Archive - Church planting RSS Feed

What will it take for a second track approach to work?

In the past week, I have come across two (small) denominations who are revising their views on church planting. Rather than planning on traditional church planting with the expense of buildings and trained staff, both denominations are looking at a simple/organic approach to missions. They are encouraging their existing churches to plant out daughter simple/organic churches and any other church planting that goes on will likely be with simple/organic churches.
Photo credit: the real Kam75 (Creative Commons)
So I emailed a friend of mine (who for various reasons has asked not to be named) to tell me about his experience of transitioning a legacy church into a network of simple/organic churches. I also asked him to comment on running a second track–that is, of having a separate and parallel group with a missional emphasis that runs alongside a legacy church. Here are his thoughts as to the viability of doing so: 
  1. If the leadership team fully understands that the church is not the end, but the Kingdom, and is open to a variety of ministry situations that are not necessarily alike, or even traditional in nature 
  2.  If that leadership team is willing to give up control and simply see what God can do with believers who have a different mentality than the existing status quo
  3. If the senior leader sees the house church approach as being just as viable as the traditional approach and has a “releasing mentality” rather than a “containing mentality”
  4. If equal time and resources are given to the “house church ministry arm,” not seeing it as a fad approach for those weird people who don’t want to fit into a mold, but that it is “just as important as anything else in the church.”   (I remember from many years ago, that one church I was in enjoyed great success in a lot of areas.  But the truth was that if a ministry idea didn’t fit with the Senior Pastor, it never got off the ground.)
  5. If there is an expansion of the vision that  put the house church ministry on equal footing with every other ministry — so that even those who don’t want to participate can encourage and affirm those who do.   Its the whole idea of not thinking that “my way” is the only way.   Jesus said, “If they’re not against us, they’re for us!  

In another way of saying it, its moving from a church centric vision, to a kingdom centric vision!


In addition:
The framework of the existing church could be very helpful to those who do want to start house churches or be a part of them. All of the legal aspects would be covered by the existing church structure, releasing those who were  participating in the house churches to do so without some of the difficult issues which can arise in the whole area of administration. 
Again, I do think that this could be a viable alternative to transitioning the whole church. it would actually be like a two track church approach, (kind of like the many churches today who say they have a traditional service and a contemporary service!)    The key issue, I believe, is based upon the vision for the whole entity.  And it would have to come from the senior leader, if it was going to have any chance of success!   

An alternative to transitioning

Transitioning a legacy church to a network of simple/organic churches is not an easy route. There may be compelling reasons to take it, such as the fact that your church can no longer afford to keep its building. But if there are no compelling practical reasons, there are alternatives.

Photo Credit: rburtzel (Creative Commons)

It would be very easy to start a second, missional/simple/organic track that runs parallel to the legacy church.

Here are some of the factors to consider:

  1. The leadership would need to be fully supportive.
  2. The missional/organic group would probably be just a small group of people that were fully committed to the new vision and that was commissioned by the church to explore these areas.
  3. The new group will need to be trained in simple/organic principles. Simple church is not like a home group or a home Bible study. There are aspects that are similar, but it’s a totally different way of thinking. There are many books and resources available, and many people available to help train groups who would like to move this way.
  4. The group would need to be totally and unconditionally released. Since the people most likely to be interested in the new vision are likely to be some of the most committed in the church (either that, or they’ll be the people thought of as rebels!) the cost needs to be assessed, both in terms of finances and time. This factor is key. If the parent church leadership insists on staying in control, it will inhibit and eventually kill a missional track. Are you willing to lose your best people to this vision. (Hint: you can never outgive God!)
  5. Any new believers will probably never come to the parent legacy church. This is not a way of growing your church. It’s about the Kingdom. Are you willing to make an impact for the Kingdom even if your own church never sees any of the fruit.

What other important considerations can you think of?

One sad fact of transition you need to know

It’s a sad fact, but one that you need to face up front.

 

You will lose people.

When you transition from a legacy church to a network of simple churches, not everyone will come with you. For many, the legacy church has been their whole life, and when you suggest a paradigm shift as major as the one this entails, you are rocking their spiritual world. They’d rather find somewhere else where they feel safe and that meets their needs. Jesus said, “They will say the old wine is better.”

What should your reaction be?

I hear many stories where people say they feel betrayed, hurt and angry when others leave, or for those who are leaving, they feel rejected and ostracized.

Don’t let it be that way!

