Preaching to the Crowd without Offending the Core

In the modern era there have been a generation of preachers whose approach resembled the self-help inspirational talks of Tony Robbins. You could find titles of sermons such as, “Five Ways to a Better Life,” “Four Steps to Overcoming Fears,” and “Three Phases to Raising Obedient Pets.”

I’m just joking about the last one, but you get the idea.

Suffice it to say, some preaching was dumbed down (stripped of theological depth) to reach the dechurched or unchurched by offering pragmatic ways people could have a happier and healthier life.

It’s a good motivation, but I think the wrong application.

I’m not saying that every attempt at preaching in a way that unchurched understand is dumbing down the preaching. I’ve written plenty on the value of seeker comprehensible preaching. I’m talking about those who so simplify the message that it is dumbed down.

Why?

Some of these pastors believed church had become inaccessible or boring to those who were not attending; thus there was a need for creating an environment that was more accessible, understandable, and—hopefully—meaningful.

At different times and places, such an approach did grow some churches.

For some, dumbing down the message resulted in churches that were, as the saying goes, “a mile wide and an inch deep.” The resulting shallow churches didn’t stop some in the younger generation from being captivated by the growth. Seeing the growth of many such churches—and elements that contributed to the growth—led many young preachers (or speakers) to trade theological depth for creativity, craftiness, cleverness, and catchiness.

I’m not railing against the contemporary church or the creativity they exhibited.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I’m not railing against the contemporary church or the creativity they exhibited.

I believe many had a pure heart and wanted to see many people come to know the Lord—and many did. I am just highlighting a potential weakness within that movement that still exists today.

It’s probably obvious I am not a fan of the dumbing down approach. I firmly believe that one can preach to the unchurched (and dechurched) in a way that is both accessible and theologically rich.

I think we can make the preaching seeker comprehensible without dumbing it down.

Putting the Cookies Up on a Little Higher [Theological] Shelf

I’m far from the world’s greatest preacher and teacher. But one of the things that marks our church is that we put the cookies a little higher on the theologically shelf. If teenagers can learn trigonometry and the intricacies of marketing and economics—and if people can go to Starbucks and order a triple shot, venti, soy, no foam, extra-hot latte, with two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup—then they can come to our corporate gathering and learn about propitiation.

I understand there is a debate regarding who the corporate worship gathering is for—some believe it is for the believer, some think it can focus on the unbeliever. I hold that church is for the glory of God and His mission in the world, which leads me to shape corporate worship for both the believer and unbeliever, though for different reasons. (The believer worships. The unbeliever observes.)

Thus, when we do put the theological cookies up on a higher shelf, you may need to provide a stepping stool, or what I refer to as an “on ramp” for unbelievers or newer believers to reach the topic.

By not dumbing down the message, both the unchurched and churched learn and grow, and one of the greatest lessons they learn from aiming high theologically is that Jesus is both accessible and demanding.

A Growing Shift from Shallow to Deep

A while back, I sat down with Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church in Oklahoma. I asked him what has changed about his preaching over the years. He explained that, to preach to the unchurched, he had to start preaching deeper because even the unchurched want deeper content.

In other words, those for whom sermons were being dumbed down aren’t dumb. They are interested in the truth or else they’d be out golfing.

I also had a conversation with James Emery White, author of The Rise of the Nones—one of the best books on engaging secular people—who told me that several things at his church (which leans more seeker-friendly) have changed over the years. One area that has changed was the depth content of the messages. Intrigued, I asked why? He said because they are trying to reach the unchurched and these are the questions the unchurched are asking.

So, it seems that some who would be classified as “seeker-friendly” are shifting their sermon content from having more of a pragmatic flavor to one that is more theologically deep.

Again, I would not put all such churches in the dumbing down category. However, they are increasingly in the digging deep category.

The Art (or the Challenge) of Preaching with both Width and Depth

Preaching with both width and depth is not only a challenge, but also an art.

It takes great intentionality and discipline to take the Scriptures and to develop the sermon content in a way that is faithful to the text and contextually relevant to a diverse audience that may include mature believers, newer believers, and those who may have never read the Bible before.

Here’s the reality: if the sermon primarily focuses on believers it may not connect with the visiting unbeliever. However, if it focuses primarily on unbelievers, it may not grow the believers. Finding the balance is an art, and an art very difficult to master.

In my opinion, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, has mastered this well, and I’m influenced by his thoughts. He is one of the best preachers who “preach up” in a way that connects to both believers and unbelievers without dumbing down. Next time you find yourself listening to a sermon of Keller’s, pay attention to how he weaves in biblical commentary, apologetics, current issues, secular philosophies, cultural artifacts, and cultural needs all the while concluding in a Christ-centered fashion.

When Keller was asked, “What advice would you give to that younger you just starting out in ministry?” he replied,

It takes a long, long, long, long time and lots and lots of practice to become as good a preacher as you are gifted to be. There’s a tendency to think if you are gifted then you can just do it…Then I went and started Redeemer in New York. I thought I was as good a preacher as I was going to be. But Redeemer was a crucible for me and my preaching because these were harder people and their feedback was more negative…It took me thousands of sermons to get to the level that God had gifted me to get to.

