Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

Posts Tagged ‘Church Planting, Mission & Evangelism

A Time To Chart New Maps In Our City

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Not only are there two ways to live in life – as a church, there are also always two ways to do ministry in our city. We’re either investing our lives in building the ministry of the gospel in our city or we’re happy being comfortable and safe where we’re building up our own little patch in the city of Sydney. It’s always worth asking … what are you building – who are you following?

grassIf your focus in the Christian life or even as a church is on your little patch in life (and honestly that’s all it is … a little patch of grass), and some have larger patches than others in nicer suburbs, the reality is that its still only a patch of grass in God’s scheme. This is the reality as Peter puts it, “All men are like grass, and all their glory (their work) is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And then we read that, “this is the word that was preached to you – this is the word that saved you“. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

crossThere’s nothing you build in this city that’ll last – grass grows and fades and withers, but it’s only the Word of God, the Word of the Gospel that saves, that’ll stands forever in our city. I want to make sure that we keep investing and building in what will last beyond our lifetime in this city. Personally, and as a church, what matters is growing the Word of the Gospel in our city. In fact, we’re believers today in the city of Sydney, because the apostles first preached the gospel in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.

In fact, the book of Acts is really a testimony to the living, enduring and growing Word of the Gospel. You read in Acts 1:8 where Jesus says to his apostles, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And today the Word of God is still going out to the ends of the earth in the lives of men and women who have received the gospel. Nations rise and fall, empires come and go, buildings are built and demolished, but the Word of the Gospel will always stand. In fact the growth of the gospel has never depended on the size of a church congregation or its facilities. The pattern you see in Acts is one where as the gospel is preached and received, there you see churches planted in those communities. Some churches meeting in homes, others in public lecture halls, still others in the outdoors.

crossesWhat are we building and growing in our city? My vision has always been to grow a church not bound by walls, by tradition, by fear, by comfort, but a church with a vision to raise the next generation and to plant Bible believing, Jesus loving, Spirit empowered, gospel proclaiming, mission minded churches across the city of Sydney. In 2005 I cast that vision of sailing the deep waters which led to us starting GracePoint at Auburn. That was part of the start of a vision to plant churches across the city of Sydney: to be a church without walls, looking to plant 7 new churches in 13 years. It’s a vision I’m still committed to.

NCDBetween 1994 and 1996, the Institute for Church Development in Germany conducted a research project surveying 1000 churches in 32 countries (published by Charles Schwarz in Natural Church Development.) Churches were categorized into sets of 1-100, 100-200, 200-300 etc. They found that churches in the 1-100 category increased an average of 32 new people over the past 5 years; churches in the 100-200 category also increased an average of 32 new people; churches in the 200-300 category averaged 39 new people; and churches in the 300-400 category increased an average of 25 people (C. Schwarz, Natural Church Development. p.47.) And that means ‘a small church wins just as many people for Christ as a large one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 worshippers on Sundays would win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.‘ (Schwarz, p.47)

What about churches with more than 1000 people? They found that the smallest churches (with an average attendance of 51) won an average of 32 new people in the past five years, while mega-churches (with an average attendance of 2,856) won 112 new persons over the same 5 years.

In raw numbers it means that a mega-church wins more people than a single small church. But, if you keep in mind that a mega-church is 56 times the size of a small church, then the following calculations shows you the potential of the two groups more realistically. ‘If instead of a single church with 2,856 people worshipping we had 56 churches, each with 51 worshippers, these churches would, statistically, win 1,792 new people within five years – 16 times the number the mega-church would win.‘ (Schwarz, p.48)

matchThe effectiveness of small churches in terms of growth is statistically, 1,600 percent greater than that of mega-churches. The myth is that big is better. What we need are more Bible believing, Jesus loving, Spirit empowered, gospel proclaiming, mission minded churches planted across our city. Research also found that statistically more people are mobilized to use their gifts to serve in a smaller church than in a larger churches. If you look at our growth at GracePoint we fall into the small church category. When we started with our first congregation between 2000 and 2003 we grew from an average of 45 to 95 people attending our service (a growth of 50 new people in our service through evangelistic and transfer growth).

I believe we grow the ministry of the gospel best in our city by planting new churches or congregations. As each church plant grows and develops, we begin to plant new churches in different suburbs, which in turn eventually plants new churches themselves. And apart from achieving a much more effective rate of growth evangelistically reaching people groups across the city of Sydney, a smaller group allows for much greater involvement of people in terms of using their gifts in serving, less red-tape and structures to worry about, a much greater ability to maintain focus, and a much more personal church.

We can actually reach people across Sydney more effectively by planting new churches. You plant the first one, and then in 4-5 years time when you have a stable and strong congregation, you plant another new church in a different suburb, one out of our evening congregation, and one out of our morning congregation. If we did this, potentially by 2013 we could have 400 people spread across 4 churches or congregations, with all 4 churches ready to plant another 4 new churches.

cplantPersonally I believe it’s time to sail the deep waters again, to chart out new maps as a church in our city. We musn’t be bound by walls, by tradition, by fear, by comfort. We’re called to love Jesus and his mission, and people in our city. We’re called to be a church with a vision to raise the next generation and to plant Bible believing, Jesus loving, Spirit empowered, gospel proclaiming, mission minded churches across the city of Sydney.

I came, I saw, I conquered

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This morning I spent some time speaking to one of our denominational leaders who shared with me a book he’d been reading on ancient paradigms of leadership in the Greek speaking world. When Caesar won the battle of Zela he described the victory to the Roman senate in these words, ‘Veni, vidi, vici‘ which means ‘I came, I saw, I conquered!‘.

I find that the same holds true of churches when they start. Much of church planting work begins because there is a pioneering spirit in its leaders. They go with a vision to grow the ministry, to reach people, to do church differently, to bring the gospel to new groups of people, to start churches in new neighborhoods. One could say that many churches that have been planted go out with a ‘kingdom’ vision. They take risk, they are prepared to fail, their structures serve the mission, they are prepared to change as they go along.

Their vision for the ‘kingdom’ or the mission of Jesus shapes their ministry practice. Decisions are made from a kingdom and mission perspective. Structures are easily built and demolished, as they are built around the kingdom and mission. The way church is run and done serves the kingdom and mission of Jesus. I was reading one of Brian McLaren’s book this morning on doing church in a rapidly changing culture (whether you call it post-modern or post-Christian, I really don’t care). The title of the book was The Church On The Other Side: Doing Ministry In The Postmodern Matrix.  The reality is that society and culture is changing faster than the church can keep up with.

One of the problem he highlights is the obsession church’s have with their structures and traditions. In a previous generation or even a few years ago these structures and traditions might have served the kingdom and mission of Jesus (I believe they were even relevant). The problem is that often what began as a church with a mission, becomes a church obsessed with their structures and traditions, rather than the kingdom and mission of Jesus. From looking out, they start looking within; protecting, guarding, promoting, selling their structures and tradition. McLaren points out that eventually their ministry is only relevant to those within their four walls, where the focus is more on us, and less on the kingdom and mission of Jesus. A good start, a poor finish or better still, a painfully long finish for many churches!  I’m quite sure many of the dying or stagnating churches I see were once vibrant, thriving, missional, kingdom seeking churches.

The truth is what began as a kingdom vision and a focus on the mission of Jesus ends up memorialized in a piece of stone. Instead of hearing the words time and time again as new ground is broken, as new ministries developed, as new churches planted: ‘I came, I saw, I conquered!’, over time we hear these words instead, ‘I came, I saw, I concreted!

Written by eugenehor

October 9, 2007 at 12:08 pm