There are many questions to be asked about church health and mission. Many are being asked with the right heart. But right motives are no guarantee that the right questions are being asked.
We often ask questions with familiarity in mind. This is a good place to begin, but we can’t remain here. Unfortunately, we often stay put. We have not learned the stewardship of questioning.
The right questions matter.
If you were in the recording business and someone started asking you questions about manufacturing 8-track players, you would quickly know the wrong questions were being asked.
Similar situations are found within the Church when it comes to some discussions regarding health and mission.
We often fail to discern the wrong questions (and thus move to the right ones) because we are often asking questions about manufacturing 8-track players.
The right questions matter. The four billion remain.
You may be right and speak the truth, but your message is tainted because of your attitude.
You may be right and speak the truth, but your lifestyle behind closed doors blanches the life out of your message.
Over the years, I have been asked, “What do you think about what ____ said?” And often, over the years, my response has been, “I agree with ____ 100%, but not with the demeanor by which he chose to speak.”
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a nosy gong or clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).
No more noise. No more clang.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov 25:11).
Be more fitly.
The world is watching and listening. The Church is watching and listening. A younger generation is watching the what and how of your model–and they’ll reproduce it.
You may be right and speak the truth, but what I hear does not look like gold set in silver.
(image credit: Microsoft Office)
Roland Allen died sixty-seven years ago today. Best known for his books Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours (1912) and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes which Hinder It (1927), Allen has been tremendously influential in shaping modern missionary practices of the second half of the 20th century to the present.
Unfortunately, many people today believe Allen is only a shadowy figure of yesteryear, bearing little influence on contemporary missions. Many have never heard of Allen. I recently met an Anglican priest who was very engaged in missions, but had never heard of Roland Allen. To put this into perspective for those of my denominational tribe, it would be like an IMB missionary who has never heard of Lottie Moon!
The influence of Roland Allen is upon you if. . .
- you are interested in church planting movements
- you think about church multiplication
- you have strong convictions about the role of the Holy Spirit in missions
- you prefer contextualized church planting over paternalism
- you believe in raising up leaders from the harvest
- you are crazy enough to believe that the New Testament has something to say regarding how we should be doing missionary work today
If you want to read about the life of Allen and his understanding of missions, get a copy of my book Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion.
Here are some other resources that will be of assistance to you as well.
Here is a video of a lecture on Allen’s legacy given to students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Take some time this week to read about Allen’s life and work.
What do we do when we don’t know what to do? We do more of what we have been doing.
Such is not the way of wise Kingdom stewards.
To do more of what we know is safe. It is comfortable. It fits with our longstanding systems, organizations, strategies, and traditions.
Declining baptisms, membership issues, giving down, less going to mission agencies, seminary enrollment challenges, lostness continues, unengaged-unreached remain.
We do more and more of what we know, expecting change, hoping the challenges will be overcome, expecting something new.
We believe what we have done to get us to where we are is sufficient to carry us to new vistas. We forget that to get to where we are required systemic shifts somewhere, sometime ago made by a previous generation.
The hard decisions of that generation created our comfort zone for today.
More of what we know is not sufficient for the next level. Creating a new veneer is not sufficient. Rearranging the deck chairs will buy a little time–but we’ve already tried most of the possible chair formations. Such is not the way of wise Kingdom stewards.
More of what we know is only sufficient for a season. And that season has passed.
I recently wrote a post on the importance of doing our homework on upgs living in our neighborhoods. A failure to do this research is poor stewardship. Such omissions often mean we end up pouring more resources and people into reaching reached people groups.
In this post, I want to draw your attention to another important aspect of the homework that is valuable to your strategy: percent evangelicals and evangelical church to population ratios. Knowing this information will help you to focus on areas that are the least reached and keep you from planting churches where a saturation of such assemblies exists.
I have written extensively on this topic in Discovering Church Planting, Developing a Strategy for Missions, and elsewhere on this blog. (A general guideline is one evangelical church (of one hundred members) for every 1,000 people in an urban context and one such church (of fifty members) for every 500 people in a rural context.).
If you downloaded your free copy of Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places, you know that one of the least reached places in North America is the state of Utah. I was recently in Utah with Travis Kerns of the North American Mission Board, and with pastors of Christ Fellowship and First Baptist, Provo.
Here is a glimpse at some information on a handful of counties in Utah. Travis provided me with these important numbers. You may find his more extensive table HERE. While I want you to see the great need in the area and respond accordingly, I also want you to see another excellent example of one who has done his homework. Here is an example to follow!
|County||Population||Evag. Churches||% Evangelical|
It is amazing what you will understand when you do your homework.
Do your homework. Don’t settle for hunches. Such is the way of the Kingdom steward and the one who walks with the four billion on his or her heart.
We live in the age of the instant. We want to know what works and we want it now.
In our scientific and rationalistic world, we often attempt to make ministry a science. Such is not always the case. It is not that definite.
We co-labor with sinful people, filled with the dynamic Spirit, not robots who respond with 100% predictability. Remember the last time we said, “I can’t believe he did that.” “Wow! That is unbelievable!” “No way!” What should surprise us is our surprised reaction, not the person’s action. Over the past twenty years, I have observed that even the most predictable people are unpredictable at times (sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad).
While the Lord has established the channel in which the river of living runs, those river banks are wide. There is much room for the unpredictable. The unexpected. The circumstances that cause us to adjust our strategies, within the divine boundaries.