I know the easier route for preaching or teaching is to dumb down, to keep it simple, or to not worry about the unchurched who might be present. But, I think that there is a way that we can provide “on ramps” so our preaching can keep the cookie jar a little higher on the shelf theologically.

However, as Keller noted, it will take time and lots of practice for preachers and teachers to be able to rightly divide the word of truth in a way that is both deep and wide—reaching both the believer and unbeliever.

> Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Growing People Beyond the Baptistry

One of the most exciting moments within the life of a church is when someone comes to know Jesus Christ as Savior. We celebrate having new believers in our churches, but are we leading them to become lifelong disciples of Jesus?

Are we helping them continue through the transformation process or are we leaving them in convert mode?

Conversion is not the end. It is the glorious beginning.

We have become masters at getting “decisions.” Conversion is a powerful event in the life of the believer. It is a great moment. But it isn’t the end of the game. Converting those decisions into disciples must be part of the church’s purpose.

Sometimes we put such an emphasis on that moment, we make people think that is all we are after. The not-so-funny joke is that some people are willing to receive Christ just so the pastor will leave them alone. Our goal is often for conversions. But God’s goal is for transformation, which really just begins at conversion.

Paul remarks in his letter to the Philippians (1:6), “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Conversion is central to the beginning of new life, being relocated (spiritually) to another kingdom. Colossians 1:13 tells us that we are “transferred through the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”

They have been born again, Jesus says in John 3. So there is now a spiritual life present now that was not present before. The Spirit of God dwells in them. They have new life. They are a new creation in Christ even as Christ in them is the “hope of glory.” But that event is not the end. It is a taste of the ongoing transformation that will come.

Spiritual growth should always follow spiritual birth.

How do we follow up for spiritual growth?

It’s a really bad idea to give birth to a baby and leave them on their own. We call that abandonment. People go to jail for that—and rightfully so. But I think sometimes we do that in church.

I call people to trust and respond to Christ every week in our church service. We ask them to share that decision through a card. Others use an altar call where new believers are connected with an established believer.

Whatever you use, it is at this point the process of partnership in spiritual growth is now stewarded to you and your church. We need to prioritize the discipling of anyone who has trusted Christ in our church.

When a church I helped start had ten people, I would meet with that person the same week. Now that our church has grown, I am not necessarily the person who meets with that new believer (unless they are in my neighborhood).

But in that context we grew to where we had dozens of groups that became the “under shepherds,” leading people into the spiritual growth process. Those groups were made of small group leaders—lay pastors in a sense—who were empowered to do the disciple making.

It is essential that someone connects with a new believer. As a matter of fact, I would say that there is no more important person in the life of the church, my church and yours, than the person who has just called upon the name of King Jesus for Salvation.

Spiritual mentoring creates a pathway to stabilization

Why is it so important to connect a new convert with someone who will walk through the spiritual growth process? More often than not people respond to Christ because they are in a life crisis, not just because they wake up feeling the need to be closer to Christ.

Adults who become Christians usually do so because of a challenging situation of some sort, and that means they probably need some help, and often need it fast.

A person who responds to Christ in a crisis then needs three types of stabilization, as I first heard from my friend Dan Morgan. And a journey companion can help with each of these.

Personal Stabilization – Most of the adults who I see trust Christ are doing so as their marriage is in trouble, or they’ve just had a drunk driving incident or whatever it may be. They need personal stabilization. Their personal life is spinning out of control. They are facing and making some crazy decisions. Becoming personally stable is part of what happens during spiritual transformation. So we have people in our church who can help with that.

Relational Stabilization – Now that they’ve become a believer they’re probably leaving behind some things and certain people behind who aren’t on board with their new life. These are usually people with whom they used to get into trouble, and some who helped them into the crisis God used to reach them. Losing friends and family can sometimes be part of following Jesus—not because that is our desire, but sometimes because the old friends aren’t too keen about that new life. But, either way, it isn’t easy. So they need people who can help with relational stabilization.

Doctrinal Stabilization – The unregenerated person does not think properly about God, life, truth, etc. So part of the discipleship process is renewal of our mind. We know “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) So the convert will definitely need to exchange their belief system for God’s truth. However, most follow up only focuses on doctrinal stabilization.

Yes, let’s teach them what they need to know, but there may be some other stabilization that needs to take place first. Eventually good doctrine will help sustain them through crisis. But in a crisis, a whole new set of truths is not the only thing that is needed.

Spiritual mentoring is follow-up that encourages following.

This piece won’t answer every question, but I mainly want to remind us all that we need to immediately help people grow—and to do so through a process.

Every church needs a pathway which will provide direction for their discipleship plan, and also show how they grow together as a church. So we want them to travel on the pathway—maybe through classes, intentional relationships, a workbook, and more. But particularly when they’re older we want to recognize there’s probably a lot of instability we need to engage.

