten years gave me a chance to turn off the pain faucet. But is that a good thing?  Paul in Romans 9:1-3 would say no. “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

When I think about the reason, I became a pastor it was because I could not help noticing what Paul described – people walking through life suffering under the weight of past mistakes – and knew I had the words they desperately needed to hear.  God puts on the heart of every Christian this awareness of the spiritual condition of others.  However, like many things in life we can ignore that so long that we lose the ability to have anguish for those who are suffering.  Our mission is to “Ease their Pain.”  How do we do that?

By pointing people who are seeking, back to God.  God is the one who can give forgiveness of their sins and a conscience free from blame, free from guilt, free from pain. For the millions who come seeking unconditional love and acceptance, and they find that in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us of His unconditional love for all, “Yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

People are turning to God in their spiritual need. A clear conscience is hard to find these days. There is more than enough guilt to go around. While many groups claim to have answers: doctors, politicians and the like, their so-called solutions never work, the pain remains. The guilty conscience never stops reminding us of just how far we are from perfection.   We must put aside these social theories of causation for societal breakdown, and consider the load of sin and guilt which human hearts carry! Eventually, guilt has its way with people. Alienation from others, and self, and eventually from God.

The conscience speaks, and the word of judgment against sins is heard. Even those far from God know that something is wrong!

As Paul writes in Romans, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

People will come because the same law that torments our conscience when we sin, also torments the non-believer. The difference is we know about Christ’s forgiveness, and they don’t. Our consciences are clear through the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. For the non-believer, the promise of forgiveness of their sins continues to torment them day and night. So, they will come to find relief, the relief that comes only through God’s forgiveness connected to Christ’s death and resurrection.

So, what is special about God’s forgiveness?

First, of all, it has been won through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus for sin. It was verified by the empty tomb and the risen Lord. The beauty of the life of Christ is that he had a particular purpose – to be the one that carried God’s forgiveness to a sin-soaked world. Human forgiveness may restore relationships. But only God’s forgiveness restores life!

Second, God offers this forgiveness to a guilt-ridden world.  The message of forgiveness and healing that is spoken in our churches and received with thanksgiving is clearly revealed in Paul’s letter to a young group of believers in Corinth, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (1 Cor. 5:19)

Who is this forgiveness for the Jews only? Is it a “members of the church only” offering? Was it meant only for the ones who have their act together?  The holy people?  So, many people think so.  They believe that the Gospel is exclusive.  That somehow the Gospel excludes anyone hurting from sin.  To the contrary that is exactly why Jesus came, to call the broken and hurting back to God through the power of Jesus’ death on the cross. God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, heals the alienated, Jesus binds up the broken hearted, He eases the pain of those suffering.  And I am not affected by the pain of others; I am blessed to be reminded of how God uses me to point those hurting and seeking to my rescuer, Jesus Christ.  In turning to Jesus Christ, you will discover that no one turning to Him is denied. As the Scripture says, “He is a light to the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people Israel,” we, like Solomon, pray, “O Lord, forgive.” And you know the neat thing is for Jesus’ sake, God does just that.

 

Mission

How to Rediscover Your Mission?

 

 

 

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Years ago I ran across this parable, and it had an enormous impact on my ministry.

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once
a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and
there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant
watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went
out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station so that it
became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in
the surrounding areas, wanted to get associated with the station
and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its
work. New boats were bought, and new crews were trained. The little
lifesaving station grew.

Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that
the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a
more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of
those saved from the sea.

They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture
in an enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular
gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully
and furnished it as a sort of club.

Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on
lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work.

The mission of lifesaving was still given lip-service, but most were
too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the
lifesaving activities personally.

About, this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the
hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet and half-drowned
people.

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They were dirty and sick; some had skin of a different color, some
spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a
shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could
be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most
of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as
being unpleasant and a hindrance to the regular pattern of the organization.

But some members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose
and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station.
But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to
save the life of all various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in
those waters, they could begin their lifesaving station down the
coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes
that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club, and yet
another lifesaving station was founded.

If you visit the seacoast today, you will find some exclusive
clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those
waters, but now most of the people drown! — Taken from Personal Evangelism 101, by Brent Hunter

This illustration identifies a troubling trend in far too many congregations. Congregations find themselves often lost and searching for the answers to become relevant again. The decline is slow. At first, people don’t seem to notice that the mission focus has changed. The members just ease into a ministry pattern of complacency.  In the beginning, there was high energy and motivation. Members came to gatherings full of fresh ideas to reach their community. No idea seemed implausible or impossible. After years of struggling to find a permanent home this new fledgling community settles in on the place, you will call home. You start the building project with a groundbreaking ceremony, and you are off and running.