If people want to leave, don’t let them slip out the back door. Ask people to let you know if they want to go so you can bless them. Throw a party! Yes, if you legacy church has done anything right, you’ll have tears, but let it be a time of spiritual growth. Honor them. Let them know its good that the Lord is leading them that way. Have a group of people gather round and prophesy  over them and pray for them. Send them out from your legacy church with the blessing and good wishes of everyone concerned. Help them find another legacy church if that is what they want. Write a letter of commendation to their new pastor. Do everything within your  power to make their leaving something they will look back on as a time when the Lord was leading and blessing them. Ask them to pray for you and bless you.

You won’t experience the sadness of broken relationships.

 

How do you transition from legacy church to a network of simple churches?

The answer is: slowly!

Photo credit: Balaji.B (Creative Commons)

I know several legacy churches that have successfully made the transition to a network of simple/organic churches. When I’ve asked their leaders about the process, they have always told me that its been a lengthy one–a couple of years to complete.

Usually they have taken about a year of preparation to teach the principles of simple/organic church covering questions like these:

  • What is church?
  • What happens in a simple/organic meeting?
  • How will it differ from what we know now?
  • Luke 10 principles

They take plenty of time to dialog and answer people’s concerns. They bring in others who are more experienced in the journey.

Then the transition begins. Things are no longer led from the front in the same way. They split up into small groups for interactive Bible study instead of having a sermon. They break into pairs to pray. They encourage people in the congregation to participate in the worship time by suggesting songs, praying, prophesying, reading a verse of Scripture. The object is to get everyone to take part where before, they would have been spectating.

Finally comes the time when one week a month, there is no church in the main building but everyone meets in homes. After a few months like this, it happens twice a month, and finally, they just get together occasionally as one large group.

Are there problems with this? Of course.

Do any of you have experience in a church transition? What was it like?

10 hurdles to overcome in making the transition from legacy to simple church

If the Lord shows you that you are to make the transition from legacy to a network of simple/organic churches, there are a number of obstacles to overcome. (This post assumes you are in a position of church leadership.)

Photo credit: KKfromBB (Creative Commons)

  1. Many people in your church do not share your vision for the transition. It’s not what they signed up for. As the parable of the wineskins says, “they think the old was better.”
  2. People are scared they will lose the friendships and sense of community  that’s been created over the years.
  3. People are used to a professional standard of church: a worship band, well-prepared sermon etc.
  4. There is no Sunday school program in simple/organic church. People enjoy the freedom to drop their kids off for an hour or so and having some thinking/spiritual time for themselves.
  5. People like decisions being made for them. They don’t want to carry the personal responsibility entailed in simple/organic church.
  6. There are no trained leaders.
  7. How can you prevent heresy?
  8. There is no vision for outreach.
  9. Some of the people who are keen for the transition are the ones disgruntled with the status quo. They will take a negative attitude with them.
  10. The financial welfare of your family depends on the church paying you a salary. You aren’t trained for any other job. What will happen to you?

These are all very valid concerns. It’s worth thinking through the potential problems before embarking on the transition.

What other hurdles can you think of that will need to be overcome?

 

Multiplication tools; KISS

Simple things multiply; complex things are much harder to reproduce.

Eggs
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks (Creative Commons)

One of my favorite quotes from a Filipino church planter is this: Never do anything in church that a one week old Christian would be unable to duplicate.

Only model what you want to see reproduced and what will lead to multiplication. How is this worked out?

Teaching: an interactive Bible study using simple questions or symbols is more effective and reproducible than a sermon. Since many people’s greatest fear is that of public speaking, if you model a sermon, people will think they have to do this in order to start another church.

Worship: if you have music of a professional standard, people will think they have to have a musician in order to start a church. Better to sing a capella or accompanied by a CD.

Prayer: if you model 5 minute prayer sermons you will inhibit new believers from praying. Better to teach single sentence prayers and for people to pray multiple times.

Food: if you produce a gourmet meal, people will assume they have to produce a similar meal if they have church in their home. Better to have a simple, potluck meal where everyone contributes.

Fellowship: happens naturally over food.

In the church that meets in our home, we tend to use a simple pattern that anyone can reproduce. It’s not the same every time, but most of these elements are usually present. It’s based on Acts 2:42. We share a meal together. Over dessert, we talk about how things have gone during our week together–joys and challenges. Was there an accoutability challenge from the previous week? We share how that went too. We share around the Word. We pray for one another. In all of this we expect the Holy Spirit to lead our time together and we give him freedom to break in.

It’s simple enough that a new believer can copy it.

Simple is not the same as simplistic. We’ve had very profound times together. But it is duplicatable.

So Keep It Simple and Straightforward!

Multiplication tools: passing it on

Does your simple/organic church have an impact beyond the gathering? There’s a simple tool to help with that.