Part of that process has to involve people. The best thing you can offer a new believer is an older believer. It doesn’t have to be someone older in age, but rather someone who has been walking with Jesus for a longer period of time and experienced ongoing life-transformation themselves.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 “SHIPS” that Mark Great Leadership

Churches should be run by teams of volunteers—those committed to work together for the cause of Christ, serving one another and the world, because they have been gifted and called to do so.

Yet, this is an ongoing struggle for many churches. Perhaps it is an ongoing struggle for EVERY church.

When I was serving my church in Tennessee, I shared with them the kind of things we looked for in our ministry teams. We weren’t perfect, but we were looking for ministry teams that would be in partnership with the staff, would take ownership of areas of ministry, would be part of the fellowship of the church, and would be involved in apprenticeship to raise up new people to serve with them.

These four things—partnership, ownership, fellowship, and apprenticeship—are key for a church that is serving one another and a hurting world in the name of Christ. As such, let’s explore them one at a time.

1. Partnership

The first step to becoming a part of a ministry team is to exercise partnership.

At the beginning, most volunteers will speak of their ministry as “helping” a staff member—you want them to move beyond that and see their role as leading the ministry as a partner with the staff. They become co-laborers.

For example, at the church plant where I was teaching pastor in Tennessee, we had lay leaders who assisted with finances. They become key ministry leaders by altering their definition and expectation of their ministry. Rather than being a helper to me or the executive pastor, they became a partner with the specific staff member managing a financial area of ministry. It’s their ministry now—we are partners.

This shift in mentality will bolster leaders’ sense of responsibility and encourage forward thinking rather than simply taking orders. Partners in ministry take charge, working together to recruit other partners and to plan and oversee weekly responsibilities.

2. Ownership

The second facet of key leaders is their ability and propensity to take ownership.

When people see themselves in ministry as empowered, they eventually own their ministries. They learn about it so they can do it better (and leads others in that ministry). In order to be most effective, key leaders discuss the vision with staff members, read books about successful practices, attend conferences or training events, or contact ministry workers from other churches who have established similar ministry areas. As a result of their study, key leaders will be equipped to provide confident, informed leadership of their area.

Sometimes, lay leaders may feel uncomfortable taking ownership because they do not wish to overstep a staff member’s job description. Sometimes staff are too insecure to let a non-pastor own a ministry. However, staff members who understand the importance of raising up key leaders should express their desire for ministry partners to take ownership under their headship. Staff members and key leaders need to view their roles as partners with staff members equipping and key leaders owning.

3. Fellowship

The third important area within key leadership is that of fellowship.

Ministry team members within the church must be involved in the small group ministry of your church. Everyone who is serving needs to be in community—one is not exclusive of the other. Even pastors need to be in small groups.

Small groups are not simply a tack on to the important ministry that takes place in the worship service and preaching. Rather, people who do not move from sitting in rows on Sunday morning to sitting in circles in an authentic community will likely drop out of church, not grow spiritually, and not connect with others.

Without that connectivity, individuals can go through incredibly difficult times and remain isolated and without support. Thus, key leaders must lead the way into genuine community with other believers. Ministry teams must see it as normal to be involved in small groups. That’s the only way they’ll know the people with whom they are partnering in ministry.

4. Apprenticeship

In partnering, pastors equip lay leaders to do works of ministry. Through that partnership, ministry teams and key leaders take up ownership and say, “I will lead; I will own this area.” Ministry teams and key leaders then model and live out fellowship by being involved in community.

The final significant aspect of key leaders is apprenticeship.

As churches continue to grow, more and more ministry team members must participate in ministry and resolve to become key leaders. Otherwise, the foundational group of key leaders will be unable to sustain the growing numbers of people to whom they minister. For example, if an outreach team of three helps a church of 200 remember to do outreach by planning events and mobilizing strategies, an outreach team of five or six will be needed to minister to a church of 300. Similarly, as the number of attending families grows, so must the number of children’s ministry leaders.

Thus, churches must think in terms of multiplication of ministry teams and key leaders—more in partnership, ownership, and fellowship. As ministry team members commit to become key leaders, they should look for other individuals to come alongside and instruct in their specific ministry role. Since roles will expand as a church grows, key leaders must recruit and train new leaders to step into expanding roles.

Apprenticeship toward partnership, ownership, and fellowship will lead to a vibrant church life filled with multiplying leaders.

A Vision for Developing Leaders

Pastors, ministry teams, and key leaders must work together to create a healthy leadership culture in which ministry teams members partner with staff members to provide intentional leadership over an area of ministry.

Within that ministry, key leaders must take ownership over its implementation and its multiplication by practicing apprenticeship with promising volunteers. As key leaders engage in partnership, ownership, fellowship, and apprenticeship, they will afford their ministry area room to grow, and, as a result, do their part to ensure the continued growth of the church.

That helps us to move beyond church as a spectator sport and to look more like 1 Peter 4:10 where, “based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

> Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Structure Matters to Mission

Culture eats strategy for lunch.

However, good culture, combined with good strategy, is powerful.