You start the building project with a groundbreaking ceremony, and you are off and running. After about a year and cost overruns the building is in place.  Now due to the mortgage, the ministry is saddled with, the focus changes to maintaining the building that once brought so a sense of achievement.  You have accomplished your goal but at what cost?  Did the mission get left behind?

As you look at other churches who are growing in attendance, and you wonder if they have somehow watered down the message. Does it have to be an either/or? Can’t the church,  guard its doctrine and practice while at the same time keeping its eyes focused on those who are outside of God’s grace? Continue to reach out to those who may speak a different language, have a different skin color? An important fact about mission work is that it gets messy. The people who come to our churches outside of God’s grace are messy. Their lives are messy. Their past baggage and past experiences are messy.

Someone once told me the church should be a hospital for sick souls. We should consider reorganizing our church meetings. What if we devoted as much time to planning and caring for those outside of God’s grace, you know those messy ones as we care for the sheep that pay the bills. It is a delicate balance. But that is the great command of Jesus along with the great charge. The great command is: “Go and Make Disciples.” The great charge is “Feed my sheep.” It is not an either/or but a both/and.

In the Modern Revival of Christian Faith, Georgia Harkness said, “The cross is God’s way of uniting suffering and love.”

In your monthly leadership meetings try to discern where God is working in your community and how you can keep messy hurting people in the monthly agenda of your church meetings. Below are some questions to get holy brainstorming going on the opportunities God has placed at your doorstep.

What do they value?

Where do they find community? Where is their lifesaving station?

What gives them joy?

What challenges do they face?

What do they fear?

Where are, they hurt?

What can we do as a body of believers to address their pain and show them mercy?

What ministries do have budgeted already that could be a place to invite those not a part of our tribe too? And once they are there how to we remain connected to them?

It is important to remember all people are valuable to God, “However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead because of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!” Ephesians 2:4-5

Mission

How To Fund The Small Church

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“Christian kingdom generosity gushes out of the heart and soul of the redeemed believer.  It is cultivated and ripened through love for God and gratefulness for Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  Generosity should never be forced nor guilt-driven, it should flow lovingly from the believer’s heart.” Keith Haney

One of the main challenges I faced serving congregations under 200 in worship services on Sunday were the monetary issues.  We never seemed to have enough funds to carry out all the wild and crazy mission ideas the Senior Pastor, namely me, wanted to implement.  This post will address the elephant in the room, money.  Smaller churches, if they are not careful, can spend all their meeting time discussing and bemoaning just how little of the almighty dollar they have available to put into circulation for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Churches can easily slip into a mentality of letting the issue of money hinder their bold proclamation that Jesus came to rescue those far from God.  I was taught early on the best way to take a problem of this size is one tiny bite at a time. Here we go, take these few small bites today.

Kingdom generosity starts with the leader.

You cannot ask or expect your people to go somewhere that you as a leader have not gone first.  Take note of the following illustration.

The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. The Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?” Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Cooper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”- Unknown.

Leadership takes on many forms, but one quality is blazing the trail.  In the small church that struggles with money issues, people are reluctant to give for fear they will not have enough to meet their daily needs.  So, giving to missions suffers.  Contributing to those in need suffers.  Benevolence in general suffers.  And the pastor leading a congregation in this mindset can quickly fall right in line with that way of thinking.  Pastors are reluctant to preach sermons on generosity when they struggle with the issue themselves.  The change to leading a philanthropic church begins with a charitable leader.

Kingdom Generosity needs to be taught.

The best way to shift an “us first” outlook to open-handed generosity is to teach the believer to trust in God’s promises and to celebrate how God moves in the life of the congregation. Biblical generosity is liberating, invigorating, and powerful.  You are inviting followers to be content with what God has given and entrusted to them.  Their money is to glorify God by funding the promotion of his gospel in the community they have been called to serve. But this generous spirit does not come. Naturally, it must be taught and developed.  Our natural nature is to find ways to cut corners and cheat God.

In Nehemiah chapter 13, his task was to confront that concern.  “I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. So, I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.” Neh. 13:10-12 (ESV)

Kingdom Generosity needs church leaders.

Nehemiah proves that a strong and courageous leader is often needed to restore order and bring revival. God’s people responded to the call to meet their financial obligations when godly leadership put things in order.

