Tag Archives: missional
By now, most who will read this are aware that this is a time of transition from 12 to 8 Districts in the NC Conference. Realignment is taking place in the General Church also. The brutal facts of declining membership, aging congregations, church closure and the like have caused us not only great consternation, but has motivated us to realize we are a church in crisis and now we must do something about it. This reality is forcing us to risk, re-evaluate, re-think and re-cover that which once made us to be a movement.
As the last truly global Christian movement, Methodism grew beginning as a sect within the Anglican Church of England to astonishing numbers especially on the early American frontier. Through the passionate spiritual leadership of laypersons & lay preachers, along with committed circuit-riding ordained clergy, the movement connected vast numbers of immigrants who had left their country and extended family, for the land of opportunity and freedom. At one point, 35% of all Americans were in a Methodist Class Mtg, usually in somebody’s home. The 5-fold ministry described in Ephesians 4—Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers—were evenly distributed among these Methodist Societies, laity and clergy alike, such that it was truly a priesthood of all believers.
But then, we built our chapels and churches, hired our clergy full-time (who of course had to justify that position by collecting the 5-fold ministry unto themselves), and by the late 19th century, the movement ended. The institution took its place—the very thing John Wesley feared the most! And now, we are really Between a Rock and a Hard Place as a church in crisis.
Believe it or not, we now live in a Post-Christian society where the large majority (62%! according to missiologists such as Alan Hirsch) of the population does not and will not come to church, no matter how much we spend on advertising, how relevant & passionate the worship services, how refined the programs from cradle to grave, how radical the hospitality, how excellent the facilities, how much we demonstrate we are Christians by the love we have for one another, no matter what we do to get them to come and see, its just not working anymore. Which explains why 90% of established churches are not growing, let alone making new disciples of Jesus. This is even true among evangelistic and spirit-filled churches. So it’s not for lack of trying! It’s just that the mission field is a moving target and why the Office of New Faith Communities is attempting radical new methods. In fact, much of what we are discovering is being utilized throughout the Conference as a core strategy in the Conference Transition to 8 Districts and the new Leadership/Discipling role of Superintendents.
This is truly needful as 50% of the 835 churches in the NC Conference now find the average age of those attending worship is over 65, meaning in a mere 20 years, some 400 of our local churches will die simply because we are not effectively engaging the culture and reproducing spiritual children. This is inevitable with our current model of ministry. We are getting exactly the results that our existing church systems & methods at every level (local, district & conference) are perfectly designed to produce in this culture. We are Between a Rock and a Hard Place!
THE SCHOOL OF HARD ROCKS
In light of these sobering realities there is cause for great hope, as it’s forcing deep, yet needed change throughout. For example, in New Faith Communities…
Here’s what we did before:
go out & start new churches,
get them to come & see what we’re offering and
how excellent & sincerely we’re offering it, so that we successfully extract & win as many people as we can from the world to Jesus.
And here’s what we found: If you start churches, you may have lots of converts, but you rarely have disciples of Jesus. Because who we attract when we reach persons first through exciting and attractive worship services that exude with excellence and creativity in all elements of music, message and production, whether traditional or contemporary style, will always be consumers by default; consumers, who need to be fed week after week because that’s what consumers do, of course. But in the consumer church, you’re only as good as last week’s performance, remaining the church of choice till a better operation comes along.
But, here’s what we’re learning:Jesus never told us to go start churches. He told us to Go make disciples. .who make disciples. He said, “I will build my church.” You make disciples, because when you make disciples, you always get the church, because disciples by definition, make disciples. That is the point, the mission – to make disciples of Jesus Christ . . for the transformation of the world.
See, we’ve had this so backwards for so long and it’s so ingrained, and not only in new church ministry. For too long we’ve been trying to jump straight to Acts 2, Pentecost & beyond, without ever first establishing the disciple-making (discipling) culture of the 4 Gospels before it! Personally, in my own new church start, we launched with over 200 in worship the first Sunday. Then I spent the next 12 years trying to turn consumer-believers into reproducing-disciples. The cart was before the horse! For so long we’ve been trying to birth new churches or get new people to come to our established church’s worship services, but forgotten how people are actually discipled, and it’s not through better, more relevant worship services or finely tuned ministries. Disciples are formed, loved, invested in, sacrificed for, raised up and sent . . . to do it all over again themselves. Hirsch calls it “The Forgotten Ways.” Wesley called it “Practical Divinity.” Jesus called it being His “disciple,” a follower of the work and the wayof Jesus, and very little of His work and way happened in the “church” house. It was house-to-house.
