Thursday, June 30, 2011

ReTool Leadership Part 6 - Release People Immediately

If the church is going to expand and multiply on an ongoing basis, there are some issues that must be faced, admitted to, repented from and transformed to become more like Jesus.  The cornerstone issue that faces the church today regarding stunting its growth is our understanding of leadership in the church.  My next few posts will give some time to this topic and I would love engaging with you in a conversation about this very important issue.

There are two related sins in the modern church today and we must repent of both of them.  

We underestimate what God can do with a new life that has received the gospel.
We overestimate what we can do to help a new believer to grow in her/his faith.

1 Cor. 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”  When it comes to the seed of truth growing in a person, this is God’s territory, not ours.  We can plant the seed, we can water the seed with prayer and encouragement and even point people in the direction of Jesus - the direction of health.  We must remember the truth is that God causes the increase.  Our methods do not cause the increase.  Our programs do not cause the increase.  Not even our excellence of programs or words will cause the increase.  People may grow and respond to any of the above attempts but those things do not cause the increase.  Only God causes the increase.

Jesus address this truth in Mark 4:26-28

"Jesus said, 'The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, while he's asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does  not understand how it happens.  The earth produces the crops on its own.'"  Mark 4:26-28  NLT

The lesson to learn from this is that leaders must trust the seed and Jesus' residence inside of people to germinate, grow and blossom into fruitfulness.  As the church trusts the seed and not the seed sower to produce growth, health and reproduction, we will then be willing to release people into dangerous places (among wolves) immediately, just as Jesus did.

ReLease Immediately
Once people give their life to Jesus, the question is what do they need and when should we ReLease them into ministry.  Maybe the best place to begin looking into that question is see what Jesus did.

"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons."   Mark 3:13-15

This meeting with Jesus and twelve apostles took place in Jesus' second year of ministry.  A year or more is not a lot of time for Him to have trained them and yet Jesus does something very powerful and very much the opposite of what most Christian leaders would do today.
Jesus called the twelve to Himself so they could be with Him.  Jesus knows that His followers need to be close to Him.  Jesus, I believe, sowed seeds of truth in their hearts during the unrecorded conversation they had on that hill top.  It is important that we teach new believers to immediately begin their new faith life by spending time with Jesus for He is everything they need.

The second thing Jesus does is send them out...immediately upon appointing them.  They were fresh in their following of Jesus.  We must either think that Jesus is a fool to send people out so rapidly or that He is a genius and really knows what He is doing.  I think we would all agree that Jesus knew what He was doing.  Jesus didn't send out these new followers of His to direct cars in the parking lot or hand out bulletins, he had then preach and cast out demons!
Jesus often sent people out before they were ready.

This is the key to rapid expansion of God’s Kingdom and good leadership, sending people out sooner rather than later.  The longer we hold people back or don’t trust them to go out, the more likely it is that they will never be active in sowing large amounts of seeds.  When we indirectly train people that they are not able to do important ministry by asking them to be passive (sit, sing, give), we can set a pattern in their lives that calls them to a sedentary faith.  Instead, we should tell new believers to be active in their faith, to be listening for Jesus' voice and direction to do amazing things and giving them freedom and responsibility in their own realm to do those things for the King from the moment they are saved.  This would set a patter of strong active faith building.

Jesus immediately sends out His disciples to preach and cast out demons.  This is not light work as we all know and yet, Jesus is trusting these common, mostly uneducated rookies with these important dangerous tasks immediately upon His calling them to be His disciples.  This is not the only example from Jesus' life where He does this.

Mark 5 is about a man who was messed up in every way possible.  He was a wreck financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically and relationally.  Notice in Mark 5 how this man who had his life restored deeply wanted to leave that area to be with Jesus.  But Jesus turns things upside down again.  Jesus doesn’t allow the Garasene Demoniac to come with Him.  This seems like an insane decision.  In Mark 7:31-37 we find out that Jesus returned to this region and the people wanted to hear Him to asked Him to heal their sick.  All because this man sowed lots of Jesus seeds in that region.  I think Jesus is on to something here when He sends out people out sooner rather than later.