“Verse 13 shows how Nehemiah put persons who “were considered trustworthy” in responsible positions. Part of the work of continuing revival is that of putting men of integrity in leadership positions. Being a man of prayer, Nehemiah committed to God what he had “so faithfully done.” The key word is ḥesed, usually used for God’s “steadfast love” or “faithfulness.” Nehemiah is a good example of someone who personified ḥesed.”[1]

The church is an ideal place where believers can be tutored that they are a vital clog in the mission of God in the world.  Local churches are vibrant local mission outpost to the community where Christians learn to not only think God’s thoughts but also model Jesus’ heart for the lost. Our work in the community and globally transforms hearts and expands believers’ impact on carrying out the commission Jesus left his church in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 Kingdom Generosity needs ministry partners.

 The final key to fulfilling your ministry goals is to find ministry partners who share your religious values and shared vision.  This could help the smaller church create avenues to connect with more volunteers and dollars that you cannot raise from your members alone.  As you find people who share your mission and vision for the ministry you are attempting to accomplish for God, you will find new connections and opportunities that may not have existed before.

[1] Breneman, M. (1993). Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed., Vol. 10, p. 271). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Mission

The Marks Of A Missional Church

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This opening illustration frames the attitude the Church should have regarding missions:

A missionary in Africa was once asked if he liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable, refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.” –Our Daily Bread.

I want to begin this by discussing the churches in the Book of Acts. The struggle I run into when talking about the Church’s mission based on what was happening in Acts is that we tend to see those churches through rose colored glasses. We see the explosive growth, we see the unity, but we fail to see the flaws. And to be honest, all churches have flaws. Here is what we know about those early churches.

· On that first Pentecost 3,000 souls were added to the church in Jerusalem.

· The church was founded on strong biblical teaching and sound doctrine.

· The believers (we call them laity) had a habit of gathering together daily for prayer and the breaking of bread (Holy Communion)

· The result of this growth in the faith led the people to a life of generosity.

· There was unity as the worshippers gathered daily in the temple.

· It was not all happiness and joy; there were still conflicts.

As we set out to model the missional churches of Acts we love to see only the positive. We need to be prepared for all the issues the churches in Acts faced. Whenever you attempt something great for God, Satan will do everything possible to mess that up. Today I will spend some time on those marks.

Strong Biblical Teaching.

“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” Acts 2:42

At the heart of any missional church is the gospel message of Jesus Christ death and resurrection. If we are preaching anything but Christ and him crucified then we are doing harm to those outside of God’s grace. The first mark of the missional church is the church founded on the apostle’s teaching.

Empowering Prayer Life.

The church seeks to know and to follow God’s will. A missional church is a praying church. They never lose sight of the fact that they are God’s people. Sustained by God’s power. And guided by God’s purpose and plan. They are committed not only to God’s will, but doing ministry God’s way.

Vibrant and Christ-centered Worship

The church is a place of dynamic, engaging Christ-centered worship. The styles may vary, but their worship stroked the heart and soul of the worshipper. The Word of God engages and involves people in the mystical union of God and His people. This vibrant worship happens as the Word of God is preached. Christ’s body and blood are shared in the breaking of bread. And the people are God engaged in prayer. Those who attend worship in these churches do not doubt that they have been in the presence of Almighty God.

Sending Discipleship Mindset

The church develops disciples who in turn produce other disciples. Missional churches recognize the crucial importance of developing leaders who are equipped for ministry in this age. These churches plan to send followers out. To equip new leaders for future ministry needs in the local church. They tireless work to expand the scope and number of their leaders, while we continue to develop existing leaders for more active service.

Service to the Community

Church members are intentionally evangelistic. The Great Commission compels missional churches to go the ends of the earth to find the lost through various methods. These churches don’t see evangelism as a program but as a relationship. They seek opportunities to share the gospel with others they encounter in everyday life.

Kingdom Generosity

Church members are kingdom focused managers of time, talents, and treasures. These churches foster a climate of generosity. They are not a concerned about what they will receive.  Members look for opportunities to help others with all that God has entrusted to them.

Conflict Resolution

“22 change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. 23 Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Like the churches in Acts when we are driven by mission, we will also encounter conflict and disagreements. What separates missional churches from others is how they handle the conflict. Conflict is handled positively, and the end goal is reconciliation. To be realistic, no church can expect to avoid conflict. That would be nice, but the conflict is a part the human condition. But how we handle those differences speaks volumes to the world who is paying attention to the way Christians behave.

Imagine being a member of a church like this. Yes, it can be dynamic, but not without its flaws. If we can have just some of the results of the Acts churches would that be a sight to behold?

Other blogs in this series:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/04/what-is-motivating-your-mission
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/28/finding-your-missionary-calling
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/21/the-marks-of-a-missional-church
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/14/armed-and-missional/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/07/why-is-the-mission-important/