When we realize the nature of the task to which we are wonderfully called, we recognize that there is a great deal of art present. Even as we rightly call people to imitate us as we imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1), we labor to lead them to contextualization and application of biblical truth to life. This is an artistic expression. This should not surprise us, knowing the creativity of our Father. Even His Word is filled with a great deal of poetry.
Art cannot be taught. Sure we can teach the scientific (predictable) aspects of art–brush strokes, mixing of colors, shading, depth, blending of colors, and texture. But real art comes when the student applies what has been taught to create something from nothing.
Art cannot be taught. Sure, I used to teach guitar students guitar science–triads, pentatonic scales, theory, improvisation, and shredding. :) Real art, however, comes when the student applies what has been taught and refrains from mimicking his teacher. Robots mimic, at least for now.
How are you equipping your people? In your church? Classroom? Small group? At home? Are you trying to program robots or note the divinely-set river banks and teach them how to apply biblical truth to the river of life? The former approaches ministry as a pure science; the latter recognizes the constants but understands the unpredictable. The former approach is fine with the generally predictable circumstance, but freezes when confronted with many exceptions to the predictable. An automaton will always respond correctly in a select number of circumstances, but difficulties arise when the present reality changes.
And reality changes.
Equip. Don’t program. Don’t clone. Don’t just teach the science.
Equip for application.
(image credit: Microsoft Office)
HERE is one of the most important sites on the Web when it comes to church planting. This site does not get into this category because it is about New York unreached peoples (though that makes it extremely valuable), nor is it all that because it is connected to Global Gates (though I love these brothers and believe they are doing amazing work, and consult this site often).
The importance of this site is that it reveals a Kingdom model of stewardship that is lacking in so many denominational and church planting circles today–especially in North America.
This site shows: 1) the importance of focusing on unengaged and unreached peoples; 2) the need to do our homework on the communities where we serve; 3) the value of monitoring where church planting labors are few to non-existent; 4) the stewardship of prioritizing for Kingdom impact; and 5) the generosity of sharing what you know with other evangelicals.
See the model. Learn its principles. Apply them to your context.
Time is short. A great urgency exists. Our resources are limited. We are expected to be wise stewards, for the Day of Accountability is coming.
N.B.: If you are providing denominational, network, associational, district, or parish leadership for church planters, then you need to take the lead in doing the homework and making it known. I am amazed at how often I speak with such leaders who have provided oversight in their communities for years and are unable to provide such a list of unreached peoples, knowledge of what is (or is not) going on among such peoples, and a list of priorities.
Well done, to those of you who have done your homework! Make your findings known. Start a blog and post them, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help spread the word on my site–assuming your work is credible and the findings are in a user-friendly format.
Twenty-two years ago I told Jesus I was willing to pastor His people. Twenty-two years ago. Much has happened over this period of time. Much has changed; much has remained the same.
One matter that has remained for the past two decades is the priority of our disciple making and church planting efforts in the United States and Canada. We continue to give priority and attention to working among reached people groups. This is true among my denomination and most other denominations, networks, districts, associations, and churches in North America.
By the 1980s and 1990s, most evangelical denominations working outside of North America had embraced Winter’s 1974 call to the “hidden peoples” of the world, with the highest priority being that of cross-cultural evangelism. We never embraced this focus in our own context.
We still have not embraced it–even with an estimated 570 unreached peoples living in North America.
Twenty years of giving priority to the reached at home, at least since my calling began.
Don’t you think after twenty years it is time for a change?
How about an unreached priority for the future?
Can we try it for the next twenty years? Or, at least ten?
I preach a simple gospel, but must make disciple making very complex.
I support our missionaries, as long as they are pastors.
I want to see more people on the field, but must restrict the flow so only the high-capacity, one-man-band, charismatic-leaders get there.
I believe the local church is all we need for Jesus’ task, as long as we can get the parachurch to do the work for us.
I strongly believe in North American missions, but continue to operate from a pastoral–instead of an apostolic–missiology.
Our practical oxymorons make us comfortable, but they are not the way of Kingdom stewards.
They are terribly good, though. Oh, to give them up would be bitter sweet!
The way we train others is often limited to a cognitive approach. This is most unfortunate. Such a model limits learning, retention, iteration, evaluation, and neglects a most vital aspect of learning–experience.
This limitation should not surprise us. We imitate what we know, and we know what has been modeled before us. In high school, college, and seminary, we became master note takers. We know lecture is king in the domain of ministry preparation.
Thus, we carry this model with us to the local church. Knowledge is important, but knowledge is not everything.
A more comprehensive approach is needed for leading people to use their gifts for Kingdom service.
When equipping your people for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12), give them the Vowels of Service. Your approach to preparing members of your church should include the following:
A = Application Provide them with hands-on opportunities to serve with the knowledge they receive.
E = Education Educate with a proper biblical/theological/missiological foundation.
I = Inspiration Inspire them with a biblical, God-sized, global vision.
O = Ownership Help them own the church’s vision for the multiplication of disciples and churches.
U = Understanding Help them understand the global realities influencing the church and mission at home and abroad.
By engaging your people with the Vowels of Service, you are connecting with them at the three important levels for learning and life transformation: Head (Education, Understanding), Heart (Inspiration, Ownership), and Hands (Application).
Know your Bible and teach it! Know your context. Use the Vowels of Service in your setting.
Break the model of the status quo; you know how far it has taken you and your church to date.