I was probably not ready to be sent out to witness to Mormons as I was a few weeks after being saved, but no one told me I wasn’t ready.  I was able to share the Jesus of the Bible with several people that day, I was physically threatened, had hands raised to strike me and even had the leader of the Ward (The Bishop) come out to confront me.  Jesus brought me through that and used the experience to show me that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  It has reminded me to be bold and courageous for the Lord Jesus.

The leaders of your churches in the new future are not yet saved.  In fact some are probably doing some pretty sinful things this weekend - but God will transform them and use them powerfully.  Just look at some of the people Jesus sent out immediately upon beginning a relationship with Him;

Mark 5 Demoniac (dysfunctional)
John 4 Samaritan Woman (immoral)
John 9 Man born blind (handicapped)
Acts 8 The Ethiopian Eunich (dignitary)
1 Thess. 1 These people made an impact in a wide region within the first year of faith in Christ (common people)

Getting people on mission early is vital.  Shepherds want to protect the sheep - that is good and healthful - but we must ask ourselves, how long do we hold on to people before we release do important stuff?  We have people sitting in our pews for 5, 10, 20 even 40 years and they have never baptized anyone, they have never taught a Sunday School class, shared their faith or facilitated a home group discussion.  It seems to me that the church is the only institution where we have trouble promoting or releasing people.  Some of these people should be theologians by now - if they are not, after decades of sitting under our teaching, we must ask what is wrong with our teaching or our methods?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ReTool Leadership Part 5 - Leading People to be Scattered

If the church is going to expand and multiply on an ongoing basis, there are some issues that must be faced, admitted to, repented from and transformed to become more like Jesus.  The cornerstone issue that faces the church today regarding stunting its growth is our understanding of leadership in the church.  My next few posts will give some time to this topic and I would love engaging with you in a conversation about this very important issue.

When I was a young man, I attended a trade school for cabinet making during one semester.  My family owned a cabinet manufacturing business and I wanted to have some knowledge of the construction of cabinets before I went to work for the family.  In the trade school, I remember a couple of lectures on safety issues and why certain aspects of cabinetry were vital for making strong cabinets, but the lectures were rare.  Most of our time was spent in short, five to ten minute demonstrations on one aspect of cabinet making and then we got to work to imitate what the instructor had demonstrated.  Our ‘mentor’ would move around the room, watching what we were doing and correcting us on one aspect or another.  After a few weeks, I was making cabinets.  Our final project was to design a simple cabinet, produce a list of parts to manufacture and then assemble the cabinet to receive our final grade.  If we passed one particular level of cabinet making, we could then advance to the next level.

When I gave my life to Jesus and attended a local church near my home, I noticed that mentoring or making disciples looked much different than at the trade school.  In the trade school I was taught and shown something, imitated it, was coached to help me improve and then I was released to do it on my own.  In the church, we were taught things via lecture but there were no hands on demonstrations or practical encouragement to put the things we learned into practice.  There was no one to walk with me through the Christian life. 

Instructors (leaders) in the church must be about equipping and scattering (releasing) the saints into the world of their families, neighborhoods and vocations to live out and pass on the love, light and lessons of Jesus.  I believe that every church leader (pastor) does want to see this happen but there is very little time or investment in doing so.   The leaders time is mostly centered around administration, putting out fires in peoples lives and preparing a talk and organizing the inner workings of those meetings (worship services).  The following is a short two minute video that illustrates the correct understanding of what discipleship is to be and the cultural norm of what it actually is. 

This is Discipling from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo.

The Church Scattered
Ok so the church does need to be gathered (Acts 2:46, Acts 20:20, Hebrews 10:24-25) but it needs to also move beyond our gatherings as we saw in the video.  Church has been mostly relegated to gatherings.  Church should be seen as who we are, not what we attend (another set of blog posts for the future :-).  Let’s briefly learn about the church scattered from the Scriptures.

Eph. 1:22-23
“22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

These verses teaches us that Jesus’ body, the church, is the fullness of God on earth.  How can the church be the fullness of God when it is gathered together?  When believers are huddled together in church buildings, how can they fill the earth?  This verse certainly points to the church when she is scattered, not gathered.  The Church scattered (our whole lives except for 1.5 hours a week :-) is the fullness of God on earth.  When we are separated in our places of work or in our neighborhoods, we then have opportunity to be the fullness of God all over the place.