Take church planting for example. I’ve written before about how church planting movements benefit from a simple structure that encourages reproducibility. This follows in the structural model Paul set up for the churches he planted. The goal and culture of church planting is one of reproducing the next generation of churches, pastors and planters. To accomplish this, churches and organizations must be intentional to establish structures that mesh with the culture.

Such structure is important in all churches that grow beyond a few dozen members.

The structure you have in place should be an aid to the culture you are trying to produce, not a hindrance. So, how can that happen in your church? How can you implement a structure that affirms the missional culture you want to establish?

Look to provide a simple way for people to progress to the next step of service and mission.

A Purpose Driven Inheritance

At one point not that long ago, one out of every ten churches in the United States were “Purpose Driven,” measured by some level of participating as part of that network. It was higher in some parts, and lower in others. But, the influence was amazing. Obviously, the terminology has certainly declined in the United States.

Despite there being fewer churches using “Purpose Driven” terminology, it’s left a helpful and important impact. Even if you don’t use the phrase, you’re probably using the structure (or a variant of it). Perhaps not the famous baseball diamond, but certainly the fact that there is a progressive plan to being people to deeper spiritual maturity through a process.

In a 2002 Christianity Today article, Tim Stafford wrote, “Purpose-Driven principles are best explained with two diagrams you can scribble on a napkin. One is the baseball diamond, used to explain the flow of church ministry in a person’s life.” The other, and perhaps more important, has to do with purposes, but for this article, I will focus on processes.

And, that really was a revolutionary idea—made simple.

Rick Warren created the baseball diamond to show there are things that every Christian should know and experience, such as evangelism, church membership, community, discipleship and ministry engagement. It was an easy and effective way to demonstrate the sequential process of discipleship– which is one of the reasons it exploded globally.

At a church I used to pastor we talked about begin, connect, thrive and engage. The names have changed and perhaps the way it is applied, but the need for a structure that encourages a culture of making disciples has not. We are children of a Purpose Driven structure– and your church probably is a well.

We’re using the process without the terminology.

And, that’s what we need to move people toward mission.

You need a process.

Establishing the Next Step

Victory Metro is a multicampus megachurch headquartered in Manila, Philippines with 65,000 attendees each Sunday. Two of their leaders have written fantastic books that deal, in part, with how structure can help culture.

Steve Murrell, an American missionary who planted Victory in 1984 and has recently returned to the US, describes the model in the book WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering and Viral.

When I interviewed him, Steve said that a WikiChurch, like Wikipedia, does not require professional oversight of the work being done. By the way they operate, the intentional structure of the church, the leadership encourages all of the members to be involved in service. Their culture is strengthened by a structure that equips and empowers every believer to be on mission.

Joey Bonifacio, a former leader at Victory, wrote The Lego Principle about how people were designed to be in relationships. They were made to connect on the top and the bottom, with God and others. No matter the color or when the Lego piece was made, they fit together and can make something amazing.

These ideas of empowering believers and building relationships are served by the structure established in Victory. Joey compared it to the process immediately after arriving on an international flight.

You have several steps that you always take. No one gets through the airport without going through those. You go through and have your passport checked. You pick up your luggage. You go through customs. It is all a clear path for everyone involved. There is no question as to what is next. Their church has created a simple process for everyone to go through. Part of what makes it fascinating is that they actually have an app to take people through their discipleship process. I had never thought about using that, but it is brilliant in their context.

Here’s the thing that I think is key for Victory. They have a very intentional pathway that reinforces the culture they have developed in their church since the beginning. But what if your church hasn’t always had a missional culture? Maybe, you are working to grow that type of mindset. Can that be done? Can a structural change help in the process of creating a new culture? Absolutely.

I’ve written before about how the church I planted a church that grew from a 25-person core team to 125, but the 100 that came in didn’t do anything. With a new culture we encouraged them to change, but was also empowered them to change with practical structural shifts, one of which was requiring all members to go through a training course.

We didn’t just say, “We need you to serve here.” We said, “We need you to serve here, but first we are going to train and equip you for that service with a three-class course.” Two families left because they just did not want to participate, but everyone else got on board with what we were doing.

Missional in Your Context

The right structure provides a very clear, intentional pathway for your people to progress toward mission.

The culture is what pushes everybody towards that pathway. At Victory, they have 50,000 people who are turning to their neighbors consistently asking, “Have you gone through One-to-One? Have you been to a Victory Weekend?” Their structure and their culture work together to affirm their values.

This is a process for your church. At Grace, our plan was to get the whole church walking through our pathway. We had our clear path established and the desired culture expressed. For you and your church, it may look differently in terms of the specifics.

Joey was clear that he doesn’t believe American churches can come over and copy Victory’s method step-by-step. They have to be contextualized to the setting of your church. Victory’s plan works in their Asian context. Joel Hunter, at Northland in Florida, has worked to adapt some of what Victory has done, but it is tweaked to fit where God has planted them.

If you want your church to be missional, you need to implement a structure that encourages the culture you are trying to develop.

