Creating a Multiplication Movement

Church Multiplication: Starts with a Shared Vision and Values

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In order to move forward on a path to create a culture where multiplication is commonplace, there are three key foundation elements that need to be quickly established. The church or organization must:

 Clarify and Communicate its Vision and Values.

 The word vision in a church context often makes people nervous.  However, God communicated with his prophets with vision.  For example, in Ezekiel 37 remember this exchange with God and the prophet? “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” [1]

The Eerdmans Bible dictionary describes how vision is an old biblical tradition.  “In the biblical tradition visions were a means by which Jews and Christians experienced God’s self-revelation and were able to learn about the future. In the patriarchal period even before Moses God revealed himself and Israel’s destiny through dreams (Gen. 28) or the appearance of an angel (chs. 16, 18).” [2]

As I talk about vision it is the idea that God is providing His Church with a divine revelation about its future work for the kingdom.  Visions that are given to us by God are always bigger than us and can only be accomplished with His strength and direction. Will Mancini, in his book, “Church Unique”, makes this critical point about vision, “God is the chief visionary who leads us to push forward, not with arrogance but with confidence, because we know we are a part of His divine chain reaction.” We must 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!

Your values are defined by two key questions:

 How Are You Sharing Your Story (Narrative)?

What stories you highlight in your public assemblies (worship) communicate what you value.  What do you talk most frequently about with your people? What are the metrics you commonly measure? Do worship attendance, the dollars collected toward the budget or the numbers of people in Bible study define who you are? These things are important indicators of church health. Do you want those to be measurements of success?

What are You Doing (Behaviors)?

We can have the best intentions, but in the end, people judge you by your actions. How are you investing your time? That’s what determines your values. Your behavior reveals your real core values. Where you invest your time, talents, and treasure express to the organization what you value.

What is the message you are communicating with your tribe? The stories you are highlighting are necessary. Shifting to missions may be as simple as telling different stories. Try modeling the behavior you want to be emulated.

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with vision is making a positive difference.” Joel Barker

It’s our time to make a kingdom difference!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eze 37:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 1040). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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Culture Change

Warning If You Track Church Attendance: The Numbers Are Lying to You

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There is much conversation in my church right now about whether we are a declining church body and whether or not we will survive this decline.  So, purveyors of statistics tell us that we are in for a long slow, steady dip before we hit rock bottom and recover.  Not exactly the message you want to hear if you are a believer faithfully caring out the work Christ left the church to do.  Here’s the thing, the numbers are the numbers, right?  We have to trust the numbers, the numbers wouldn’t lie, right?  Na, Na I say the numbers are lying. Here is what we know about the church. Chuck Colson summarized it nicely in his book, The Body, 1992, Word Publishing, p. 70.

“Yet membership in a confessing body is fundamental to the faithful Christian life. Failure to do so defies the explicit warning not to forsake “our assembling together.” His understanding of this prompted Martin Luther to say, “Apart from the church, salvation is impossible.” Not that the church provides salvation; God does. But because the “saved” one can’t fulfill what it means to be a Christian apart from the church, membership becomes the indispensable mark of salvation.

“So highly does the Lord esteem the communion of His church,” Calvin wrote,” that He considers everyone a traitor and apostate from religion who perversely withdraws himself from any Christian society which preserves the true ministry of the word and sacraments.””

The Lie.

If we measure the success of the gospel by church attendance and dollars in the offering plate, then we have to also admit that the life-saving message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins is not working.  That is what the numbers say, right?  No matter how faithfully you preach and teach the gospel and administer the Lord’s Supper and baptize, it won’t change the numbers.  We continue to see a steady decline in the numbers of people coming to church and supporting the work of the church.  What we don’t want to deal with is that if we believe the numbers, our work is ineffective.  The gospel has lost its power.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  Is that what is deflating morale in our churches?  We see the numbers, and our answer to stop the decline is to do what God called us to do, and it is not working.  The numbers do not define the power of the gospel.  Attendance is not a reflection on God’s word.  The lower offering numbers do not mean we have no mission left to accomplish.  It’s lies all lies.  God made us a promise, and God keeps his promises. In Isaiah 55,

10 Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky
and don’t return there without watering the earth,
making it conceive and yield plants
and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater,
11     so is my word that comes from my mouth;
it does not return to me empty.
Instead, it does what I want,
and accomplishes what I intend.