Do we believe that God wants to use Christians who are greeters at Walmart or Police Officers or Civil Engineers to bring blessing, hope, light and integrity to their co-workers and the business they work for?  Do we believe that God wants to use the ordinary woman to impact those she rubs shoulders with on a daily basis?  Isn’t the best advertisement for Jesus one person who is being transformed by him in the presence of those who do not yet know Him?  If you do believe the above statements, how are you practically equipping these people to live this out?

This is a powerful way to see the Kingdom of God impacting a whole city or region.  The church scattered is a powerful thing once we can see it, embrace it and encourage it.  The church scattered may be powerful, but how many of our people really think this way?  Unless the church leaders equip them to think like this and to pass along this teaching, we will not experience life for Jesus with maximum impact in our communities.

Eph. 4:11-16
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming ; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Allow me to make a few brief comments on this passage as it relates to the church scattered.

Eph. 4:11-12 - This passage puts a lot of how church is done in its ear.  These five gifts (made up of mature or seasoned leaders) are given to the body to equip all the other members to do the work of ministry...NOT to do ministry for them!  As churches adopt this thinking, it will require a whole different way of being the church together.  No longer would church be about high energy meetings but about sound practical equipping in the things of Christ and expecting those lessons to be lived out in the coming weeks.

Eph. 4:13 This equipping and releasing to do the work of the ministry is to go on for our whole lives - until we reach unity and maturity.  This maturing is done communally; “...until we ALL attain to the unity of the faith...” (emphasis mine).

Eph. 4:14  When the body experiences stability in perseverance, doctrine and focus, we can be sure we are headed in a good direction with our equipping.  This type of teach ing expects the common believer to be moving towards maturity and alertness in their faith as live out their faith.

Eph. 4:15  All believers are to grow up in all aspects as they directly connect to Jesus, the Head of the Church.  The church leaders will work hard to take people’s dependence off of them and point them to rely upon Jesus as their rock and stability.

Eph. 4:16 Each joint, each individual is to properly work and supply what is necessary for healthy growth as they mature in Jesus.  This is not a passive faith but a very action oriented faith.  This requires the empowering, releasing and encouraging of ordinary believers to be active both when we are together and when we are scattered.  Those who follow Jesus should do so in church settings, at home and at work.  The proper working of every individual is to be properly working at all times in all places.  Our faith should not, must not be compartmentalized.

That is an exciting journey to be on.  Each person, equipped, maturing and directly connected to Jesus to bring health to the body.  As the body is scattered, this type of maturity will only serve to bring greater brightness to the community mature saints live in.  The church should be equipping people towards expansion/multiplication in their daily normal lives instead of working hard to keep them attending meetings.  If we live this out as leaders, the people will keep coming because we are helping them to be fruitful in their daily lives and who doesn't want more of that? 

So what are your thoughts about leadership practically equipping the church to be the church, even when she is scattered?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ReTool Leadership Part 4 - Equip to Gather or Scatter?

Leadership can simply be described as influence.  In the community of saints, leaders are to be influencing people to be more like Jesus.  Leaders are at their best when they are encouraging people to be headed in the direction of Jesus.   We have learned that leaders are to be ‘among’ the people, not over them (1 Peter 5:1-5).   When leaders are among or with people, relationships deepen, hearts are exposed (on both sides) and  leaders are then able to hear the peoples hearts, know their needs and gently and lovingly help them to orient their lives in the direction of Jesus (health).  Like a medical Doctor who knows their patients history and currently symptoms, they can skillfully point believers in the path of spiritual health.  It is then up to the individual to choose to move on that path.  Leadership is influencing people to become more like Jesus and activate their gifts so they can be effective in the realm God has intentionally placed them.

For many leaders today, influencing is done by speaking to larger groups of people the truth from Scripture that should be taught.  Week after week, spiritual leaders around the world give talks to groups of people urging them to put their outlines into action.  Their intentions are good but the results fall short week after week only to find them trying hard again to deliver a home run the following week.  Their messages often urge people to be the ‘salt and light of the world’ but living it out doesn’t seem to be happening.  People are more likely to shuffle out of church, back to their jobs and T.V. programs only to show up again in a couple of weeks to hear another stimulating speech.  This cycle is in part propagated because their is a disconnect.  The disconnect is that the success of the leader is found in the gathering of the believers together instead of the scattering of the believers into the world.  The focus and energy of most leaders throughout the week is on how to draw in and keep the people interested in their worship services and sermons instead of spending time praying, dreaming , designing ways of scattering their people effectively throughout the week.