Rather than church as usual, which is “come & see,” disciples“go & be” – disciples live out the relationship and representation of Jesus before a scoffingworld that’s watching. Disciples bring Kingdom life into ever increasing realms of their own life. But we can’t learn how to walk this walk by reading a book or hearing a sermon alone. We learn this by imitating the life & ministry of Jesus we see in people who open up their life to us and invest in us with teaching (in organized gatherings) AND training (in organic life-on-life relationships). It happens through information AND imitation, which just can’t happen in our church services, nor in our church buildings.
How many of us have ever been discipled by someone who took us under their spiritual tutelage? From the age of 19 to 22, while I was a college student, a UM pastor Dr. James Thobaben, his wife Marcy and their family did exactly that for me and I can honestly say, I grew more as a disciple of Jesus in that period than the other 42 years combined.I am the result of this very kind of missional discipleship.
Making disciples while we’re scattered is what gives us the reason then to gather in worship at all—to celebrate God’stransforming Kingdom work in the world generally and in people’s lives specifically. That’s the mission. God’s Church doesn’t have a Mission in the World. God’s Mission in the World has a Church!!! The church isn’t the mission; it’s the vehicle for Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
The challenge before us then is to go from “Come & See” to “Go & Be,” from attractional to missional, living out the life & ministry, the work & the way, of Jesus. For the church to grow, we have got to get out of the church building . . for as long as possible. That, I believe, will reach that ever-increasing 60+%. Otherwise, we’re all just fighting over the other 40%, which is now 38%, and next year will be 36%. Do you see where this is going?
This is why we’ve stopped planting “churches” per se, and started planting missional discipleship movements, trying to recover & reclaim that which made us a movement in the first place. The “method” in Methodism is sublimely relevant again!In the days of the movement, we focused on what Wesley called Bands, Classes, Societies and Congregation. While the sacramental “means of grace” in congregational worship were indispensible, the core of the movement and primary experience of discipleship occurred in the home-based Class Meeting. (It was in one of these mid-sized groups of 20-50 people at Aldersgate St in London that Wesley’s own heart was strangely warmed!) Classes, and smaller Bands of 4-6 people were the two vehicles that really drove the movement—one a discipling vehicle, the other a mission vehicle.
SPIRITUAL FAMILIES ON MISSION
The relational realities of the 1700 & 1800’s exist again today as we’ve come full circle. Then, mass immigration was the cause. Today, it’s mass relocation for work. Now, just as then, the culture is yearning for extended family (20-50 people to do life with, who provide nurture and support—large enough to dare, small enough to care). They don’t need another new church or service or program. They need an extended family on mission together. It should come as no surprise that these new Missional Faith Communities noted by their Discipling Culture are growing nationally at 10 times the rate of even the mega-churches!
But this is who we are supposed to be! This is the Method in our Methodism, and where this is happening today, whatever the denominational label, there is a movement. Ironically, there are growing pockets among Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals and others emerging around the country that understand the Method better than we Methodists do of late! Go figure. If we won’t make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world in our Wesleyan-Methodist way, it appears that God is finding people who will! And it’s reaching the 60%.
This is what we in the NC Conference are attemptinggoing forward.I’m excited by what I see God doing today, because we serve a “go & be” God with a missionary heart, who wants to make us a missionary people who truly understand that the church is not our parish. The world is! I’m excited about the new missional opportunity unfolding in the culture, and while the relational-missional approach is slower to develop, the return on that investment goes from addition. . tomultiplication! It’s truly exponential. It’s Wesley 2.0!
When new faith communities,local churches, districts and conferences are willing to acknowledge their brokenness in that place Between a Rock and a Hard Placeand recover the Method in Methodism, movementum will happen and it will be a wonderful thing to see!
Check out this 2-minute video from Verge explaining the difference
Leaders, a must read by Mike Breen –> 10 trends for the next 10 years in church «.
Don’t be left behind!
By Mike Breen
The past few weeks I’ve been working with the 3DM Content Team on material for our new book on how to multiply missional leaders (coming out in April, 2012). I wanted to share a little preview of some of the things we’ve been discussing.
You see, I am absolutely convinced that 100 years from now, many books will be written on the phenomenon that is the late 20th Century/early 21st Century American church. And I am fairly certain that it will be with large degree of amazement/laughter that people, in reading about it, will say to each other: “You must be joking! Seriously???! People actually thought it was a good idea to structure the Church as if it were a business? Honestly?!”
Perhaps we don’t have the perspective necessary to see how funny or strange this really is, but I promise you, if you run your church like abusiness, it’ll never be a family and families are what have changed the world. Bill Hybels was right about the local church (as the Body of Jesus) being the hope of the world…just not as we are currently seeing it.
Efficiency has replaced effectiveness. Many churches are organizationally efficient, but we aren’t affecting the lives of people the way in which Jesus imagined a family would do.