 

The numbers do not define us, they serve as useful data.  But God’s mission is still needed.  If anything, the numbers prove that God’s mission is needed more than ever.  The church is facing stiff competition for the heart of culture.  This writer captures the challenge well by comparing the church to sports.

“Football in the fall. Basketball in the winter. Baseball in the spring and summer. This pastor has been an avid sports fan all his life. But I’ve had it! I quit this sports business once and for all. You can’t get me near one of those places again. Want to know why…

Every time I went, they asked me for money.
The people with whom I had to sit didn’t seem very friendly.
The seats were too hard and not at all comfortable.
I went to many games, but the coach never came to call on me.
The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.
I suspected that I was sitting with some hypocrites — they came to
see their friends and what others were wearing rather than to see the game.
Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home.
The band played some numbers that I had never heard before.
It seems that the games are scheduled when I want to do other things.
I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up.
I don’t want to take my children to any games because I want
them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.”- Author Unknown, At Calvary, Covington, KY.

Be Encouraged.

One of the most hurtful things the idea of church attendance has planted in the America Christian psyche is that “if you are not growing as a church you are a failure as a pastor and congregation.” So, we play the comparison game with our younger self.  So, how were we doing 10 years ago today?  Imagine doing that in your life now.  Compare your fifty-year-old body to the body you had in your twenties, how is that comparison going to turn out? And we judge our shepherds on the number of new converts.  And our church body on the number of new churches planted.

If you want to stop that madness, then we need to find new ways to gauge the congregational health and denominational health.  By putting the health report numbers of attendance and weekly offerings in the Sunday bulletin, we are asking those reading it to judge our success based on those measurements.  And we are buying into a false narrative about the effectiveness of the Word of God.  When the church continues to miss the mark of the weekly recording of those numbers it only serves to further demoralize the membership and even an entire church body.   So, if you don’t want to be judged by those figures and feel like you are losing the battle, start tracking other things.  Not to mention the numbers are Holy Spirit driven numbers, and we can’t control His work anyway.

Instead, track numbers that help hold your church accountable for those things that the church in Acts was measuring: people studying God’s word, the number of individuals engaged in living life together in community, the number of people helped with the offerings of God’s people, the number of prayer gatherings and the number of answered prayers.  Imagine measuring in church what God is doing among his people vs. the number of individuals coming on one day a week?  Isn’t faith a 24/7 thing not just one hour on Sunday?

More on Metrics:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/08/09/new-metrics-for-the-small-congregation/

Creating a Multiplication Movement, Culture Change, Leadership

The US Factor Barrier in Church Planting

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At my last congregation in Milwaukee we had reached a critical place in our ministry, it was year six of our ten-year vision plan. As a church, we had reached a point where God had given us an opportunity to do something bold for the kingdom.  We had the chance to plant an African immigrant church.  Unfortunately, we also ran into four considerable hurdles to clear.  In this post, we will look at the four barriers you must navigate to create a church multiplication movement in your congregation.

  1. The perception of scarcity of resources.

Many churches do not take the leap of faith into church planting because members worry they don’t have sufficient resources to share with a church plant and still meet their current obligations.  Though our God is a generous God, we live life much like Hattie Green.

It was 1916, and Hattie Green was dead. Hattie’s life is a sad demonstration of what it is like to be among the living dead. When Hattie died, her estate was valued at over $100 million; yet Hattie lived in poverty. She ate cold oatmeal because it cost money to heat it. When her son’s leg became infected, Hattie wouldn’t get it treated until she could find a clinic that wouldn’t charge her. By then, her son’s leg had to be amputated. Hattie died arguing over the value of drinking skim milk. She had money to meet her every need, but she chose to live as if it didn’t exist.   Turning Point, March 1993.

Do you genuinely believe that if we asked God for the resources to carry out the mission He gave to the church, He would deny us?  In John 16, Jesus reminds us of God’s generosity.  23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

2) Silo thinking

Silo thinking produces part-time disciples.  Part-time disciples are partially committed to the church and God’s mission. Part-time disciples are defined in the Bible in this manner:

  • More concerned with what people think. “Am I trying to win over human beings or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I wouldn’t be Christ’s slave. Galatians. 1:10
  • More concerned with their public image.  6The influential leaders didn’t add anything to what I was preaching—and whatever they were makes no difference to me, because God doesn’t show favoritism.” Galatians 2:6
  • More concerned about bringing people into the church (Jerusalem). While this is not a wrong motive, the mission is larger (Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth) than growing your church attendance. As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority.  Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8

 

3) Being too church centric.