An Example
Some time ago I was talking to a pastor friend who was telling a story about a new person in their church who wanted to become a member.  The pastor made an appointment with this man to interview him, find out about his faith and tell him about their system of becoming a member.  During the conversation with this man, my pastor friend discovered that the man did not actually understand the gospel nor had he given his life to Jesus.  After a strong and appropriate conversation about salvation by grace, the man wanted to learn more but was not ready to make a decision.  My friend then gave a book by a very good and famous author on the basics of faith and instructed him to read this book so they could have further conversations.  After my friend finished this story I looked at him and asked him why he didn’t ask the man to read the Bible and instead gave him a book about the Bible?  My pastor friend thought about this and turned red with a slight embarrassment.  I then pointed out that it was possible that this man was handicapped at that moment.  He wanted to know Jesus and the Bible and he had some sound conversations about Jesus and the Bible with the pastor (the ‘holy man’) but after that conversation, when he needed to do homework, he was given a book about the Bible.  The message this communicates is that the common person may not be able to understand the Bible on their own, they need a ‘holy man’ to understand it so the ‘holy man’ gave him a book about the Bible (written by another ‘holy man’).

How did my friend use his influence to train this man seeking to be a member of his church?  Unfortunately, he influenced him from the beginning to be dependent upon the system of the church and a ‘holy man’ instead of pointing him to Jesus and to learn from His word directly.  The man was urged to come back to church the following week (a good thing) but not urged/influenced to seek the truth for himself or to share his journey with those in and around his life.  This was an opportunity missed to help this man learn that he could be immediately effective in the world God had called him to.
What do you think about this?

Next time we’ll explore some Biblical foundations for leaders to be equipping the saints to be scattered, not gathered.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

ReTool Leadership Part 3 - The Leader's Priority

As we follow Jesus’ leadership style, we notice something very interesting.  Jesus spends most of His time, energy and resources on the few, not with the crowds.  Jesus seems to know that investing in a few and teaching them to do the same is the way for rapid kingdom expansion.  In this way, multiplication comes from the many investing in others.  Jesus embraced, loved, equipped and released very common (uneducated and untrained cf. Acts 4:13) people to do very dangerous and risky things (like re-tell the Gospel, cast out demons and heal sick people).

In the church today, it seems that more emphasis is put on the crowds rather than the few.  When we put emphasis on attracting crowds to dispense the Gospel, we are actually buying into the idea of addition for church growth, not multiplication.  Focusing on addition seems right and a smart use of our time and resources.  If we can impact more people, that is preferred.  But addition, although good, is sharply less than multiplication.  No matter how rapidly we add people to the church, it will never be faster than multiplication.  

Equipping people to multiply takes longer and costs us more of our time and emotional energy than we often are willing to spend.  Once people are equipped to multiply, we are then left to trust them to actually do it...and some will not.  Therefore, adding people to events is quicker, safer and more rapid - but this is true only at the beginning.  Multiplication will always produce more than addition.

Jesus focused on pouring Himself into a few men and called them to reproduce themselves consistently.  We often find Jesus removing Himself from large crowds and spending more time with the 12 and the 3.  Jesus wanted His disciples to risk, fail and try again.  As they risked and fail, Jesus walked with them, pointing them in ways of success.  When we see Jesus ascending into heaven, He tells His followers to go throughout their lives making disciples - reproducing (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8).  Jesus doesn’t tell His disciples to invite people to sit and listen to them but to go and tell others about what they have just heard.  Paul seemed to understand this when he wrote...

"The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."  2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB)

The Leaders priority must be to focus on reproducing him or her self in a few who will in turn do the same thing.  This is not always the easiest path nor the most popular path but it the ONLY path that will see the world won to Christ.  It is the ONLY path that Jesus instructed us to follow.  Never did Jesus teach us to gather crowds to preach, He simply told us to go through life guiding each other to be like Jesus and to pass on those truths.  This is the bench mark of a healthy leader who is interested in creating a culture of rapid kingdom expansion.