Sharing 

Photo Credit: Kalexanderson (Creative Commons)

In the interactive Bible study pattern that we most frequently use and teach to others, four symbols help people share around the passage:

  1. A question mark: do you have any questions about what this verse says?
  2. A lightbulb: this verse brings understanding either about the passage, or about something going on in your own life. The light has come on.
  3. An arrow: God is speaking to you directly through this verse and there’s something you need to do about it
  4. An ear: who do you know who needs to hear what has been shared?

It’s this last symbol that helps to create an impact beyong the gathering. When each person is accountable, not only to apply what they have learned in their own lives but also to pass  it on  to someone outside the group, the influence of the group spreads. When the person they share it with is a not-yet-believer, there is the opportunity to multiply.

We retain only 5% of what we hear, but 90% of what we teach on to others. This practice therefore, not only spreads the message, it also helps people to retain what they have learned.

 

 

Multiplication tools: the list

If you want your group to be outward looking, the list is a powerful tool.

List
In CMA's Life Transformation Groups, each person makes a list of three to four people who are not followers of Jesus that they commit to pray for daily.

In T4T, each person is encouraged to make a list of all the not-yet-believers that they know, and divide them into groups of five. Each week, they pick a group and having prayed for them, try to tell their story to each person.

Do you have a list of people you know who are either not-yet-believers or who are not walking closely with the Lord? 

It's easier to think through the people you know by looking at your circles of influence:

Picture 3

  1. The people closest to you: your family and closest friends. They don't have to live near you, but maybe you are in email contact with them. This week I offered to pray for a niece who isn't a believer and prayed for her via a facebook message.
  2. People from work: who do you know from work who is not following the Lord? The company president? The person who cleans the building? Your colleagues?
  3. Social acquaintances–people whose names you know and who know your name. Parents of those on your kid's basketball team? People in your neighborhood?
  4. Casual contacts, people you recognize but don't know their names. Your mailman, the girl behind the counter of the coffee shop where you get your morning caffeine fix. 

Practical application: Have the people in your group spend 15 minutes creating a list of all the people they know who are not following Jesus.  Suggest they commit to praying for them and if possible, telling them their story.

 

Multiplication tools: good invitations and better invitations

There are good invitations, but if you want to see multiplication, there might be better ones:

Invitation
Photo credit: Tracy Hunter (Creative Commons)

You've shared your story, using it as a bridge to a presentation of the good news of the Kingdom. What now?  

It's unusual for someone to say, "How can I become a Christian?" They are much more likely to respond to a specific suggestion from you. Hopefully you've made clear the cost of following Jesus when you shared to good news with them. You could say, "Would you like to invite Jesus into your life," but it might be better to ask, "Are you ready to surrender your life to Jesus?" The one might lead to a decision, the other to a disciple. 

Then teach the new disciple how to share his/her story with his friends and family, inviting them to become Jesus followers too. 

Do you ask the new believer to come with you to church?

There might be a better way. How about, "Do you have any friends who might be interested in learning more about Jesus too? Could we get together with them?"

If you invite someone to come to church with you, whether legacy or house church, you may miss out on the opportunity to reach their oikos, or circle of influence. The slow way to multiply is to add people to your group until it is big enough to multiply into two. The faster way is to start with an existing community and watch them become a church as a group together. So better to meet with the new disciple's existing circle of influence within their familiar environment.

Suggested activity: Would the people in your church know how to pray with someone to become a Christian? Have them practice this skill with each other.

 

 

Multiplication tools: the bridge

Telling our story is only a bridge to an explanation of the good news of Jesus.

Bridge

Photo credit: Southernpixel Alby (Creative Commons)

Another skill it is good to have in our toolbelt is the ability to explain the Gospel simple and concisely to a not-yet-believer. I'm not talking the Santa Claus Gospel here–invite Jesus into your life and he will give you everylasting peace and joy. I'm talking about  the real good news of the Kingdom–forgiveness of sin, the promise of relationship with God, belonging to a family, all dependent on a total surrender of our lives to the Lordship of Christ.

There are many different and good ways of explaining the Gospel–the Roman Road, the principles of the Four Spiritual Laws, and so on. All of them have their good points and also their drawbacks. They are tools. Useful ones. But have people in your church ever used them? Do they know how to use their story as a bridge to an explanation of the good news? Have they ever said to someone, "Can I explain to you what being a follower of Jesus is about?"

Suggested activity: Choose one pattern of helping someone to become a disciple. Make sure the people in your group thoroughly understand it and then have them pair up and practice explaining the Gospel to the other person in just a minute or two. Again, the other person is to stop them if either religious language is used or if there is something they think an ordinary person with no church experience might not understand.

 

Page 4 of 21« First...«23456»1020...Last »