When your culture and structure are in sync, they will move your church, regardless of its size, toward being missional.

If you set your face like flint toward your goal, with your culture and structure in support, you can move to missional.

Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Keys to Listening and Leading with Vision

How does a church discern its call to ministry–creating ministry space that lines up with its mission and vision?

Often believers and churches seem to be waiting for God to strike them with a lightning bolt, to reveal what he wants them to do through some spectacular event. But God isn’t a genie who pops out of a bottle. A church that waits passively finds itself beset with ministry paralysis.

Then there are the churches that show a degree of life and energy and have significant percentages of the local body engaged in ministry, yet what they do is routine and ineffective. Call it “ministry calcification.” Maybe what they are doing was effective five years ago or even last year, but communities can change rapidly. Many churches are ministering to people who have long ago left the community. The missional church constantly assesses what God is doing in a community and what needs are emerging–and adjusts its ministries accordingly.

Do I believe God reveals himself and gives us direction in life? Yes, absolutely. But I also believe he reveals himself more specifically as we obey the commands he has already given us. In other words, God will show us how he wants our church to minister to the community when we act on the directives he has already given us.

Four of the last things Jesus said to his disciples in his final days on earth are a good place for his followers and his churches to seek direction:

  1. Jesus reminded his followers they have been sent just like he was: “As the Father sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Now, if he stopped there, it could still be pretty confusing. He didn’t specifically tell them where to go, what to do, what to say, or what to accomplish. He just told them they were being shipped out to serve in his spiritual army.
  2. Jesus continues to clarify the vision and mission he has for his followers and churches: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Going out to all the world and proclaiming the Good News was to result in new disciples among all people groups. After that, Christ’s followers are supposed to baptize new disciples and teach them to follow everything he commanded.
  3. Jesus isn’t finished yet. Before he ascends, he tells them: “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what my father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high” (Luke 24:46-49). This clarifies the Good News they are to announce: Jesus died in our place so we could repent and be forgiven of our sins, and he rose from the dead so we could live a victorious life. In order to be witnesses about these things, however, they needed one more thing: the power from on high promised by the Father.
  4. The last thing Jesus communicated to his disciples picked up where his previous instructions ended. He laid out a strategy for things to move forward: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A good place for his followers and churches to start is to be witnesses in their own communities and then move out from there, as he leads and opens doors for ministry.

As you begin to engage practically in fulfilling the mission and vision that God has already given us, he will begin to reveal where your church fits best in serving and witnessing to your community. Instead of sitting around, waiting to be hit by lightning, here are some practical ways you and your church can begin to discern your ministry call.

Pray together for great boldness. The early believers followed Jesus’ instructions and actively waited and prayed for what the Father promised. Assemble a group of people regularly and pray for your church to be filled and anointed with the Spirit. The believers joining constantly in prayer led to the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost.

Most people remember that prayer preceded Pentecost, but they may not remember that Jesus’ followers kept praying after Pentecost. Acts 4:23-31 records believers gathering and raising their voices in prayer. They stood in prayer against the people who were persecuting them and the forces of evil, right? Wrong! They asked the Lord to enable them to speak his word with great boldness and prayed he would do wonderful things through the name of his holy servant, Jesus.

What does the current prayer environment of our church look like? Are we praying those kinds of prayers? What steps will we take to change the environment?

Explore multiple ministry options in your community. As you pray, take action by serving your community and finding ways to be his witnesses. God will give your people new passion and direction for ministry as they engage their community. Jesus himself “saw the crowds” and “felt compassion for them” (Matt. 9:36). Try some or all of these practical ideas:

  • Set up a time each month to conduct servant evangelism projects like giving away free drinks (water, hot chocolate, coffee, pop, etc.) at a traffic intersection, cleaning local parks, raking leaves or mowing grass for elderly folks, giving away coupons for free stuff, etc.
  • Involve your small groups or Sunday school classes in community service projects at least once a quarter so they aren’t just fellowshipping and learning stuff.
  • Start ongoing ministries by getting some of your members involved in things like Release Time (for public school kids), Hospice, Big Brother Big Sister, and City Mission. Intentionally train people to be better witnesses with evangelism training like Two Ways to Live, I Am Second, and others. I discuss tools more here, but I’d also love to hear what you are using in the comments. So much good stuff out there.
  • Ask three people in your congregation to set up interviews with leaders of local service agencies to discover unmet needs your church family might be able to address.

Trust God to open specific doors of ministry. As you begin to engage practically in fulfilling the mission and vision God has given you, he will begin to reveal where your church fits best in serving your community. God will show you “persons of peace” who will unlock doors of opportunity you didn’t even know existed. As we act in faith, God will provide unique opportunities to serve and witness–and people will get excited about joining God in what he is opening before them.

I believe that Jesus opens doors of ministry for us to walk through as we pray and engage the needs in our communities. He also shuts other doors. See Revelation 3:7. We really don’t know which doors are open and which ones are shut until we start trying doorknobs. As we seek the Lord with all our hearts–and act in faith–he directs our steps.