In the book “Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow,” by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im, they warn against having a church-centric mindset. A church-centric mindset is the temptation to focus so much on the needs of the local church that you forget to include space, time and resources for those outside your walls. “We must overcome the church centricity barrier by moving from an ‘inward focus’ to an ‘outward focus.’ So, what does an ‘outward focus’ look like? In our research on transformational churches, churches that met our criteria as a transformational church had 67 percent of members agree that, ‘our church leaders think as missionaries and work to understand the cultural context in our region.’ In addition, 71 percent believed, ‘our leadership senses a call to our local city or community,’ and 77 percent said, ‘Our church leadership understands the context.’”

Imagine have a congregation that understands the mission is outside its walls.  What happens far too often is that these numbers are in reverse.

4) We have enough churches attitude.

The final barrier to starting a church planting movement is that most churches believe multiplication is not for their congregation.  Many just don’t see the need.  Their argument being we have too many churches now, why don’t we just focus on getting our own wayward members back, then we will be just fine.  To be fair, many understand the vision behind church planting but just don’t have a personal conviction to participate in a multiplication movement.  Leaders need to not only get their people to buy into this vision but often need to be convinced themselves.  Which means as a leader you need to share this vision clearly, consistently, and creatively in various forms and fashions.  The research shows that “Churches who regularly communicated a commitment to multiplication were more likely to multiply within their first five years than those who don’t.” [1]

What we communicate most often, most passionately gets done.  What are you communicating to your congregation on a regular basis?  Of course, we better be communicating Jesus and Him crucified, but how are we communicating His mission?

 

[1] “Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow.” E. Stetzer & D. Im, p. 37

 

Other posts on Church Planting:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/14/how-to-start-a-church-movement/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/19/the-fear-factor-in-creating-a-church-multiplication-movement/

 

Creating a Multiplication Movement

The Fear Factor: In Creating a Church Multiplication Movement

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The Fear Factor in Church Planting

As we begin this journey to launch a church multiplication movement, it would be irresponsible not to address some reason why this movement may struggle to take hold in many congregations.

In this post, we will examine barriers to creating a multiplication movement.

Fear

Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. His sinister presence was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard.  Today in the Word, August 8, 1992.

I can remember each time God placed on my heart the need to launch a new initiative on my leaders every one came with a healthy dose of fear.  To create a new culture in your organization comes with risk.  This movement could cause you to lose friends, lose financial supporters who don’t buy into this vision. Even if you get support and the financial backing, there is a chance this new direction may fail, at least in our eyes, based on our expectations.  So, we may take the posture of Ready, set…ready, set… and struggle to “go.”  Fear is a powerful deterrent.  The above illustration reminds us that often our fears are internally generated, but that does not make them any less real or powerful.

At the end of that famous book Habakkuk. Habakkuk wants deliverance for his people and pleads with God to save them. But he closes the book encouraging God’s people to overcome their fears:

“Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—

Even then,
I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.
The Lord Almighty is my strength.
He makes my feet like those of a deer.
He makes me walk on the mountains.” (GW)

Before you jump out into the multiplication waters, avoid some of my previous mistakes.  First, sit down with your leaders and engage in an extensive time of prayer and discernment.  Seek God’s direction for your ministry.  Is God leading you to be a church that plants churches? If God is leading you to take this leap of faith, then ask your leaders, are they willing to multiply themselves?  If there is resistance, then maybe the time is not right, and fear is greater than faith at this moment in time.  Pray for boldness for you and your leaders.  Patiently wait for your group to gain a 2 Timothy 1:17 attitude, “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.”

“Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.” Source Unknown.

The next post will address more barriers…

1) the perception of scarcity of resources

2) silo thinking,

3) being too church-centric and

4) we have enough churches attitude

…before we launch into the process in 2018.  Stay tuned.

 

Other posts in this series on church planting:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/14/how-to-start-a-church-movement