We’ve created a corporate America-like church, somehow buying into a false dichotomy between a Leadership Culture which produces leaders and a Discipleship Culture that produces disciples. Here’s what I mean: In American businesses, it’s about moving people from A to B, but has nothing to do with making people. We have one guy with the vision and a culture of volunteerism to help that one guy get his vision accomplished. It’s the genius with a 1000 helpers. So while churches may claim to have “leadership development programs,” what they really have are “volunteer pipelines” that are run by managers, not leaders.
In doing so, we run the campus, but don’t expand the Kingdom. We’re keeping the machine of the church running (which, much to some people’s chagrine, I think is needed if done in a lightweight/low maintenance kind of way), but doing practically nothing to expand the Kingdom.
This is what we’ve created:
Clearly there isn’t quite the black and white dichotomy as this matrix illustrates, but I still think it serves the point. Often we have churchesthat are great at making disciples, but not terribly effective at mobilizing these people into God’s mission in the world (yes, I’m overgeneralizing). Or, on the other side, we have churches that are great at moving people to do things, but are pretty poor at making disciples, creating a culture of volunteerism, implemented and run by managers of the leader.
What we need is a way of making and moving people so that as we make disciples, we release them into their destiny of pushing into new Kingdom-frontier.
Corporate church doesn’t do this. Strictly organic church doesn’t do this. I would argue that in the whole of church history, there is one thing that does this, but is largely lost to us in Western culture.
A group of people, blood-and-non-blood, about the size of an extended family, on mission together, often times networked with other extended families.
Why the extended family?
Because it’s small enough to care, but large enough to dare.
Everyone gets to play.
Sociologically, people locatetheir identity within the extended family size (known as the Social Space). We’re hardwired for it.
To function well, it’s a beautiful combination of both the organic and the organized
It’s the perfect training ground for future leaders
I believe, with everything in me, that until we embrace this reality, we will continue to struggle to be the fully functioning Body of Jesus.
Why might this be so difficult for overachieving Americans?
Because as J.S. Bryan has said, Many men can build a fortune, but few men can build a family.
My next 4 posts will be about building this kind of family at the center of everything that you’re doing.
The Church of the future will meet as groups that reflect the culture’s need for family — nuclear, extended and tribal. Very small groups of 3-6, called “Huddles” will serve as the Discipling vehicle. Mid-sized groups of 20-50+, called “Missional Communities,” will serve as the Mission vehicle. Large gatherings of 125+, called the “Tribe” (or church, faith community, etc) will serve as the Identity vehicle.
A look at trends around the nation and world, tell us the future is now! Specifically, sixty-two (62) percent of Americans say they will never attend a church service. That number is growing by 2% per year. As Christianity is getting pushed more and more to the margins of society, the crisis we face in the United Methodist Church (my own denominational tribe) is indicative of a much broader crisis of Christendom. The culture is not rejecting Christ, as much as it is rejecting Christendom—the systems and structures of organized religion. This cultural revolt against these structures, will require revolutionary change on the part of the Church if it is to have a role in the world of tomorrow.
As this happens, its utterly intriguing and perplexing that micro-missional communities are growing at ten times the rate of all other churches, even mega-churches. For millennia, we have thought of the Church as having a mission in the world. The truth is, the mission of God in the world, has a Church!
In fact, Jesus never told us to make or grow churches. (Now that’s ironic coming from me!) But He reserves that work for Himself through His Spirit. He did tell very explicitly, however, to go make and grow disciples, and He showed us how as He invited persons to imitate His own life and ministry. He taught and trained His disciples, sent them out to practice, debriefed them, then finally commissioned them not only as followers, but friends. He considered them co-laborers who were entrusted with all His authority and power to continue His mission to the world.
A little reflection on this and it seems that the world may know this narrative better than the Church does right now, and they are rebelling against the disconnect they see. We would do well to have open hearts, doors and minds, ready to rethink Church more radically than we ever have. Not superficial, cosmetic change. Deep change! Foundational change! Radically, with the likes of Mr. John Wesley himself, we will have a future, or we will have no future. There can be no future Tribal identity without intuitive, reproducible Discipling and Mission vehicles. A Discipling culture without understanding the Mission of bringing Kingdom life to this world is merely evangelical egocentrism. A Missional culture without a disciple-making (discipling) process is merely social justice.
If this seems so “out there,” it need not, really. The early Methodists got this. Forced out of established Church buildings, they took to the highways and hedges with vehicles to meet the culture of their day right at their point of need—nuclear family, extended family, tribal family. In their day they called these vehicles “Bands,” “Classes” and “Societies.” No, this is not new at all, nor is the culture’s rejection of organized religion or need for family. This is simply Wesley 2.0.
Like them then, we today must get out of the building, and stay out for as long as possible!