So, what is it going to take for your church to discern its ministry call? Pray fervently together for the Spirit’s filling. Engage the people and needs in your community. And trust that God will open ministry doors for your church.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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4 Lessons in Leading Church Revitalization

I fell in love with church revitalization early in my ministry when I served a church of senior adults during a brief stint teaching at a seminary.

The median age of the people was 68. It seemed like there was an oxygen tank or a walker at the end of most pews.

They came to me and said, “Dr. Stetzer, help us reach the young people.”

Leading a church in revitalization has taught me some invaluable lessons. While the process is often difficult and slow moving, if approached correctly it can reinvigorate and empower God’s people to produce lasting fruit.

You Will Meet Resistance

Leadership, especially with church revitalization, is a long and slow labor of love in the face of resistance. Not every member will be on your side during revitalization.

If you want everyone to love you, go sell ice cream, don’t revitalize churches.

No matter how difficult, look past the resistance remembering that revitalization is like basic physics.

Momentum results from movement against the inertia.

Love Your People

In revitalization, you need to love, not drive people. Talk to them. Listen to them. Get them excited about God’s mission for their life and their church. Love your people, and not just as a means of getting them to do what you want.

I’ve led a few churches through revitalization and found that, in each case, when we took the time to love one another, people became excited and were more ready to go on mission.

They wanted to love their neighbors and engage the community around them.

Messy Happens

Any disconnected church that seeks to re-engage with their community will find the experience to be messy.

There may be physical messes like mud on the carpet, smudges on the walls, dirty bathrooms, or broken vases. The way of church life to which your people had grown accustomed will suddenly change.

But, there are also relational messes—things changing that some do not want to change.

In revitalization, it’s hard to transition to a missional mindset. Kids will break things. Life will change.

But in the end, it’s worth it all.

Changed Churches

Church revitalization is an opportunity to lead God’s people to a renewed focus on God’s mission. Such an endeavor will undoubtedly change lives, communities, and have a gospel impact on generations to come.

In that first experience, I fell in love with church revitalization. The church recalibrated its sense of mission and reengaged in the growingly diverse community.

I also learned that strong leadership was not driving but loving and empowering my people to make the necessary decisions to live on mission in their community.

The fact is we need a mass movement of revitalization across our context. When we do, the mission force will engage the mission field and churches will be refocused on their mission.

Read more from Ed.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
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The Sacred Calling of the Secular Workplace

In Acts 11, we read that because of persecution in Jerusalem following the stoning of Stephen, Christians were dispersed into various parts of the world. In their new homes, they continued to live as they had in Jerusalem, practicing and preaching their faith to both Jews and Greeks.

As a result, the Lord saved “a large number,” and the church in Antioch was birthed. The people who had been scattered into Antioch were regular people, dads and moms, who needed work to support their families. They lived among the Gentiles according to their faith, proclaiming the gospel. Many saw and heard and believed.

There is something particularly interesting I would like you to see here: it was not the Apostles who planned a church plant in Antioch, gathered the funds and core groups, and moved into these neighborhoods. The church in Antioch began with believers whom God had sent there, not by their choice, but by way of dispersion.

They had families and jobs and regular lives, and they used those things as a way to represent Christ among their unbelieving neighbors and co-workers. In short, they were on mission in their workplaces and homes, and the Church grew as a result. Do you see it?

Regular people grew the church.

Christ at the Workplace
Most of the people who read this blog are pastors or church leaders, but the people we lead are accountants, teachers, doctors, and electricians.

Church leaders, we need to understand that we are meant to equip all of our people for participation in God’s mission. I am convinced that participation in the mission necessitates bringing everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, including our jobs.

There is an incredibly helpful and encouraging conversation happening in churches right now around faith and work and how the gospel impacts everything we do. The reality is that a lot of Christians are unhappy in their jobs. One of the reasons, I believe, is because just about every devout believer at some time asks the question, “Am I called to full-time ministry?”

As a result, confusion often abounds in regards to vocation and how we can joyfully thrive in our work. Everything we do is shaped by who we are in Christ, including the manner in which we approach our workplaces. At the end of this blog post I am including a helpful video my friend Skye Jethani did on “Recapturing a Theology of Vocation for Gospel Witness.” It is a very helpful piece.

All the way back in the beginning, kingdom work was rooted in God’s command to Adam to cultivate and steward the garden. The principle is more fully revealed in the work of the second Adam, Jesus. Adam was commanded to glean the harvest in Eden, but the second Adam brings a better and more complete harvest of the nations.

That harvest involves us in His mission at work and in our daily lives. The work is not set aside for ‘more spiritual’ or ‘professional’ Christians. God has called all believers to engage well in His mission. “Do your work heartily,” Paul says in Colossians 3:23, “as unto the Lord and not as unto men.”

If we are going to really see Christians satisfied in their work and joyfully engaging in the mission through it, we must equip them to do so. If we want to see the kind of multiplication of disciples seen in Acts 11, every follower of Christ must understand his or her role in God’s mission.

