Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Changes Everything: Barriers

We are not going to take it anymore!

Don’t get nervous, because we’re not yelling at random passers-by through open windows or contemplating carnage (in fact, we are smiling, high-fiving, and having the time of our lives!). But we’re done making excuses. We will not listen to the people who say, “It cannot be done. Truth is unpopular. The road is narrow. Churches that worship on Saturday (and hang on to some other teachings) will never break through and become prevailing churches.”

Here is how I see it. The distinctives are not a barrier to growth. There are other barriers, but the message is not one of them.

A lot of people actually like to discover truth. They think the Sabbath totally makes sense and, when they learn that God doesn’t torture the unsaved forever, they are relieved. When a church makes Jesus first, when it views each doctrine through the lens of grace, when people truly love each other, the message is not a fence; it’s a bridge. (Of course, no one is open to “truth” that makes people critical, arrogant, or harsh.)

Time will prove the point, and we have a rising sea-swell of stories about people whose lives were miraculously changed by God to illustrate it. We have not yet seen churches with our theological niche that never stop growing, but the reason is not the message.

Look at the factors below. Ask yourself (or phone a friend) and decide, Which of these prevent a church from becoming a prevailing church?

____ The pastor is lazy and inept.

____ The leaders think they’re so smart and talented, they don’t really need God.

____ Members don’t care that much where lost people end up.

____ The leaders design programs with the assumption that tomorrow is 1965.

____ The local church is not trusted to make the big decisions that affect long-term growth (e.g. staffing, money, and facilities).

We will unpack this discussion more on August 9. We’ve discovered something big that will help all of us understand how to leverage our lives for the kingdom. In ten short days, we’ll light the candles (that you can’t blow out) and celebrate anniversary number five.

We want to hear your feedback. Post your comments below. Let us know why you think churches with our theological view have stopped short of prevailing.

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This Changes Everything: Ten-talent Pastors

Every denomination has a percentage of one-talent pastors, five-talent pastors, and ten-talent pastors. We don't like to label our pastors (after all, this isn't Olympic trampoline or figure skating), but we all know that some are extraordinarily gifted while others, well, struggle. If you've attended church for more than a few years, you know what I mean.

Question: Would you expect the fruit of a ten-talent leader to be more abundant than the fruit of a one- or a five-talent leader? If you define fruit as more and more people following Jesus, would a ten-talent pastor lead the church to greater impact?

Let me illustrate. Rewind to 1975, and take Bill Hybels - indisputably a ten-talent pastor - out of the movie theater where he and some friends started Willow Creek. Plop him into a parental system that controls the staffing, the money, the ministries, and the facilities. Would he make the impact he has made there? Where would he be 34 years later? What about the thousands who have crossed the line of faith and accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord? What are the odds he would still be pastoring?

This is vital. One-talent pastors have pretty much the same impact no matter where they serve. Ten-talent pastors, on the other hand, either flounder or flourish depending on the system in which they operate. Is it parental? Their impact will always be temporary and limited. Is it grandparental? The sky is the limit.

What do we mean? Generally, parents control while grandparents support. They both want the same thing (healthy, happy, balanced kids), but their roles are notably different. Of course good parents provide support but, in denominational circles, there is a profound difference between control and support.

We all want the same thing: more people in heaven. An even casual reading of the gospels reveals a hidden camera view into God's heart: He is not willing that any should perish. "Whatever it takes" was His mantra, and it has to be ours.

We're only a few weeks away from August 9, our fifth anniversary. We're excited about the party and the five candles (that you can't blow out). Make sure you watch for the announcement.

We want to hear your feedback. Is a talented leader most effective in a parental or grandparental system? Why? Post a comment below. And stay tuned for August 9.

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." Joshua 3:5

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This Changes Everything: The Prevailing Church

You heard about the party, right? And the five candles (that you can't blow out)?

Mission Catalyst turns five on August 9, and the candles are for the party. But we're not just eating cake and blowing noisemakers. We are planning an announcement that changes everything. It's a big deal.

What do we mean? You'll know on August 9. In the meantime, let your mind take you back to 50 days after Passover. The believers came together in thankfulness for the first harvest, and strange things started to happen. Flames of fire appeared out of nowhere (no one could blow them out), the noise of a Katrina-like hurricane roared through and, without the benefit of Rosetta Stone CDs, people started sharing the gospel in languages they had never spoken before. The result? Several thousand skeptics crossed the line of faith and became fervent followers of Jesus. Pretty cool, huh?

Can it happen again? Of course. "In the last days," God says, "I will pour my Spirit upon all people" (Acts 2:17). We believe Him. We think conversions ought to be normal. We pray and expect that God will use leaders today to create prevailing churches where God is the hero and believers love nothing more than helping skeptics learn about Him.

We didn't coin the term "prevailing church," but we like it. We use it all the time around Mission Catalyst because it captures what we sense God is calling us to create. We are thankful for every church that lifts up Jesus ("wherever two or three are gathered"), but we will pay just about any price to build a prevailing church. Here is what we mean. See if it sounds exciting to you.

· The church ethos is unselfish: It's all about the next person who needs to meet Jesus.
· The church understands and connects with the culture through music, technology, preaching, and the arts.
· A high percentage of attenders had no church background before finding this church.
· Authentic Acts 2 community happens (largely, but not exclusively) through its system of small groups.
· The stories of supernatural life-change and radical discipleship are countless.
· The church never stops reaching more people. Whatever the church's age, it continues to grow.
· The church has an increasingly significant footprint in the community. You can't miss it.

We want to hear your feedback. And, we'd like to hear whether you know of a church that fits this description. Maybe it's your church or a church you've visited. And stay tuned for August 9.

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." Joshua 3:5

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The 6.5 Theses: Undeniable Truths Worth Nailing Somewhere

1. The local church is God's design to reach a city. It is the hope of each community. The local church is God's highest priority.

2. Local churches exist to reach the next person. Effective leaders are clear that the primary customer is the person who will not go to heaven unless something changes before the end of his/her life. Those who pay the bills, who are already convinced, and who already attend are the secondary customer.

3. Churches are self-determining when it comes to the things that cause health and growth (e.g., staffing, money, and facilities). Since the local church is God's design to reach a community, its leaders must prayerfully decide how to best invest tithe and offerings.

4. Any conference or network exists only to resource and assist the local church in reaching its maximum redemptive potential. Ask not what the church can do for the network; ask what the network can do for the church.

5. Those who are persuaded of the Mission Catalyst theological perspective are not spiritually superior to those who attend any other Christian church. God uses Christians with various points of view to help people cross the line of faith.

6. Leaders don't wait for permission from anyone to obey God's promptings. Once they hear his voice, understand His heart, and consult with people they respect, they act.

6.5 Every city should have a healthy, happy, growing Mission Catalyst church.