Just as God was sovereign over the dispersion of His people into Antioch, He is sovereign over where we have been placed in our neighborhoods and workplaces. That definitively means that we are in those places for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel among the nations.

In my next post, I will talk about how we can prepare this coming generation to see their vocations as a call from God and help them fully embrace it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

Clarity Process

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Jesus Builds His Church Through His Disciples

When John Piper was pastor, Bethlehem hosted a church-planting conference with Global Church Advancement. I was on deck to speak next as Piper talked about church planting on video.

He said church planters shouldn’t listen to experts on how to plant the church. He said (and I am quoting from the second day I blogged), “You don’t know how to grow the Kingdom of God. Beware of books, beware of conferences, and beware of seminars that tell you how to plant the church.”

At that time, that was an awkward moment for me because, well, I write books and do seminars! I write books on church planting, and I’m speaking at this conference as an “expert.”

But the context of Piper’s quote was key. (Be sure to read the full quote and context here.) Piper was focusing on five words of Jesus in Matthew 16, “I will build my church.” (And, the context was that he had invited us to do this seminar at his church!)

But, his point was that the risen Christ plants churches. He builds them by changing hearts. And He has been working in your city long before you got there, so it’s His church. We can try to do it all in our own strength, but only God can build a church through His Son, Jesus.

In Matthew 16, Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ. That confession and statement of faith are the foundational “rock” upon which Jesus builds His church. The gates and forces of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18). This is the work of Jesus. He builds his church.

So why keep reading? Why pick up one of my books on church planting? Why attend a church planting conference with John Piper, Ed Stetzer, or anyone else?

More Perspective

Jesus doesn’t build His church despite His disciples, but through His disciples as they are led by His commands and empowered by His Spirit. Matthew doesn’t end with chapter 16. Matthew ends with these words, The Great Commission, in Matthew 28.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, HCSB).

Here’s what we learn from Jesus’ commission to His disciples. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He essentially reverses the claim that Satan made in Matthew 4 that the kingdoms of the world are his to give Jesus if the Son of God would worship Satan.

Only a crucified and risen Savior is the King of the kingdoms. With this authority, He calls His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations among all people groups, by baptizing them and teaching them what He has commanded.

Jesus goes with His disciples as they go. He builds His church by His authority and through His presence with His disciples who make disciples.

Now watch what happens when we put these two passages together. Jesus in Matthew 16, “I will build my church.” Jesus in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples.” Both are true.

When Jesus builds His church, He does the building by using disciples just like you. He has the authority to send you, and He goes with you. Through very imperfect people God works to create His perfect and beautiful Bride, the Church.

Pray that God’s will be done, and that He would build His church. Then stand on your feet, roll up your sleeves and by the power of the Holy Spirit, go and make disciples.

> Read more from Ed.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

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You Can Not Multiply if You Will Not Mobilize

Ministry where a few people are doing the work and the church is expecting them to keep doing it can be terribly frustrating.

How do we mobilize people in the rows of our congregations to action, to ministry, to mission? Here are three things that need to happen to mobilize your people.

Create an Atmosphere of Expectation

Increasing expectations is key to mobilizing people out of the pews. Paul helps us to know our role as pastor in Ephesians 4.

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head ​— ​Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (Eph 4:11-16, CSB)

Pastors must lead their churches to fulfill this God-ordained mission by equipping the saints for the “work of ministry.” Some churches set expectations before people can serve in ministry like finishing a membership class, being baptized, and signing a membership covenant. Other churches have their people finish a process to discover their gifts.

Churches that people join tend to have clear expectations from the beginning, recruit workers one-to-one, provide entry level ministry for new workers, and so on. There’s a helpful chart from Chuck Lawless in chapter 7 of Comeback Churches for more on this.

Instead of burning out a few who do all the work in a church, the goal is to maximize the number working in ministry. People need to be taught that the pastoral leadership of the church is there to equip them for the work of ministry. It’s their responsibility to do the work. They are the church.

Create an Atmosphere of Equipping

The local church must have a strategy not only to get as many as possible into ministry, but also a strategy, or process, to equip people for ministry. You start with gift-discovery and a placement process. Then you continue by working to create enough entry level ministry positions, face-to-face recruiting, recognition and affirmation, etc. You can’t just have a position, but the means to train them for the position.

Get people involved quickly, exploring different ministries, and recognizing where they excel and have leadership potential. And make sure they aren’t just sustaining the church building. Get everyone involved in evangelism!

Create an Atmosphere of Empowerment

You need people to feel empowered and enabled for ministry. Don’t just expect people to “get it.” Preach, teach, and train your congregation. It can take time to empower the people for ministry, especially if they don’t have a good understanding of their gifting. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in three years. It has to be communicated in different ways at different times for it to sink in over time.

Structure breeds confidence. When there is a well thought through process, it helps people feel led and empowered.

Empowering people requires giving them authority along with responsibility. They need ownership that it’s their job to get done.

And people need affirmation. They need to be appreciated for their ministry activity and involvement. Give them a quick “thank you” note. Let them know their effort didn’t go unnoticed.

It’s not enough that you as a leader feel empowered for your ministry, you have to empower others.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

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How Cultural Understanding Drives Church Effectiveness

In each era and each cultural environment, the church defines its missiological quest in culture.

Now, that does not mean that everything is on the table. There are marks of a biblical church that matter in every cultural setting. However, each church has a quest to figure out how to engage its community and organize its ministries. That’s its missional quest and every church should ask such questions.

Taking into account the missiological quest, churches then ask based upon the current cultural moment what is the most effective way to accomplish the tasks of a biblical church? This is the cultural question.

While the missiological quest should never change, the answer to the cultural questions do change.

Though not in every way, the how of ministry is in many ways determined by the who, when, and where of culture.

Observing Paul’s missionary journeys show that he employed different strategies, methods, and/or terminologies in reaching Jews compared to those used in reaching Gentiles. The mission (and the missiological quest) was the same, but the cultural question changed the way he engaged the host culture.

With the cultural question constantly changing, this gives us contextualized church models.

It’s not just an evangelism question; it’s deeper. How we do church also changes from one culture to another. For example, how long does the service go, what approach to music, how to we disciple, etc?

Think of it this way: Missiological quest + Cultural question = A contextualized church model.

Let me illustrate the above.

Thoughts from the Seeker Church Approach

Think back to the seeker church movement.

Many such churches blossomed in a day when a lot of boomers were asking questions about church and faith and rejecting established traditional churches. In addition, given that many thought church was boring and irrelevant, they attempted to enliven church with its children and youth programs, the music, and the preaching style and content.

When I planted in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1994, I utilized many of the methodologies of this model. We didn’t try to demean other churches. Rather, we tried to communicate our different approach to church. I also (occasionally) wore a Hawaiian shirt, shoes without socks (I know; don’t judge me), and we had a band that sang contemporary music.

Soon after, many other churches in our community also had a contemporary service!

They wanted to have a contextualized church model—and that’s the right impulse.

They asked questions about what approach to church, within bibilcal norms, would connect most effectively with the context.

Given the cultural milieu at that time, the answer was: implement a genre of music that would resonate with people in the culture; provide them with substantive, practical, and relevant programming for their children; let the sermon topic and content be on their level, not for the religious elite; and if a building is built, make sure it doesn’t resemble a spartan, dated church building of the past century.

I’m not saying this was all great and perfect, and we did not do everything like everyone else, but I am saying that it aligned well with the context, and many such churches reached a lot of people (and many of them also discipled well).

Now, looking back, some may contend the seeker church model was wrong (and continues to be). I’m not writing to evaluate it, though I think that is a worthy undertaking and have done so in the past.

However, my point is the model lined up well with its culture. Looking back over the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, seeker church approaches reached a lot of unchurched and dechurched people—those who were disenfranchised from the traditional church.

While it worked then, this model is no longer as well aligned with the predominant cultural milieu. The shift is not true everwhere, but most would say that the seeker model does not engage our culture as well today, partly because culture has shifted to more of a negative perception of the church and organized religion in general.

In other words, there are still seekers, but now many don’t see the church as the place to find answers. Seeker strategies are predicated on the idea that they are.

Although people claim to be more spiritual they are skeptical of institutions, including religious ones, thus they opt out of organized religion altogether. Therefore, for the most part it doesn’t matter how “cool” or “relevant” churches are.

Those who would have gone back to church because of the “cool-factor” have already gone back.

Changes in Approach

What we have witnessed over the last decade or so, particularly in newer church models, are many in the church trying to engage the missiological quest for a new generation. So, new church models are taking into account the spiritual, post-Christian, pluralistic, skeptical, individualistic, consumerist, and diverse culture.

The church then thinks through the practices and methods that would be most effective at reaching the culture.

In his book Gaining By Losing, J. D. Greear asserts, “[I]f we want to reach the next generation, we are going to have to equip our people to reach them outside the church.”

That’s a question shaping new models of church of church practice.

Hold Your Mission Tightly and Your Models Loosely

When you look back on the last fifty years of church models, what you will find is that the models were most effective in their mission when they were contextualized (geared to their host culture). This drives some theologically-minded people crazy, but it’s what we train and require missionaries to do.

And, we must not forbid our churches to do the very thing we require international missionaries to do.

In other words, models were the result of the church understanding its missiological quest and asking the cultural question.

What we must learn is models come and go, for the culture is always changing and shifting. This doesn’t mean we cannot learn from each model and incorporate those things that are still effective. However, the takeaway from church models and cultural alignment is this: hold your mission tightly and your model loosely.

Be firm on the mission, but flexible on the methodology.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent profile of Pasteur types. Unfortunate what happened to Jason Webb
 
— Ann Stokman
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.
 
— dmmsfrontiermissions
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks, this is interesting and helps the preacher to navigate and plan is goals and objectives during difficult seasons and changing times
 
— Paul B Thomas (@Pentecostaltv)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.